By Stephen English
Ducati came dangerously close to having both of its riders involved in a very costly accident during the United States MotoGP at Laguna Seca.
Home star Nicky Hayden and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso battled throughout the 32 lap race, having lost touch with the leading group but able to pull away from the CRT bikes.
With only a handful of laps remaining however their battle led to contact on the start-finish straight, with Dovizioso hitting Hayden's bike and damaging the clutch lever as their lines crossed on the exit of the final turn.
"He was going fast but I felt faster in a couple of places and put a clean move on him but then on the front straight I was coming inside and he hooked my handlebar," said Hayden.
"Everyone has said that 'it looked close' but if it looks close... it feels double close! I was able to save it but when I got to turn two the foldable clutch lever was closed and I couldn't back-shift so I did that corner in fourth gear and Dovi passed me and pulled away.
"I knocked the clutch back into position but it wasn't right afterwards."
The incident was one of the main talking points following the race and Dovizioso admitted that he was mainly at fault.
"I pushed for 30 laps but the exciting point was when we hit on the last few laps," said Dovizioso.
"It was 60:40 my mistake. At that time you can see that me and Nicky didn't have our front wheel on the ground and at that point I decided to go to the right and take the racing line and Nicky went a little to the left.
“Without the front on the ground we both hit. It's not good and it's better if it doesn't happen but it wasn't intentional."
The incident comes after the pair enjoyed a spirited battle at Assen, but afterwards Hayden called the incident "just racing". However the American, who announced on the eve of this weekend's event that he will not be retained by Ducati next year, did admit that he may have to change his approach.
"He obviously races pretty aggressive so I've just got to be prepared for that in future."
Hayden went on to re-pass Dovizioso and claim the eighth place.
"We knew the weekend was going to be tough and after a few laps I overheated and lost the rear brakes for two laps when I had just done my best lap," said the 2006 world champion.
"I thought I could have stayed in the 1m 22s and get away from Dovi but I had to let the brakes cool for a lap and after that I lost some feeling with the brakes and the group [in front] got away from me and I could only race with Dovi.
"I managed to get eighth place but here we knew was going to be tough. I hoped to be in the 22's but I think we got the most from our package and hopefully over the summer break Ducati can do some work and the second half of the season is better.