By Lisa Lewis
In a hot Jerez qualifying where all riders were hampered by a lack of grip, Ducati's Nicky Hayden enjoyed a relatively trouble free session, resulting in a season's best qualifying performance of seventh.
The American's previous qualifying sessions this season have been affected by an unusual wheel problem, so he was especially pleased to have a drama-free Q2.
Despite dealing with the effects of a swollen wrist, having no major bike issues to rally against onboard the Desmosedici GP13 meant the 'Kentucky Kid' was free to enjoy the session and aim for a higher grid position, feeling he may have gone better if he had not come across debris from Valentino Rossi's crash:
“We didn't have any problems today, and I was able to enjoy it and get a better grid position. I was actually going a little quicker at one point, but debris on the track from Rossi's crash ruined the lap, which happens sometimes.”
Progress with the bike also propelled Hayden up the order:
“We made a little step this morning...like yesterday, that changed with the heat this afternoon, and performance suffered. In the end though, it went better than qualifying at the first two races, where I had a problem with my rear wheel”.
Andrea Dovizioso struggled to find the qualifying form he had shown in the first two rounds of the season and was out-paced by his American team-mate and starts from ninth after struggling for grip and “problems with the front”.
He was, however still pleased to have improved on his bike set-up from yesterday:
“I'm pleased with the work we did today because we improved the set-up from yesterday and the feeling from the last two races returned. When the temperature is cool... we're able to push harder and do times that are a bit closer, but the gap grows when it gets hot.”
He remains positive that over the race distance he will see further gains as “when the tyres wear, the times get much higher, so we'll see who's really prepared”.
Both riders were pleased to remain upright in a Q2 strewn with crashes from start to finish.
They are joined this weekend by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who starts in 14th after failing to make it past Q1.
The former Gresini racer was disappointed in his own performance as he felt he made too many mistakes. He was however still pleased “because my level is pretty good at this point, though I'm sorry because I know I could've done better. The potential was around that of the other Ducati riders.”
He enters race day hoping for a good result while fulfilling his data collecting test objectives.