Earlier this week Indianapolis Motor Speedway organised a media teleconference with 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden.
This is what the American star - who finished in fourth place, but less than two-seconds from victory in the Qatar season-opener - had to say…
Welcome, everyone, to another Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference. Our guest today is 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden. First, a brief introduction. Nicky is 28 years old, he is from Owensboro, Ky. As I said, he is the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, and he is in his eighth season in the premier class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and in his second with the Ducati Team. Nicky started this season with a strong fourth-place finish at the Grand Prix of Qatar on April 11 and was looking forward to the Grand Prix of Japan this Sunday at Motegi before a volcano in Iceland that has a name I'm not even going to try and pronounce erupted, wreaking havoc on travel in Europe and forcing the postponement of that race until Oct. 3. Nicky has enjoyed strong runs in the first two Red Bull Indianapolis GPs. He finished second in 2008 in the inaugural race and third last year. So there's only one spot on the podium left for him to fill at IMS, and that's the top one. So we sure hope he can do that at this year's Red Bull Indianapolis GP, Sunday, Aug. 29. Nick, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate it.
All right. Thanks for having me on.
You've been quick most of this preseason on the Ducati and had a fine first race at Qatar. What has been the biggest reason for your improvement on the bike this year compared to last year?
Well, I would say it kind of started toward the end of last year, the middle of last year. We started to get some momentum going. I was faster than it really looked. We had some bad luck, some incidents, you know, where we didn't finish some races that hurt us every time we tried to get momentum going. But, for sure, this winter the bike is a little bit different, and I just feel a lot more comfortable on it and also with the team. It's the second year with the team after a long time on Hondas. It was a big change last year. I certainly didn't adapt the way I wanted to. But this year things seem to be going a lot better. The communication with the team is a lot better than it was last year. I feel comfortable. I like the bike. We've been quick testing, but we still got some areas we need to improve on. So we've got a lot of work to do.
You've got a week off. What are you going to do? An unexpected week off from work.
Yeah, it was strange, you know. I've missed races rain, sleet or snow. About the only thing I can compare it to was Willow back in the AMA days when the 9-1-1 caused that race to get canceled. It was quite strange. But basically, you prepare for the trip and the race, and pretty much everything calculated out, and then you wake up Sunday morning and find out no race. So just regroup and basically just do the same thing I did last week. Try to take advantage of a week at home, an extra week at home, and get ready for Jerez.
Obviously, you're far more comfortable on the bike this year than you were last year. Can you possibly give us an idea of what it's about? The engine delivery, the way it's delivering the power to you, or maybe the rear swingarm, going back away from the carbon fiber, or what else would you say that is making you look so comfortable on the bike? Because you were looking awesome a couple of weeks ago?
I would say the engine certainly is smoother. And on the bottom, it just gives you a bit better feel when you open the power and try to accelerate out of the corner. This engine, you got more connectability. You feel it better. But back to what I said a minute ago, I think a lot of it is just a second year on the bike and with the team. But the main thing for me, I need to go and be fast on a weekend that we show up on Friday and we don't have, like Qatar, two days of testing. And also like Malaysia, when I was quick. We had already been there once in testing, and it wasn't until the fourth day that I went quick. And that was one of my targets for this offseason was improve that. Really, I guess we'll find out at Jerez if that's the case.
Do you think the differences in the bike will transfer across to the satellite Ducati teams, as well, and possibly see other guys, like Mika Kallio and the Pramac guys possibly getting better results, as well, this year?
I think so. It's hard for me to speak for anybody else. But I think we have a strong package. The chassis' good. The engine's good. We'll wait to see, a little bit, what the engine rules, what happens three or four races down the road when engines start getting a lot of miles on them. That's going to be one question that hasn't been answered yet. But no, I think we've got a good bike and some good riders on the Ducati. I think Qatar, only two of us finished, I think. So I think the results will improve from that.