Nicky Hayden has brushed aside any notions of there being a three-way battle between himself, Colin Edwards and Ben Spies to emerge as the best-placed American in MotoGP 2010 – even if he acknowledges that there is
pressure on the trio to win in 2010 to maintain their nation's interest in the sport.
Hayden came out on top in the first showdown between himself and his two compatriots in the Qatar curtain-raiser earlier this month, taking the chequered flag fourth to premier class newcomer Spies' fifth and Edwards' eighth under the Losail spotlights. The Ducati Marlboro star, however, is adamant that he has far more to focus his efforts upon than merely getting the better of Tech 3 Yamaha's duo.
“We've all got egos, and each of us wants to be the top American,” he reflected, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio
, “but I can't get caught up in wanting to be the top American. It's not a big deal – there are 14 other guys [as well] who will all put the heat on me. Sure, I'm a racer and I'm not going to stand in-line, but I don't want to be worried about the other Americans or about anybody else for that matter.
“Having three pretty strong Americans is always a buzz, and the interest for MotoGP in America I would say is as high as I've ever seen since I've been in MotoGP, with all of us near the front. Americans like winners, though, and they're going to get tired of us just being at the front pretty quickly – they want somebody who can win
Admitting to having tracked Spies' progress last year as the Tennessee native re-wrote the rookie rulebook with a stunning 50 per cent victory record en route
to the World Superbike Championship laurels at the first time of asking – “I love motorcycles, so I watch pretty much every series a little bit,” he reveals – Hayden agreed with the general pre-season predictions of a stellar maiden campaign for his countryman in MotoGP 2010, even if he warned that it will not be completely a walk in the park for 'Elbowz'.
“It's not going to be easy,” cautioned the 2006 world champion. “Last year he came in and sat on the pole the first race and pretty well dominated, so I don't think it's going to be that easy, but on the other hand I don't really think of Ben as a rookie. He's had wildcard rides in the past, dabbled with testing in MotoGP and he's a little bit older than most rookies.
“You think of rookies being 20 or 21; he's a little bit older, but I mean that in a positive way because he's got a lot of experience and a lot of background, and that's to his credit. He won't make the usual 'rookie' mistakes and that sort of thing. For sure it's not going to be a picnic, but he's got a really good bike, a good package and he's clearly hungry. I think he's going to have a strong, solid season.”
Two other riders Hayden forecasts great things for this year are brothers Tommy – three years older than him – and Roger Lee, two years younger. The former is currently competing back across the Pond in AMA, whilst the latter is embarking upon his maiden World Superbike Championship campaign equipped with a privateer Kawasaki, though has yet to crack the points. Nicky confesses that having two members of the same family with whom to share hints and tips is a rare boon.
“My older brother is probably having the most solid start to his Superbike season ever,” the 28-year-old revealed. “He's won one race, and I think he's been on the podium every race but one and been right there every week with seconds and thirds. Now that he's won one, though, he's aiming to do it every week. It's a big year for him. He knows it, and he's got a bike and team that are capable of winning the championship so I think he feels maybe a bit of pressure and knows he needs to step up and deliver. It's exciting for him; he's got a good opportunity and things seem to be rolling along really good for him.