NICKY HAYDEN/Ducati Team was all smiles after his Friday MotoGP practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. He was only 0.155 seconds off the fastest time of DANI PEDROSA/Repsol Honda Team. “It’s cool to be up front, but I don’t learn much in the rain. I lost a lot in the session today with it being in the wet. It was raining pretty hard. Obviously, I need dry setup time”

All the riders ran Bridgestone wets hard compound, the only available compound. For this race, Bridgestone has brought asymmetric (dual compound) rear slicks, which are hard and extra hard, “because of the imbalance between the ten left hand corners and the six right hand corners, most of which are slow and short, unlike the generally long and fast lefts.” Basically the inside of the tire wears out faster than the right on a single compound tire at Indy. Hayden likes the dual compound tires (as do many riders) and wishes MotoGP had them for more races.

Hayden said he told himself he had to learn how to race in the rain. He’s been getting better and improving all year. Among the reasons he cited: setup (suspension) – important in the rain; his tires have gotten better; and “we’ve made changes.”

Hayden changed tires halfway through the session. He wore down his first set but didn’t want to destroy them. “I knew I was going to go for it. We only get four sets, unless it rains every session.”

The track surface was not consistent around the 2.621-mile circuit. Turn One had drainage problems, holding water. Hayden had to ‘tiptoe’ through it. Another part of the course was really grippy. “It must have had cracks for draining water.” Other parts of the track were bumpy.

Hayden said FIM got everything it asked the track to do. At some point Hayden said they need to do some resurfacing as it’s bumpy in some spots. The kerbs were fine but he didn’t run much on them. The grippiest spot was the oval, where it was dry.

Hayden acknowledges that it’s been a tough year. “Everybody knows I’ve had big crashes and not a lot of great results and my job is on the line. So it is good to come here and man up with it. But I’ve got to do it Sunday. Ain’t nobody goIng to remember Friday afternoon, so that’s what I’ve got to do Sunday.”

One thing Hayden misses being an American racing for an overseas team is the time at home in Kentucky. He grew up being close with his two brothers – older TOMMY and younger ROGER LEE, both AMA riders. Hayden misses the holidays, and doing everything together with them – including going to the principal’s office.