For the first quarter of the British Grand Prix, there was a Ducati racing at the front  in a dry race, something we’ve not seen for some time. Almost as soon as Nicky Hayden crossed the line with 15 of 20 laps to go, his GP12 changed from something that could match the pace of the leaders into something else entirely.

Hayden lost fourth place to Lorenzo, then fifth to Dovizioso, both times going wide as his bike suddenly wouldn’t turn like it had been doing for the previous four laps. Hayden said in his post-race media scrum that the bike had been great until it destroyed the soft rear tire.

Earlier, when I’d walked onto pit lane and headed for the grid, we felt sprinkles in the air and wondered if the volatile weather was about to change from cool-but-dry to wet-and-even-colder, as it had several times over the weekend.

It seemed unlikely that it would start raining hard enough to begin the race on wet tires, but up and down pit lane crew chiefs appeared from their boxes, looking up at the skies, wondering what to do. Soft or hard tires? Dry, cool, warm, damp, what would the track be like over the course of twenty laps?

Hayden’s crew went with the soft choice, as all but Rossi had done, and that tire lasted four laps before going off to the point that Hayden couldn’t stop the bike and it started getting chatter. He fought the rest of the way to hold as many positions as possible, ultimately ending the day 7th, top Ducati, and just over 15 seconds behind the winner.

After the race, Hayden tried to be positive about finishing only 15 seconds back and having kept race pace at the start. But if you look at this week’s photo, the eyes show that there is only one thing that really matters. While others of us can look at Sunday’s race and say it was a great result for someone on a GP12, for the rider, only a victory means that the job got done.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Cpt.Slow

    Without question, Nicky is putting in work (respect)!

  • phs

    Nicky needs to get away from Ducati and on a bike that he can compete on. He is wasting his years at Ducati. Put him on something competitive and he will be towards the front.

  • That’s the problem with MotoGP now isn’t it… only so many RIDES to go around, and only a couple factories able to compete at the utmost level. With the established “Maximum” number of bikes provided by each manufacturer, matters are even worse.

    What’s wrong with If You Can Pay For It You Can Race It? Why the unnecessary limit on the number of prototypes.

    This is ridiculous. You are encouraging less prototypes, less development, less sponsor involvement (in the prototype class).

    I fear the series truly is trying to manufacture a CRT dominance for the future…

  • Jesse Cecil

    I think it’s pretty clear that Nicky is still capable of being as fast or faster than all but a couple of riders on the grid. In fact, he’s been working so hard on that Ducati, that I might go as far as saying that this is the best Nick that we’ve seen in GPs. Let me count the ways.

    He’s hungrier than ever before.
    He’s had to work incredibly hard (a Hayden forte) to adapt to the Ducati, but he’s done it — better than
    anyone save Stoner. Watch his Silverstone QP lap pre-crash. He was doing a very solid Casey
    impression, thrashing that bike to the ragged edge on every corner.
    Because he’s had to work harder to make up for the deficiencies of the bike, he’s grown as a rider.
    He and his crew are seemingly leading the development charge instead of Rossi, who admits Hayden can ride the bike in a way that he cannot (i.e. from the rear).
    When the bike is working, he’s at the front until the tire gives up the ghost. This has happened several
    times, but Nicky’s personal capability for speed is not at issue, IMO.

    I’m more and more confident that if/when the Ducati gets sorted, it’ll be Nicky that does it, while Rossi (hopefully) benefits from some good, ol’ fashioned Kentuckian hard work and determination.

  • phs

    I agree with everything you said.
    I just don’t think Ducati can turn things around anytime soon. The longer Nicky stays at Ducati the older he is getting. I wish he could get on some competitive machinery asap…he deserves it!

  • Jonathan

    @ Cpt.Slow: Agree 100%. I like Nicky and he’s putting in long hours quietly and without fuss. In a parallel universe he’s just got the nod from Honda again, or maybe even the other factory Yamaha seat…

    Back to reality. The bottom line may read “7th”, but reading between those lines that spell trading punches in the front group suggests that Nicky regained a little faith in the Duke’s front end (even after a hard crash in gusty conditions on Saturday) and he responded by demonstrating that he still has the pace and the hunger. Here’s hoping he gets the tools to do the job – I’m not quite ready to see him racing the ovals again just yet!

  • Laura

    Really great to see him at the front of the pack. Nicky has always had tons of class when it comes to his riding, whether he is winning or not. He is the epitome of class in my book and I will stay a fan!

  • Jake F.

    Nothing would make me happier than to see my two favorite racers winning races on a competitive bike from my favorite marque. A boy can dream…

  • benfaster

    Right on Jake!

  • Anti

    Is it possible to say that Ducati as a small manufacturer just don’t have the money to throw into their bike, unlike say honda Honda.

    How much of a chunk would Rossi’s wage take out of Ducati’s research, development and testing?

  • Not that much Anti cause Rossi is paid by Marlboro… that being said I wish Ducati would just release Rossi cause he and the Gp12 just don’t get along at all… Sad to say but that marriage is DONE!! Trellis frame anyone??

  • JoeD

    I do wish Ducati had a better set up. Perhaps with the engine change, the rear tires may last longer with manageable power to the asphalt. BMW had teething troubles until they dialed back on the oomph. Clearly, Nick has the fire in the belly. Rossi seems to expect a perfect motorcycle to compliment his perfect self.

  • Calisdad

    Am I the only one who thinks the tire rule needs scraping? Nick’s tire goes south after 5 laps? The Hondas even chewed them up . Its one of the very few components left from last years bike.

    Did anyone go out and buy a new set of Bridgestones because they worked so well on Sunday? didn’t think so.

  • Neil

    Nicky has always been my favorite rider, his determination and positive attitude are examples of why he is so popular not only with fans but in the paddock as well.

    I would so love to see him win at Laguna on the Ducati and shut the naysayers up because if they don’t think the fire still burns, they’re crazy….

    Go #69

  • Westward

    Ducati has Marlboro as a sponsor and soon enough will have the financial access to Audi/VW ass their new owners. Money is not an issue…

    I think Ducati should run four machines and have the Pramac team run the Screamer engines with a kalex chassis, after all this is prototype racing is it not…

  • David

    Somebody mentioned Rossi salary. Rossi is number 20 on this years Forbes richest athletes list.

    30 million a year. Breaks down as 17 mill salary, 13 mill endorsements.

    Not bad. I could scrape by on that. lol

  • @Calisdad
    no, yes, & no.