Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden will head to the opening grand prix of the 2005 season, at Jerez on April 10, boosted by having set the pace in the final three-day pre-season test session - held at the same circuit.

Here Nicky - about to start his third year of MotoGP competition - evaluates his pre-season preparations, considers the title contenders, talks about the latest version of the RC211V, his hopes for the Spanish GP and much more...

Q:
In general terms, how would you assess your pre-season?

Nicky Hayden:
It's been quite a long pre-season and I'm happy that it's finished. It's been fun, but long. I'm ready to start the championship and to do what really counts. The real everyday work during the races is always much more entertaining for all of us.

The pre-season is hard; everything has to be restarted, the bike, the mechanics, the rider... But I'm really satisfied with how things have worked out. We've been improving day after day and we've been in the front in every test.

It was a new team when we started, but now we understand each other very well and the atmosphere in the garage is very good. The assessment is positive but it's time to go for the results.

Q:
How do you see your main rivals, such as Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi?

Nicky Hayden:
Valentino is without doubt the man to beat, that's why he's number one. From a sporting point of view, Rossi will be the number one enemy until any other rider makes a big step forward.

None of us has made that big step so far, but there are several riders that seem to be very strong. Sete, for example, is in exceptional shape and he's mentally on a good level as well. Valentino will be the hardest rival and then Sete. There are some races where Max can do a good job too and be a tough rival.

Q:
Anybody else?

Nicky Hayden:
Not to fight for the title. But there are some riders and teams that have improved a lot. The championship is going to be great fun.

Q:
How do you see the Honda compared to the Yamaha?

Nicky Hayden:
From my point of view, the Honda is good overall, it's a complete bike, but the Yamaha is also a great machine. There are obviously differences; different riders, different parts...

Honda's got great technology and a lot of people working hard to find a good balance for all of the circuits. There will be tracks where the Honda adapts better and others less. We all have a great challenge ahead.

Q:
And the 2005 RC211V compared to the 2004 bike?

Nicky Hayden:
It's evidently improved, but there are no big differences. The engine works quite similar to last year. There are some small details that have been changed allowing us to improve. Michelin has also improved a lot. The new tyres are giving great performance, as well as the suspensions. Now we have to make the most of all aspects.

Q:
The next time we'll see you on track will be at the first grand prix of the season, what are your expectations for the event?

Nicky Hayden:
I want to start the season really strong and try to get a good base to start with and improve, improve, improve. My aim is to be among the lead riders in every session, every practice, every day, and then to fight to win races.

Q:
If you had to place a bet...

Nicky Hayden:
I'm not a gambler: I don't like to bet and even less with my heart. We're going to give our best and try to set differences with respect to the rest.

Q:
What are your plans from now until the start of the Spanish Grand Prix on April 8?

Nicky Hayden:
Definitely to have a rest. It's been a long pre-season and the first grand prix is almost here. We haven't got much time, but it'll seem never-ending to me. We have to rest to be ready for the first race.