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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hayden feels the limit as shoulder holds


Forced to undergo shoulder surgery after struggling at the first Sepang test earlier this month, Nicky Hayden made an impressive return to MotoGP action at the same venue on Tuesday.

The former MotoGP champion broke his shoulder in a training accident in late-December, but didn't know the full extent of the damage until he tried to ride at the opening Sepang test.

“I was just riding around with one arm and not learning anything,” said Hayden on Tuesday.

That experience prompted further scans upon his return to America and the subsequent decision to operate. With such a short recovery time, Hayden flew to Malaysia fearing he could miss out on meaningful track time for the third test in a row, but was to be pleasantly surprised.

“The shoulder is better than I expected,” said Hayden at the end of day one. “I'm really grateful to Dr Ting. Three weeks ago I had a pretty big operation where he repaired my labrum and also shaved cartilage. So to be here and able to ride - not 100% - but pretty comfortable, he did a great job. Even right after the surgery there wasn't a lot of swelling.”

Hayden was the top Desmosedici in sixth place, 1.371sec behind Honda's Casey Stoner, but most importantly he was able to get down to some serious set-up work with the new aluminium-frame GP12.

“I missed Valencia, the last test was a waste, but today I was able to enjoy riding the bike, understand it more and give some good feedback. We'll see how I feel in the morning. Hopefully I'm not too sore,” he said.

“I didn't go crazy. I did about 30 laps, some of the laps on my bike were by Franco [Battaini, test rider]. I didn't ride in the rain this afternoon because I didn't want to do something silly and crash on the shoulder for nothing.”

And what is his verdict on the GP12?

“I like the bike,” Hayden replied. “Definitely it does some stuff I've asked for better. But I need to be going faster, understand it better and dial it in more.

“We still need to figure out where the weight is to try and get some more traction, that's definitely missing a bit, but it's a nice bike to ride. It's got a lot of torque at the bottom and I really enjoy riding it.”

Tuesday also confirmed Hayden's initial impression regarding the big improvement in feeling and feedback, something recent Desmosedicis have struggled to provide.

“The chassis we still need to dial-in - this was my first real day on the bike - but it's a better feeling. That's the big thing,” emphasised Hayden. “This chassis gives a lot of information. With the front and even the rear. It's easier to understand the limit.”

Hayden and factory team-mate Valentino Rossi (eighth fastest) are due to evaluate electronic upgrades this week aimed at improving corner exit performance, but the American doesn't expect electronics to provide a total solution.

“I don't think all our grip issues are only related to electronics,” he said. “We need to adjust the machine and find the right balance, so we get the right mechanical traction and don't rely solely on electronics.”

Testing at Sepang continues on Wednesday and Thursday.

World Superbikes winner MSMW2012