At Motegi for the Japanese GP
Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden rode to a hard-fought fifth-place finish in today's record-breaking Japanese GP at Motegi. This was the American's first dry race in more than two months – he missed the Czech and San Marino GPs due to injury
and scored a podium last time out at rain-soaked Indianapolis two weeks ago.
The 2006 World Champion started from the front row of the grid after a storming performance in yesterday's qualifying session. He completed the first lap in third place, but didn't quite have the pace to go with the leaders. He spent most of the race in fifth place. In the closing laps he was chased hard by a group of four riders but he kept his head to maintain his position. On the grid Hayden wore a hachimaki (Japanese-style bandana), given to him yesterday by a fan. The race was run in cool, cloudy conditions and was watched by 58,000 fans.
Nicky Hayden : “I got a pretty good start and was certainly in the mix there for a couple of laps but they just had a little bit more pace everywhere. I tried to make up for it a few times on the brakes, but I just didn't have the pace. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I had high expectations, I thought maybe we could get in there and find something extra for the race. We rode about as hard as we could and it got harder as the tyres went away.
That pack was coming for me, I just tried to not make any mistakes, keep my rhythm and hold them off. I knew there was a couple of guys chasing but I didn't know there was that many coming for me. The bandana I wore on the grid, some fan gave it to me yesterday.
I wore it for qualifying and got on the front row, so I figured, try it again. Congratulations to Valentino [Rossi, who won today's race to claim his eighth world title]. I know what it takes to win one and it takes a bad dude to win eight of them. Much respect.”
Kazuhiko Yamano - Team Manager “Nicky did a good job this weekend. He qualified on the front row yesterday, showing he is very motivated after his podium result at Indy two weeks ago. He rode hard today but didn't quite have the pace to run with the leading group. Now we go to Phillip Island, a track that Nicky really loves. We know he will do his best to get back on the podium there.”