Nicky Hayden has admitted that a touch of over-enthusiasm when he first clapped eyes on his new bike for 2010 landed him in hot water with his employers – but he reveals that 'some big changes' and 'some fresh energy' have left him buoyed about his prospects for the season ahead.
The new Ducati Corse GP10 is due to be officially unveiled today (Wednesday) at Madonna di Campiglio, the ski resort in the Italian Dolomites that traditionally plays host to a joint Ducati/Ferrari pre-season media party, but Hayden was given a sneak preview of his new mount at the team's Bologna factory last month and – unaware that the design was to be kept a closely-guarded secret until the launch – unwittingly went and ruined the surprise by posting a photograph of it on his personal website.
“I was just like a kid,” he confessed, quoted by Cycle News
and the BBC
. “Any time you get a new toy you want to show all your friends, so when I saw the bike I took a picture on my 'phone. The bike didn't have the graphics on it or anything, and I thought most people had pretty much seen it at Valencia – so I just put the picture on my website and shared it with my fans. I should have known better and that probably got me in the doghouse a little bit, but I was just excited. It happens, and lesson learned.”
Nonetheless, that the 2006 MotoGP World Champion is so effusive about what lies ahead speaks volumes off the back of a torrid 2009 campaign that initially just seemed to lurch from one crash to another and culminated in a desultory 13th place in the final riders' standings – his lowest-ever finish in the premier class – with but a solitary podium to his name along the way, albeit perhaps appropriately on home turf at Indianapolis.
Contrast that with team-mate and fellow former title-winner Casey Stoner, who despite missing three rounds due to illness, nonetheless succeeded in outscoring Hayden by a margin of more than two-to-one, notching up no fewer than four victories en route
to fourth spot in the chase for the crown.
Early accidents and injuries failed to help the rider who just three years earlier had fought and defeated the legendary Valentino Rossi
for the ultimate laurels, but the principal issue, the Kentucky native acknowledges, was his failure to gel with the GP09. Twelve months on and encouraged by a far stronger conclusion to the year than beginning, he insists he is older and wiser – and, most importantly of all, has a far better understanding of the machinery underneath him heading into his second season with Ducati Marlboro.
“I like the bike, while another off-season with the team will be a big help for me,” he underlined. “With the limited amount of off and in-season testing, it's not like you can go and make a bunch of radical new changes, but the bike is good and we have a strong package for 2010. Some stuff with the engine certainly will help us to make [the bike] more rideable and more consistent as the season goes on, and we've got a couple different little tweaks and stuff.
“There have been a few big changes in the team – and with changes you have big opportunities. There is a lot of excitement about the season for me and for everybody involved. We have brought in some new guys, the enthusiasm is there and [there is] some fresh energy, so we [will] see what it amounts to. [My only concern is that] six engines is not a lot for 18 races. I hope it saves some money, but I'm not sure how much it is going to save because it takes a lot of development to make them last.”
Key amongst the changes to which he refers, of course, has been the departure of long-time team principal Livio Suppo in favour of development rider and former World Superbike star Vito Guareschi, with Alessandro Cicognani now on the marketing side. Whilst not denying that Suppo's experience and expertise will inevitably be missed, Hayden is convinced that the new arrangement will work just as well if not even better.