Nicky Hayden is optimistic that Ducati has a solution for the high tire wear that he feels was the major factor in his disappointing result in the last MotoGP round at Silverstone.
The American felt his struggling Ducati teammade a good step forward in Britain but that its promising early-race pace was squandered when the rubber faded, leaving him seventh. He believes that if he can sustain that speed over a race distance at Assen this weekend then Ducati can achieve a better result than of late.
"Silverstone, until the tire went away – and everybody had tire wear problems there, but we think it affects our bike more than others – that race for the first five to eight laps was probably as quick as I've been on the Ducati in a long time and I quite enjoyed it," said Hayden.
"On that big, wide, open track, the bike was going really well, but we need the grip, and when it goes away...
"We've got some ideas for this weekend that can maybe try to help the tire last a bit longer. Also I need to do a bit better when the tire goes away and try to make it last. So I'm excited for this weekend."
Hayden believes Ducati has improved its pace, but that it is only matching Yamaha and Honda's development rate rather than closing in.
"It's not been a real easy season, but that's how they go," he said. "Every now and again we get a little momentum and feel like we're making a few gains, but these guys aren't sitting still. We go away and test and learn a couple of things but the other guys are improving, so truthfully I'd say the gap now is pretty similar to what it was at the start of the season."
The 2006 MotoGP champion also played down suggestions that Ducati would introduce a revised engine or substantial update package for the Laguna Seca race in late July.
"Maybe we might have some upgrades for Laguna, but new bike, engine... it's not really in the plan," said Hayden. "It won't be like some radical new bike. We've got to keep working on what we've got and get the most potential out of it for now."