Nick Hayden is headed back to Kentucky after turning the quickest lap of testing Thursday at Jerez, 1:40.090, on his Ducati GP13.
That lap was nearly eight-tenths of a second better than his top trip of 1:40.855 on Wednesday. Conditions were sunny but chilly Thursday in Spain, with air temperatures reaching only 52 degrees Fahrenheit and track temps topping out at 70.
It was the best lap of the year for Ducati at Jerez, a positive sign of steady improvement for the GP13. Hayden qualified at 1:40.563 in the Grand Prix of Spain this spring on the GP12, the previous quickest trip around the Spanish circuit this year for Ducati.
Ducati will stay at Jerez for a third and final day of testing Friday, but the team stuck to Hayden's original plan of turning laps for just the first two days. The Boys from Bologna may have only two of its four riders on track Friday, as Andrea Dovizioso continues to be parked by a neck injury suffered in the Monza Rally Show last weekend.
Dovi's troubles placed further importance on Hayden's progress, as Hayden was the only veteran rider to turn a significant number of laps on a Ducati in postseason testing.
Rain hampered the post-Valencia GP test for all riders, and Dovi only has turned three laps so far at Jerez due to his neck injury. Ducati junior team rider Ben Spies hasn't been on a prototype bike since undergoing shoulder surgery in late October to repair damage suffered in a crash at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Test rider Michele Pirro and rookie Andrea "Crazy Joe" Iannone have completed full test runs this week at Jerez. Moto2 graduate Iannone has been impressive. He lapped within a second of Hayden on Wednesday and trimmed the gap to nine-tenths Thursday with a top lap of 1:40.989.
The hubbub Wednesday over World Superbike riders Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes turning quicker laps than Hayden ended Thursday, as normal order was restored in the rare share of a track by 1000cc MotoGP and WSBK machinery. Aprilia and Kawasaki packed up and left Jerez on Wednesday, so Laverty and Sykes had no chance to try and top Hayden's time.
Marco Melandri was quickest among WSBK riders at 1:40.816 on his BMW, a second better than his time Wednesday. Carlos Checa led a day of big improvement for the new Ducati Panigale, second among WSBK riders at 1:41.840 - 1.2 seconds quicker than Wednesday.