Nicky Hayden is substituting for injured Jack Miller this weekend aboard the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda for the Aragon round of the MotoGP championship. Hayden left MotoGP this year to ride in the WSB championship, and is therefore unfamiliar with a number of changes, including a switch to Michelin tires and a spec ECU in MotoGP.
The first two practice sessions of the weekend were finished earlier today, and Hayden slowly came to grips with an unfamiliar machine, eventually posting the slowest time in FP2, roughly 2.5 seconds off the best lap from Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
As usual, we will have reports on the Aragon round throughout the weekend. Here is a press release from Hayden’s team following today’s results:
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Tito Rabat and Nicky Hayden made decent progress on the opening day of MotoGP practice at the Motorland Aragon track in Spain today.
A crash at turn two in this morning’s FP1 session didn’t take the gloss of an encouraging start to round 14 for Rabat, who finished 15th quickest with a best time of 1’50.816.
But last year’s Moto2 race winner at Motorland Aragon was unable to make similar headway in muggy conditions in this afternoon’s second session.
Rabat did improve his pace by almost 0.2s but he slipped three places down the rankings to 18th, with the front-end issues that have troubled the 27-year-old in recent races again stalling his charge up the leaderboard.
Hayden threw himself in at the deep end today, with the American replacing injury absentee Jack Miller for this weekend’s 23-lap battle.
The 35-year-old has no previous experience of Honda’s RC213V machine and has never ridden the current generation Michelin tyres or unified software and this morning’s session was all about familiarising himself with the major technical changes compared to when he last rode in MotoGP in 2015.
Hayden put all of his vast experience to good use though in both sessions and he attacked the tough challenge with typical vigour and determination.
The 2006 MotoGP World Champion lapped almost a second faster in FP2 and his best lap of 1’50.992 was only 0.3s away from teammate Rabat.
Hayden is now looking forward to the opportunity to make significant set-up modifications overnight to improve his comfort levels on the RC213V machine. And the crucial experience gained today will undoubtedly help Hayden mount a stronger challenge in tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying sessions.
Tito Rabat: 18th – 1’50.649
“This morning was a positive start to the weekend and I felt very confident. I followed some riders to learn this difficult track on a MotoGP machine quicker and I did some laps alone too and I was satisfied with my rhythm. As good as I felt on the bike, it is just impossible for me to go fast. We will try again tomorrow but the lack of confidence with the front-end is what is holding me back.”
Nicky Hayden: 21st – 1’50.992
“It wasn’t an easy day and I knew that coming into this weekend when I signed up for it. I needed a bit of time to get comfortable with the riding position, particularly with the handlebars. We started to make some gradual progress but then I hit a bit of a wall with the front. At the moment I can’t feel the limit on the front. It feels like there’s a lot of weight on the front and I’m asking a lot from it. And I’m not getting a lot of feedback, so overnight we’ll look to get more weight on the rear and help me get more comfortable. Hopefully tomorrow morning I can get straight down to business and make a big step. This morning I stayed on used tyres and my pace compared to the guys that did the same is not too bad. But this afternoon I wasn’t able to make the step forward I’d hoped.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“Today has not been an easy start to the weekend for Tito and to be honest I expected him to be stronger. He rode the bike here last year in a special test and today he was not able to match his lap times from that test. He is complaining that the bike isn’t turning again but we have to find a quick solution when you see Honda occupying the top three places. I think Nicky has done a solid job today. We knew it was going to be complicated for him with so many things to learn and I know tomorrow we can see him make another big step forward as he understands more about what he needs to be faster.”
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