The MotoGP World Championship returned to action following a brief three-week break today, with Mika Kallio making an impressive debut for the Ducati Marlboro Team in the absence of regular rider Casey Stoner at Brno, lapping seventh fastest, and Nicky Hayden making gradual progress to finish twelfth.
The flying Finn, who has brought his Chief Engineer and his Telemetry Engineer with him from the Pramac team, lapped consistently at the top end of the time sheets throughout this afternoon’s opening free practice session and was a fixture in the top five before slipping two places in the final stages. Nicky Hayden struggled with his front end setting in the opening stages of the session but made gradual progress and continually improved his pace throughout, with his focus switching to the rear setting for tomorrow’s final free practice and qualifying sessions.
MIKA KALLIO (Ducati Marlboro Team) (7th; 1’58.302)
“It has been a really exciting day for me and to wear the famous red colours of Ducati Marlboro Team for the first time was a great honour, although once I got out on track I wasn’t thinking about what I was wearing! We started out with my setting from Donington on one bike and something similar to what Casey ran here last year on the other, with a few changes to suit my preferences. Both settings had different strengths but the same weakness, which was a lack of rear grip on the left side. It was the same problem with both the softer and harder tyre so we’re a little confused about what is causing it at the moment, but we’ll sit down this evening and work out a plan for tomorrow. They tell me the bike is virtually the same as my satellite machine but I can’t help but feel it has a little extra! Usually I struggle a little on the first day because even though I know the circuits I am riding them all for the first time on a MotoGP bike this year so to finish seventh today, with such a small gap to third place, is really positive.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) (12th; 1’58.821)
“Twelfth place isn’t a particularly great start for us but we made progress with every run and I was getting faster and faster as the session went on so I can’t say it was a complete disaster. Obviously we are going to have to do a lot better tomorrow but I think we’ve found a bit of a direction with the bike. We’re struggling a little with the rear on corner entry, it feels really loose, so our main target is to fix this problem. I was pushing the front a lot early in the session so we made a change, got it steering a lot better and we were able to progress from there. Now we need to work on the rear and try to make a big step forward tomorrow.”