Nicky Hayden will start his third season at the Ducati Marlboro Team aiming to continue his upward progression with the Desmosedici and 'looking forward' to working with MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi.
Hayden and Rossi were team-mates in the American's very first MotoGP season, when both rode for Repsol Honda in 2003.
Back then, there was little reigning champion Rossi could learn from the reigning AMA Superbike champion but - after a 15th place on his Desmosedici debut at November's Valencia test - Rossi has admitted he needs to “meet the bike halfway” and is sure to take an interest in what Hayden has to say.
2006 world champion Hayden is one of the few riders to have recovered from a difficult start with the Desmosedici, rising from 13th in the 2009 championship to seventh - with eleven top-six finishes - in 2010.
“This is my third year with Ducati," Hayden said. "The start was a little bit difficult, but it's gotten better and better since I've been on this team and on this bike. We've grown a lot, the bike has improved, and my relationship with the team has improved. We made a big step from the first year to the second, and I'd like to do the same this year.
“We know we have a good bike. We've made a couple of little tweaks for next year by adding some staff and a few engineers to help me. I have a strong team around me. I know being team-mates with Rossi won't be easy, but I really don't get too caught up in that. I focus on my job, and that's why I think it'll work with us.
“I'm looking forward to having Valentino's information and feedback. He's been around a long time and has a lot of experience. I think it'll be fun. I know our team; the motivation is really high, and the excitement with the fans in Italy is high as well.
“I can't imagine what the atmosphere will be like when get to Mugello.”
Rossi and Hayden will unveil the Desmosedici GP11 on Wednesday.