Mention the words 'Nicky Hayden' and 'Estoril' and the image of the American being taken down - and out of the championship lead - by Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa in the penultimate round of 2006 springs to mind.

Hayden's more positive memories of Estoril are limited to his most recent MotoGP pole, for the 2007 race, and he has never finished higher than fourth at the Portuguese track.

But the 29-year-old arrives for the 2011 event on the back of his, and Ducati's, first rostrum finish of the season, courtesy of a third place in the wet Jerez race.

That result, combined with a ninth at round one, has put Hayden fourth in the early championship standings - although he's unlikely to stay there unless Ducati can bring its Desmosedici on par with the leading Honda and Yamahas.

In that regard, Monday's post-race test - when Hayden and team-mate Valentino Rossi will evaluate the latest Desmosedici developments - will prove vital.

"On to Portugal! We've had three weeks off, which seems like a long time, so I'm looking forward to getting back with the team. Estoril has some pretty tight, narrow places, but I'd say my favourite part is the fast kink on the back straightaway," said Hayden.

"Actually, we were just there in the fall [last October], but the weekend was completely wet until the race. Hopefully it's a little bit different this year, because it would be nice to get some dry time in as well.

"Now the season really gets rolling as we head into summer. I know the team's been working hard, and I'm also looking forward to the test that we have on Monday after the race. I can't wait to get back to the track and back on the bike. Hopefully we can go and get a good result."

"We got a podium with Nicky at our last race, and we hope the result will help him find the feeling that he had last year when he had many nice races, including here at Estoril when he led for a while before a couple of small mistakes held him to fifth," added team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.



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