A Crash.net feature in which Bridgestone's Tom Tremayne interviews a MotoGP rider at each of the remaining 2009 rounds. At Misano, it's Nicky Hayden...

2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden has had a tumultuous and sometimes frustrating start to the season, his first with the Ducati Team, but after his first podium on the Desmosedici GP9 in Indy, and having just re-signed with the team for 2010, the American is feeling buoyed.

"Yeah it's nice to know what's going on down the road and that I've got a job racing motorcycles in MotoGP. It's nice to have a deal on a factory bike doing what I love to do. I felt it would have been a real shame, if you look from where we came from the first three or four races to where we are now, to then go and start over again next year as we're just now starting to get a real good communication.

"I'm feeling at home with the team and good on the bike, and hopefully we can have a strong last part of the season and another off-season of testing together and start next year much stronger.

"I'm feeling more comfortable with the bike race by race and with each test. Even if you look at the Barcelona test when at the time I thought it wasn't that good, as soon as we went to Assen I immediately felt a step in those next races. Again in Brno, at the time we tested a few things and it wasn't real clear but I spent a whole day on the bike and we went to Indy and it was another step better, so it certainly makes me wish we had more testing."

The key to the recent upturn in pace seems to be in some sweeping changes made during the post-race tests in Catalunya and Brno.

"At the Brno test we changed the whole geometry, head pipe angle and wheelbase but I only used it for the last run of the day. It was ok but I wasn't convinced as it was pushing the front a bit, but I had quite a used front tyre as it was all I had left. We went to Indy and tried it there and immediately I liked it, and it seems to be working well here in Misano too."

Hayden and the Ducati Team have made the most of the two mid-season tests to find the right direction with the GP9, a very different machine to the Honda on which he won the world title, but there is more to be done and more still to come.

"To get the one second that I need to be at the front we need to improve in every area, but I have spoken that I'd like to get our top speed advantage back. All the years of 800cc the Ducati was so fast, but at the moment I've struggled for top speed with this bike. It'll be interesting next year with the rule change that limits the number of engines for the whole season. That's going to really make things different. I'm not sure whether it's going to be good or bad for us, but it'd be nice to get that big speed advantage back!"

Tenth fastest in Friday practice at Misano, the American climbed to sixth fastest on Saturday morning in the final practice of the weekend. Buoyed by the recent chain of events, he's feeling optimistic.

"You know, this track always takes a little while to come in. It's so hot and so dry here, and sure it's quite sandy but I used the soft front Bridgestone all the session yesterday. Actually I was almost as fast on the hard tyre as the soft tyre and that's a big plus for me because a lot of times this year it's been the complete opposite. That doesn't show up when you look at the timesheets, but that's another thing we've got going for us this weekend.

On his first season using Bridgestone tyres in the premier class, he's also pragmatic.

"The Bridgestones certainly work a little bit differently and slide a bit differently than what I've used there in the past, but the situation we've got now with the tyres is that we've got two tyres and they work over a big wide range. Sometimes now we play with pressure more than I ever did just because you've got to make the tyre work in the conditions.

"I've learned this year with Bridgestone that it really doesn't matter as much as before how many compounds are available; I mean we use the same tyre here as we used in Donington. That's probably the best thing about the tyre - how they've made it work over such a wide range."

Following his signing to the factory Ducati team for next season Hayden knows his ride is safe, but who will be alongside him?

"I'm under the impression that it'll be Casey [Stoner]. You know there are a lot of rumours going and it doesn't take long here for people to throw a little fuel and they start growing, but I'm not sure. I got a text message from Casey in Indy, and I would think he's going to come back. I would think he's missing it. Casey really enjoys riding motorcycles. For me and for the championship I hope he comes back. He's so fast man, he can go so fast it makes you shake your head. It'd be a shame if he's not back."

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