Former MotoGP™ World Champion Nicky Hayden showed his quality with a strong performance in the 75 minute qualifying practice at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan on Saturday.
The American rider secured first front row start for over a year and in his usual affable manner was quick to thank his team and fans, having qualified third.
Hayden adapted well to the unusual conditions, riding smoothly on a wet track which dried slightly towards the end of a specially rescheduled 75 minute QP. The riders went straight into qualifying having seen all free practices cancelled due to weather conditions at Motegi.
The 2006 MotoGP™ title winner occupied the provisional pole spot earlier in the session and his best time of 1’54.539 was enough to eventually take third, with pole man Jorge Lorenzo and championship leader Marc Marquez the only riders to outpace him.
It is Hayden’s best qualifying result since the Jerez 2012 round and gives him a shot at a good race result in his penultimate appearance on the Ducati - before moving to Power Electronics Aspar to ride a Honda again in 2014.
On his QP fortunes he stated, "It was better for me than usual as I was able to get on the front row. I’m a little bitter not to get pole as it looked like I could for a while, but I knew that these guys (Lorenzo and Marquez) would bring something extra and they did. As the track dried out I did not really improve. In the wet we don’t have the same problems we have in the dry, the turning, the chatter, the wheelies they disappear and our bike works really well in the wet."
The 32 year-old added, "Anyway, it’s a front row so we need to enjoy it, we need to take advantage of that and have a good race. Thanks to my team for working as hard as ever in a very difficult moment for all of us, with many changes. Thanks also to the Japanese fans who have endured a hard weekend so far, we want to put on a good show for them on Sunday."