SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 17 - The inconsistency of the Ducati Desmosedici was on vivid display on the first day of practice for Sunday’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was third fastest in the morning, and only 0.547 seconds off the pace of leader Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda). But in the afternoon he was down in ninth, just in front of teammate Valentino Rossi, and 1.614 seconds from pace-setter Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda.
In the morning the track conditions were much worse, with dirt on the surface and wet patches. By the time the afternoon session began, the track was dry, the surface warm, and there was much more rubber laid down. How this played into the Ducati’s faults is anyone’s guess, but they clearly had more trouble in FP2.
After going third quickest...
After going third quickest in the morning, Hayden was frustrated to only be 9th in the afternoon when conditions improved.
“Track was quite dirty this morning, quite wet, so it took for a while to come in, but was OK,” Hayden said after his ninth place practice performance in the afternoon on the Ducati GP12 at Indianapolis. “I spent most of the whole session up in the top and the bike was working quite good, but this afternoon some other guys did a lot bigger step than I did. Was having some problems getting the bike to turn and finishing the corner, which was really hurting me in the, kinda the last part of the track where you need to connect all the corners to go fast. But, you know, I think we are a bit closer probably here than we were in Laguna Friday, so see what happens.” He added, “The front group is still a long way, but hopefully we can put up a good fight, hopefully we can.”
Racing three hours from his home in Owensboro, Kentucky puts added pressure on Hayden, he’s often admitted, and this weekend is no different.
“Well, there’s always high expectations, especially at home, which is tough at the moment, because our results, our potential is not as high as I’d like, but still do a good race,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, I mean, certainly I’ll be really disappointed if I leave here Sunday without my best result of the season.” Hayden’s best result of 2012 is sixth.
Rossi’s Friday performances at Indianapolis were more consistent. He’d struggled with the track conditions to ninth in the morning practice on the Ducati, and 1.420 seconds to Stoner, then came tenth in the afternoon, at 1.746 seconds to Pedrosa. This was a typical Friday at Indy, he said, while admitting he has to find at least a second, if not more.
“This track is more or less always like this, last year also,” Rossi said after finishing in 10th spot in the afternoon practice on the Ducati. “Friday, especially the first practice is like going on the wet, very slippery. In fact, this afternoon the grip improved a lot and we were two seconds faster. And I expect and I hope that the track improve also for tomorrow, because we have to go faster, but the track can help us a bit. We did a modify at the end of the practice and I lose some position because we were not able to improve, but I’m not very far from the second group. Tomorrow we have to try to improve our lap time and make better.
“I lose a lot exit from the two hairpins in acceleration, because the other guys are able to use less electronics and put more horsepower on the ground, and so we work on this.
Rossi was more consistent,...
Rossi was more consistent, in that he was 9th in the morning and 10th in the afternoon...
“At the end was nothing fantastic, because I lose some position in the last exit because I wasn’t able to improve, but is not a disaster. We are not so far from the second group, also about the rhythm. I lose a lot in two or three parts of the track. We try to make a modify for improve the entry at the end, but no way. So I did my best lap on the last lap with 20 laps on the tire, but is not enough. We need to go faster.
“Also, because for sure tomorrow the condition of the track will change, will improve, so we need to have the bike ready for improve one or two seconds. More one than two.”
Rossi certainly wasn’t lacking for top speed on the Ducati at Indianapolis during Friday practice. Pedrosa was the fastest, at 208.594 mph at the end of the straight, with Rossi tied with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) for second at 207.103 mph.
“We arrive at the end very fast like always,” he said. “Our bike is very fast in the long straight, but we lose very much in acceleration, exit from the last corner. And exit from the Turn 4, me and also Nicky (Hayden) we lose very much compared to the other guys. Is the two places where we lose more. So at the end we have a big top speed, but we lose too much in acceleration.”