As he had expected, Nicky Hayden found the hard-braking Motegi circuit a tough challenge for his healing wrist.

The Drive M7 Aspar rider made his return from a major surgery at the previous Aragon round, where rain in the race helped ease the strain on his hand.

But bright and sunny conditions on Friday in Japan meant the American's right wrist was tested to the limit.

Related Articles

"I made a few mistakes this afternoon that cost me at least half a second off my best lap. This is not the best circuit for my wrist and I am struggling quite a lot in some of the corners under braking," said Hayden, who was 20th out of the 24 riders. "We knew this was going to be a tough weekend for us but I am trying to give it my best shot.

"I have more mobility in my hand here, which helps, but some of the braking zones are really hard and I'm suffering to the point that I ran wide in a few places. At this circuit if you get one corner wrong, especially in the downhill entries, you really compromise the next section of track. We'll keep working and I am sure I will be more comfortable on the bike tomorrow."

Team-mate and home star Hiroshi Aoyama led the Open class Honda challenge with 15th place, despite a fall at the end of the afternoon.

"The Grand Prix of Japan is always an exciting weekend for me and we made a pretty good start this morning. We're struggling for rear grip here but we worked hard between sessions today to improve the feel on the rear and the front. We improved but we still haven't found the balance to give me complete confidence," said Aoyama.

"We put some new tyres in at the end of the session to try and drop the lap time. I pushed hard and loaded the front end so much that it washed out on me in turn one. I was lucky that the crash didn't have any major consequences and now we have to look at the data and work out why it folded without any prior warning.

"In general it has been a positive first day and now we have to try and build on it."