Former 500cc Grand Prix star Randy Mamola has tipped Nicky Hayden to make a big impression in MotoGP this season following his return to Honda machinery.

The Kentucky rider has joined the Drive M7 Aspar Team along with Hiroshi Aoyama and the pair will compete on Honda's new RCV1000R under the 'Open' regulations.

Mamola, who finished as runner-up in the 500cc class four times in 1980, 81', '84 and '87, said: "Nicky on a Honda again is going to be something. He is the 2006 World Champion and they are hoping to get that package right; in fact, you couldn't have picked a better group than team Aspar to put something like that together."

The American also paid tribute to the standard set by Spanish riders across the MotoGP classes as the Europeans continue to be the dominant force in Grand Prix racing.

"(In Spain) you've got the upper hand of sponsorship and the investment that was done years ago, which the Americans had 30 years ago," Mamola told the official MotoGP website.

"It's the fruit growing from the tree. You can't take anything away from the Spanish riders. When I am at the race track, although I see the Spanish flag and hear the Spanish national anthem, I just see them as great athletes down the line in the three classes."

Mamola manages Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Bradley Smith and oversees the career of his son, Dakota, who is hoping to secure a ride in the CEV Championship this season.

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