MotoGP World Championship leader Nicky Hayden continued searching for clutch and chassis improvements on the second and final day of testing at Motegi - but was denied his debut on Honda's new 800 by afternoon rain.

The 25-year-old American, who will start the final two rounds of the 2006 season with a shaky 12 point lead over reigning five-times champion Valentino Rossi, completed 54 laps on his 'evolution' RC211V, trimming his best lap-time on race tyres down to a 1min 47.18secs.

That narrowly beats Valentino Rossi's new lap record in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix and is 0.615secs better than the American's race best, on his way to a frustrating fifth placed finish. Hayden has been hampered by clutch problems, causing poor starts and corner entry difficulties, for most of the season and confirmed that he and his team had been working hard to finally find a solution.

"We spent the morning evaluating some machine settings and testing a few more clutch ideas so that were ready for these last two races," said Nicky after his 54 Tuesday laps. "It was good to get in some more laps and I improved my pace with a 1min 47.1secs lap which was a bit quicker than yesterday and over the weekend.

"I want to thank all the team and engineers for staying here and testing for a couple of days after nearly a month away from home its good to have them in my corner helping me. Now well just wait these two weeks out and get ready for Portugal its going to be a huge race," he stated.

Hayden was also due to get his first taste of Honda's new 800cc MotoGP prototype on Tuesday, but afternoon rain put paid to that plan. Hayden's rookie team-mate Dani Pedrosa gave the V4 its public debut on Monday, when Hayden concentrated on solving his race day problems, and Nicky will now have to wait until after the final race of the season, at Valencia on October 29, to ride the 2007 bike.

"I was getting ready to do a few laps on the 800 when it started to rain, but Ill get my crack at that bike soon plus I've got enough other stuff to focus on right now," said the Kentuckian. "The new bike looks really cool and the future seems bright for the new 800."

Pedrosa, like many riders, concluded testing on Monday - but HRC test rider Tady Okada returned for a second day, completing 14 laps on the 800. The six-time grand prix winner gathered useful data before escaping unhurt from a crash whilst exiting turn four in the wet. Honda's 800cc machine will be officially unveiled in full Repsol Honda livery at the Valencian Grand Prix.

Between Hayden and fourth fastest Okada on the day two timesheets were Suzuki test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi, fresh from a creditable 13th in his first ever MotoGP, and Yamaha test rider Norihiko Fujiwara.

The penultimate race of a captivating 2006 season takes place at Estoril, Portugal, on October 15.

Leading Motegi MotoGP test times - Tuesday

1.Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda Team 1min 47.18 secs
2.Kousuke Akiyoshi JPN Suzuki1min 48.7 secs
3. Norihiko Fujiwara JPN Yamaha 1min 50.2 secs
4.Tady Okada JPN Honda1min 50.3 secs
5.Nobuatsu AokiJPN Suzuki1min 50.6 secs
6. Yoshiwara JPN Yamaha 1min 50.2 secs
7. Naoki Matsuao JPN Kawasaki 1min 50.8secs

Fastest day one time:
Colin Edwards USA Camel Yamaha Team1min 46.68 secs

2006 Japanese Grand Prix:Pole position: Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro 1min 45.724secs

Fastest race laps (by manufacturer): Yamaha: Valentino Rossi ITA Camel Yamaha 1min 47.288secsHonda: Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Honda 1min 47.375secsDucati: Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro 1min 47.381secsKawasaki: Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 1min 47.826secsKR211V Kenny Roberts USA Team Roberts 1min 47.962secsSuzuki: John Hopkins USA Team Suzuki MotoGP 1min 48.446secs

 

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