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.
“Roger is in World Superbikes this year, which is a cool situation for him to see the world and learn some stuff. I don't want to slag off his team or his bike, but I think everybody knows the Kawasaki is probably not the best Superbike out there at the moment, and on top of that he's on a privateer one. He's got his work cut out and is up against it, but hopefully he can get a few results and turn a few heads, learn the tracks and hopefully then get onto something better for next year. I'll see him this weekend at Jerez, so I'm pretty excited about that.
“We all know each other so well, and sometimes it's good to see things through a different set of eyes. Just talking about things can help. If one of us is struggling, we can maybe bounce some ideas [off one another]. Roger went to Assen last week and he had never been there before, whereas I had been there once and could help him with some of the corners and things he could do. We're pretty honest with each other – it's not like we're cheerleaders telling each other how great we are! We're brothers, but it's for the most part positive criticism and trying to help each other, so we're all definitely playing for the same team.”
Whilst the three brothers' understandably hectic and divergent schedules mean they might not see each other as much as they would like, Hayden conceded that he is a bit of a homebody at heart, and endeavours to return to his family in Kentucky as much as he can. Ultimately, though, he recognises, his prime consideration remains firmly the same – his racing.
“Once we start doing the back-to-backs and it gets busy, I won't be coming back [to the States],” explained the three-time MotoGP race-winner. “Actually, this trip has been two weeks off and then we get two weeks off before the next one [at Le Mans] so I'll be back home again, but I like Europe in the summer and I stay quite busy, with a few things here and a few things there for Philip Morris and Ducati.
“That eats up the time between races, but also I'm a home boy and sometimes it's nice to come back to be around my family and friends and just relax, regroup, prepare, train and just get away from it all. When I stay in Europe it's hard to ever really get a mental break. I live on the east coast [in America], so it's pretty easy to get to from Europe – but once the season starts I won't really be going back-and-forth.
“We do get some 'down time', and we got a bit more recently with Japan being off, but I'm pretty caught up in my racing, you know. It's not a hobby – it's what I live for and I eat, breathe and sleep it, sometimes maybe too much. It would be better if I could get away and try to go play golf or go do this or that, but really I don't have a lot of hobbies. Racing is pretty much my life. Sure, at times I like to hang out with my friends and I'm into cycling a bit – nothing too wild. I just try to enjoy life.”TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW IN FULL: CLICK HERE