Troubled MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden admits he was told by Ducati how impressive their new 800cc Desmosedici would be last year - as they sought the American's signature for 2007 - but thought his best option was to remain at Honda.

Hayden has taken a best finish of just seventh so far this season, while Honda's underpowered RC212V is yet to win a single 800cc race. By contrast Casey Stoner - signed to ride for Ducati after Hayden re-signed with Honda - has won three of the opening five races and holds a 21 point championship lead heading into this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

"I can't really say I'm surprised - Ducati were telling me how good that bike was last year!" smiled Nicky. "I wasn't sure... it shows you what I knew! But they [Ducati] were also the first ones out with the 800, at Brno and Motegi. I don't think it's an accident they're doing so well. They came ready to play.

"Not only that, but let's be real and give Casey some credit too. The bike is good but still somebody has got to ride it and that ride he put in [to finish third in the wet] at Le Mans was really impressive. Those kinds of rides win you world championships. [Stoner and Ducati] is a tough package to beat right now."