By Neil Morrison

Nicky Hayden qualified a season-best third on the grid for the Japanese MotoGP round at Motegi, but the 2006 world champion felt even better was possible.

With the riders sampling the soaking track for the first time during Saturday afternoon's 75 minute qualifying, Hayden took full advantage of the Ducati's proven ability in the rain to consistently feature inside the top six before topping the timesheets with just under 30 minutes to spare.

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With the rain easing up lap times began to fall and Hayden was unable to match Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez's superior pace in the closing stages. He hung on to claim his first front row start since the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in 2012.

"I'm very happy to be on the front row, but if I'm honest I'm a little bit bitter also because there was a time there where I was going very fast. Pole position was a possibility. But as the track dried out I wasn't really able to improve my lap time at the end - and the others did," said Hayden.

"So not happy about that because we had the possibility to do even better, but to be on the front row is very nice. Now we need to try and make the most of it, get away with a good start and take advantage of it.

"Thanks to the team. I'm also happy to finally get out on track. Been stood around all week in the pits, bit of cabin fever! Nice for the Japanese fans also. But tomorrow is when it counts.

"Well try and get a good result. I'm not going to lie, I would prefer it wet. A lot of little problems with the bike in the dry - the turning, wheelie or chatter - disappear in the wet. But also in the dry we can try and do a decent race, starting closer to the front. We'll put up a fight for as long as we can."

The Ducati pair of Andrea Dovizioso and Hayden enjoyed their best results of 2013 in the season's only wet race to date, at Le Mans, when they finished fourth and fifth.

Hayden currently sits ninth in the standings on 111 points, 16 behind Dovizioso.