Nicky Hayden produced his best qualifying performance of the season to claim fifth on the grid for Sunday's Catalunya MotoGP.

The Ducati star had earlier turned heads with second in morning practice and felt a front row was possible if he had held his pace through the final sector.

"This morning didn't go so bad and it's the best qualifying of the year. So that's positive. But I'm not completely happy with my lap in the last sector," revealed Hayden.

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"Some guys were just getting out of my way - nobody was actually in my way - but I think I left a couple of tenths out there. I don't think a front row was out of the question. So I'm not thrilled with my lap, but the bike with new tyres is working well."

This year's Catalunya F1 race was dominated by tyre wear and the MotoGP competitors are facing similar challenges in terms of retaining grip in the 50-degree track temperatures.

"For me the main problem is the same as yesterday: As soon as the tyres have done two laps, the grip goes away - especially on the edge - and I get big problems with stopping and turning," said Hayden. "The actual spinning I can manage, but we're getting a lot of 'pumping' [bike moving up and down].

"It's going to be a really tough race tomorrow. We'll see what we can do tomorrow to make the tyre last longer."

Hayden's tyre choice looks set to be an easy decision, with the hard all but ruled out.

"The soft tyre here is a 'real' soft tyre, one lap and you lose some performance," said Hayden. "But the hard is even worse, because when the grip goes away on the soft you still have enough grip to manage it. But when the grip goes away on the hard it is really difficult to ride.

"The heat actually made the hard tyre worse for me today. It was hotter but greasier so a harder tyre works less."

Asked if he will save his tyre during the early stages of the grand prix, the 2006 world champion replied:

"I can't afford to really go easy. Sure in the back in my mind I'll be trying not to over-spin and get the temperature too high. But also I'm starting fifth and I don't want to get swallowed up from behind.

"Sure I'll probably change engine map quicker than I would in a normal situation and it will be a bigger step between the engine maps than most races.

"Every track is different but tomorrow I would say I'll probably do the first [map] change after three or four laps."

Hayden has claimed top six finishes in the last two races and sits seventh in the standings with a best finish of fifth so far this year. Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso qualified in ninth.

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