Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden made progress during three days of testing at the rain-hit Jerez circuit, with the Kentuckian carrying the bulk of the development load after new teammate Andrea Dovizioso aggravated a previous injury early on the first day.
The test was an important one for the Bologna factory which is looking to bounce back from two years of misery for riders Hayden and Valentino Rossi. The 2012 season was the first one in which Hayden didn’t score a podium since moving to the MotoGP World Championship in 2003. The season ended with both riders acknowledging that progress had been minimal over the past two seasons, which was evident from the results.
Ducati and new owner Audi recently revamped the MotoGP team, bringing in old hand Paolo Ciabbatti to run the show starting in January, while giving engineer Filippo Preziosi a lateral move. The Jerez tests were meant to serve as the basis for a new motorcycle which is meant to debut at the first test of 2013 in Sepang, Malaysia in early February.
The first two days in Jerez were sunny but cold, with Hayden on track all of Wednesday and most of Thursday, except for downtime lost to a small crash. Friday’s rain and wind ended the dry track development, with Hayden spending time on Bridgestone’s soft and hard rain tires.
“Things didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped, but the test has been useful despite everything,” Hayden said before beginning his winter break. “On the first day, we struggled a little bit getting up to speed, but we improved somewhat yesterday. We were able to evaluate the new frame and swingarm, as well as a few new settings. Today, though, the weather hasn’t been kind to us. I did three exits in the wet, but it hasn’t been dry enough for slicks. It would have been nice to ride in the dry today, as we wanted to confirm a few things and improve our pace, but nonetheless, we got through some things and have a lot of information to work with. Thanks to the guys for all the hard work this year. Now we’ll look forward to February at Sepang.”
Dovizioso was sidelined after three laps on the first day of the Ducati Jerez test with a strained neck. Dovi suffered the original neck injury in a pair of crashes in the rain-sodden Malaysian Grand Prix. He re-aggravated it the following week with a crash at Phillip Island and again the week before the test in a motocross crash. He may not have done it any favors while competing in last weekend’s Monza Rally Show in a Citroen DS3 World Rally car. Having been treated with physiotherapy and anti-inflammatories, Dovi thought he’d be healthy for the test, but within three laps he was back in the pits for good; the injury refused to respond to treatment.
Dovi admitted that it was “a shame about the problem with my neck,” adding, “It seems that the problem is probably bigger than we had previously thought, and I’ll have to undergo some further medical tests.”
Also missing from the Ducati test at Jerez was Ben Spies, who had to fly to California just prior to the test to begin rehabilitating the right shoulder that he dislocated when in a wet track crash in the Malaysian Grand Prix. The other Ducati riders were Andrea Iannone, Spies’ teammate on the Ducati junior team, and new test rider Michele Pirro, recently of the San Carlo Gresini Honda CRT team.
“Obviously, we would have preferred that things played out differently, but in such cases, you have to just make the best of the situation and gather as much good data as circumstances allow,” current team manager Vitto Guareschi said. “We continued the testing program that we started at Valencia, looking for confirmation on the frame and swingarm that we tried in the latter part of the season. Unfortunately, Andrea’s fluke problem with his neck was a setback, but Nicky turned some good lap times despite the tires being at their limit in the cool conditions. Now we need to work at the factory over the winter in order to give our riders a competitive package at the first Sepang test in February.”