On Friday night in Qatar Nicky Hayden admitted that it will be difficult to find improvement as the weekend progresses with the Aspar riding having only made slight setup improvement during the second day of running.
The American finished the day 13th fastest, 1.6s off the pace, and after FP3 he admitted that with the Factory riders getting up to speed and showing improvements it will be difficult to compete with them this weekend:
“We didn’t improve a lot because we tested here for three days so we don’t have a lot of new stuff that we can try but in the session we made a slight change in the geometry that helped and the bike tracked slightly better. but it’s not a huge step. Position wise and gap wise we’re probably a little worse but we knew that on the second day everyone else would improve a lot.”
With the Factory riders limited to 20 litres Hayden also commented that having extra fuel won’t make a huge difference to the Open Honda because it was already quite fuel efficient and that he only has two litres extra fuel to play with in comparison to the Open Yamaha which will use 24 litres in the race:
“On this bike the fuel wasn’t a huge issue when we ran on full load in testing and this tank doesn’t even hold 24 litres, it’s 22 litres, so I don’t expect the fuel to make a huge difference. But the first race of the season is always interesting and you don’t know what to expect. There’s a few new guys in MotoGP that you’ve never seen on track until you race the, guys on different bikes as well.”
Having raced for Ducati in recent years Hayden had the advantage of superior top speed during races when he was racing in the midpack. With the Open Honda struggling for speed this advantage will no longer be the case and when asked how difficult it will be racing in the midfield Hayden said, “It will be really tough, at least on the Ducati when you were close to someone you could nip them on a straightaway but that’s not going to happen here unless it’s an Aprilia or something.”
The evening session saw rain fall and with heavy rain falling overnight the spectre of bad weather now hangs over Qatar. Just like in 2009 the prospect of a wet race is on the cards and Hayden confirmed that if it rains the race will be stopped. However the former world champion also commented that he was unsure of what level of rain fall would be required to halt proceedings. In FP3 the light rain affect the riders more physcologically than in terms performance terms:
“The rain was very light [in FP3] and truthfully I couldn’t feel it on the ground because it’s so hot. But you see it on your shield and visor and with how fast we’re going it messes with your head. I hope it’s not like that in the race though. In the riders meeting on Thursday they said that we won’t run in the rain so I’ll need to find out what level of rain would stop a session but today wouldn’t be enough to stop the race.”