Nicky Hayden sent the Laguna Seca crowd wild by leading the first day of practice for the Red Bull US Grand Prix in California this afternoon (Friday).

The former American Superbike Champion used his considerable knowledge of the daunting 2.243 miles Laguna Seca circuit to lead the way from former Laguna winner Australian Troy Bayliss with Repsol Honda team-mate Max Biaggi in third.

"It's nice to be fastest here at home - a real good feeling," smiled Nicky, who finished day one 0.223secs ahead of morning pace setter Bayliss. "It's started out great. The bike is working well and we have all made a pretty good guess from the start with all the settings - a good job from the team. We got some good Michelins that worked real well.

"Laguna is about how I remember it even though I haven't been here for three-years. It does seem a little smaller for a GP bike though and the straight that I remembered that seemed real long seems a little shorter now!" he added. "I'm just really enjoying myself here - hanging with my brothers and mixin' it with my people. It's real nice!"

Meanwhile, team-mate Biaggi overcame a mechanical problem to finish the day in third place - 0.314secs from the #69.

"The third best time of the day is satisfying for me. HRC Team did a very good job. Of course we can do much better, like all the others, because this track for us is completely new and full of secrets. The 1994 experience for me is a very far memory and today's bikes have nothing in common with the old two strokes.

"Laguna Seca must be accepted for what it is: we are in the USA and we cannot pretend it is a European track," he added, presumably referring to those who have called the track dangerous.

"The circuit is surely exciting, with its up and downs and several blind points, where you don't see where you are putting your wheels. In this kind of track you've got to ride very clean and for this reason we are trying to make the bike as smooth as possible," he revealed.

Final free practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday.



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