Nicky Hayden Interview

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

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Nicky Hayden’s immense likeability is a key reason he remains perhaps America’s favorite roadracer despite not visiting victory lane since his MotoGP championship year of 2006.

Say what you will about his performance on the track, but no one can ever doubt the Kentucky Kid’s 100% effort and his intense drive to race at the highest level. It’s these things that influenced Ducati to re-sign Hayden to a two-year contract extension for 2011 in the face of two lackluster years on the Italian V-Four GP machine.

“It is no secret that he is a rider who never gives up, his whole racing history shows it,” said Ducati Corse Director Filippo Preziosi. “As a person, his tenacity is an example for us all because he shows us that nothing is impossible if you truly believe.”

We last interviewed Hayden in January 2009 as he prepared for his stint at Ducati after many years riding for Honda, on which he won the 2006 world title.

MotoGP star Nicky Hayden debuts Ducati’s Diavel and announces AMG-Mercedes sponsorship of his race team at last month’s LA Auto Show.

This time we caught up with him at the LA Auto show when Ducati unveiled its new power cruiser, the Diavel. Hayden again demonstrated his PR value as he beamed endless smiles in front of the automotive media while helping announce AMG Mercedes as a new sponsor for Ducati’s MotoGP team.

Despite a less-than-stellar 2010 campaign, Hayden’s performance in the latter part of the season showed the potential of him aboard the difficult-to-ride Desmosedici. He carded top-six finishes in more than half of the GPs this year, finishing just one spot off the podium (in fourth) no less than five times. He finally got his only podium result at the Spanish GP at Aragon, and he again showed his promise at the penultimate round in Portugal by leading the race before falling back to fifth. And at the season-closing Valencia race, he ran as high as second before crashing while dicing with the leaders.

Hayden again showed good form in the post-season test at Valencia, recording the sixth-best time as the quickest Ducati rider. Hayden’s 2011 teammate, the ever-popular Valentino Rossi (and Honda teammate in 2003), struggled adapting to the Desmosedici, ending up in 13th aboard his new machine.

The Kentucky Kid is aiming for more trips to the podium in 2011 as Ducati fine-tunes its carbon-fiber chassis and big-bang V-Four engine.

Both Hayden, 29, and Rossi, 31, tested two engine types: a big-bang motor like the one used in 2010, and a new “screamer” version that delivers a bit more power. It seems like Ducati will probably use the big-bang motor in 2011, which is sad for a gearhead’s eardrums. Hayden says about the screamer motor, “Your jaw will drop (if you hear it). I’ve never heard a bike sound so good, and the power is so strong. But it was a little bit aggressive, a little bit hard to get around the tight stuff.”

Check out the accompanying video to find out more from America’s last world champion roadracer. Topics include:

Electronic rider aids: “(People) think electronics is magic, but it don’t work like that. People say now, ‘Ah, electronics, they don’t slide, you can’t crash.’ I crashed more this year than in my whole career, so that’s not really the case. You can still highside them – don’t think you can’t! My back’s still sore from Portugal in the rain!”

Valentino Rossi: “You can bet if there were points were on the line, he wasn’t going to be running around in 13th (like he did at the post-season test). Once he dials it in he’s going to be dangerous. I’ve got no doubt he’s going to be winning races next year.”

Casey Stoner: “He’s probably the best I’ve ever seen as far as just getting on something and going fast.”

The 2011 season: “I love what I do, I love my job, I love my team. This is the last year of the 800s and I’ve not really done nothing. As much as I’m looking forward to going back to 1000s, I’m also looking forward to trying to let this whole 800 era not be a bust.”

The 2012 change to 1000cc engines: “It’s hard to say (if they’ll make racing more competitive). Unless they find a way to limit the electronics, I don’t see the racing changing a whole lot.”

Nicky Hayden’s Career Bio
NameNicholas “Nicky” Patrick Hayden, a.k.a. "the Kentucky Kid"
BornJuly 30, 1981 (currently 29) in Owensboro, Ky.
1998HyperCycle Suzuki (AMA 750 Supersport)
1999Erion Honda (AMA 600 Supersport)
2000-2002American Honda (AMA Superbike)
2003-2008Honda Racing Corporation (MotoGP)
2009-PresentDucati Corse (MotoGP)
19984th AMA 750 Supersport
19984th AMA 600 Supersport
19991st AMA 600 Supersport
19992nd AMA Formula Xtreme
19999th AMA Grand National Dirt Track
20002nd AMA Superbikes
20004th AMA Pro Honda 600 Supersport
20013rd AMA Superbike
20021st AMA Superbike (At just over 21 years old, the youngest ever to win the championship)
20035th in MotoGP
20048th in MotoGP
20053rd in MotoGP
20061st in MotoGP
20078th in MotoGP
20086th in MotoGP
200913th in MotoGP
20107th in MotoGP
1999Rookie of the Year AMA Dirt Track
1999AMA Speedvision Professional Sportsmen of the Year
1999Hagerstown Half Mile Grand National Championship
2000Springfield Short Track Grand National Championship
2002Springfield Short Track Grand National Championship (Twice)
2002Springfield TT Steeplechase Grand National Championship (Hayden sweep with brothers Tommy 2nd and Roger 3rd)
2002Peoria TT Steeplechase Grand National Championship
2002Daytona 200 winner
Career Totals
MotoGP3 career wins (27 podiums)
AMA Superbike17 career wins (30 podiums)
AMA Formula Xtreme7 career wins
AMA 750 Supersport5 career wins
AMA 600 Supersport6 career wins
AMA Grand Nationals6 career wins (missing only the Mile for the Grand Slam)

Related Reading
2011 Ducati Diavel Review (Almost)
Ducati partners with Mercedes AMG
Nicky Hayden’s website
MotoGP 2010 Valencia Results

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