Nicky Hayden Interview

The American former world champ talks about racing and the 2011 season

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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.

Nicky Hayden Interview

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.

Nicky Hayden Interview

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
Name Nicholas “Nicky” Patrick Hayden, a.k.a. "the Kentucky Kid"
Born July 30, 1981 (currently 29) in Owensboro, Ky.
1998 HyperCycle Suzuki (AMA 750 Supersport)
1999 Erion Honda (AMA 600 Supersport)
2000-2002 American Honda (AMA Superbike)
2003-2008 Honda Racing Corporation (MotoGP)
2009-Present Ducati Corse (MotoGP)
1998 4th AMA 750 Supersport
1998 4th AMA 600 Supersport
1999 1st AMA 600 Supersport
1999 2nd AMA Formula Xtreme
1999 9th AMA Grand National Dirt Track
2000 2nd AMA Superbikes
2000 4th AMA Pro Honda 600 Supersport
2001 3rd AMA Superbike
2002 1st AMA Superbike (At just over 21 years old, the youngest ever to win the championship)
2003 5th in MotoGP
2004 8th in MotoGP
2005 3rd in MotoGP
2006 1st in MotoGP
2007 8th in MotoGP
2008 6th in MotoGP
2009 13th in MotoGP
2010 7th in MotoGP
1999 Rookie of the Year AMA Dirt Track
1999 AMA Speedvision Professional Sportsmen of the Year
1999 Hagerstown Half Mile Grand National Championship
2000 Springfield Short Track Grand National Championship
2002 Springfield Short Track Grand National Championship (Twice)
2002 Springfield TT Steeplechase Grand National Championship (Hayden sweep with brothers Tommy 2nd and Roger 3rd)
2002 Peoria TT Steeplechase Grand National Championship
2002 Daytona 200 winner
Career Totals
MotoGP 3 career wins (27 podiums)
AMA Superbike 17 career wins (30 podiums)
AMA Formula Xtreme 7 career wins
AMA 750 Supersport 5 career wins
AMA 600 Supersport 6 career wins
AMA Grand Nationals 6 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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