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Hayden Fourth and Rossi Ninth in Free Practice in France

On a day marked by beautiful weather, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi earned the fourth- and ninth-best times, respectively, during the first two free-practice sessions at the French Grand Prix.

During the afternoon session, the American found a good feeling with his GP11, and he hopes to continue at the same level over the course of the weekend. The Italian, on the other hand, was affected by setup issues, and by the time he and his crew made a change that seemed promising, he only had time for a couple of laps before the checkered flag flew. Tomorrow he’ll continue experimenting with setup in an effort to reduce the gap to the front.

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 4th, 1:34.652
“Today was certainly better than the last few Fridays, by quite a long way. It’s still early, and it’s just one day, but the bike felt quite good here straight away. The Portugal test was very useful for me and the team. We thought we made a little step there, and it seems like we confirmed that here. Overall, the bike definitely seems a little bit better, but we’ve still got a long way to go to be that fast consistently. Also, the gap to the very front is still out there quite a ways. Le Mans is difficult because it’s not a real grippy track, but we know our bike is really good on hard braking, and as I expected, that’s helping us here. Anyway, hopefully this will give us a little bit of momentum, and we’ll keep rolling tomorrow.”

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:34.966
“For sure I hoped today would go better than that. We had a few problems trying to find the right setting, so we’re too far back today. We’re struggling somewhat on corner exits. The bike moves a lot under acceleration, and we’re trying to understand if it’s a question of setup, or one of electronics, because at the moment, I’m having a hard time riding. In the end, we found an interesting change for the rear, but there were just a few minutes left in the session. I only had time for a couple of laps, during which I more or less matched my best time. Maybe with a little more time, I could have dropped another tenth and made up some positions, but tomorrow we definitely have to do much better when we try that setup with more time.”