17 December 2014
Nicky Hayden: Turning the page for MotoGP 2015
“I don't want to talk about last season anymore, it's over”- Nicky Hayden.
Nicky Hayden may be staying with the Drive M7 Aspar team - but he'll have a new bike, new engineers, new team-mate and, he hopes, a 'new' wrist for 2015.
The American's return to Honda after five years at Ducati was hampered by both the underpowered RCV1000R and then a debilitating wrist injury, which flared up overnight at Jerez (round four) and dogged Hayden for the remainder of the year.
Initial surgery after Mugello failed to resolve the pain and lack of mobility, prompting a second much more major operation that saw Hayden side-lined for four events.
The 2006 world champion returned for the final five rounds, made his debut on the new RC213V-RS in the post-season Valencia test, then returned to American to continue his rehabilitation.
“I feel better every day. It wasn't easy to get back on the bike after the type of surgery I went through,” Hayden said. “It was a serious operation, they had to remove three bones from my wrist. I was able to control the pain and ride again, even though I wasn't back to my normal level, but gradually I recovered strength and feeling.
“It is good for me that the season is over because it's a chance to continue the recovery. Since the end of the season I have been having injections of platelet-rich plasma. I have let my hand rest but I have also been doing a lot of work with the physio.”
Hayden has plenty of motivation to get his wrist back in shape, with the knowledge that next year's Open class Honda will be powered by this year's title winning RC213V (pneumatic-valve) engine.
The bike must still run the standard electronics, and won't have a seamless shift gearbox, but this year's 20km/h top speed deficit should be a thing of the past.
“My first impressions were positive,” said Hayden, one of only two riders who got to try the bike at the Valencia test. “Without doubt the biggest thing I noticed was the extra power, as well as the usual reliability and performance characteristics of a Honda. We were able to confirm the development that has been done with this bike so far and now we have to work on it more ourselves to understand it more and unlock its potential.
“I am sure we will be more competitive in 2015 than we were last season. There is still some development to be done with the electronics but I think we are on the right path. We had a great chassis last season but we were down on power.
“The new Honda RC213V-RS has quite a lot of horsepower, which will help us close the gap to the guys at the front. Until we have had more time to test it I can't really give much more of an opinion, but the first impression suggests that we have a solid base to work from.
“We will see what level it is at when we ride alongside the others at Sepang. In the meantime I need to focus on returning to full fitness.”
Hayden will have a new crew chief in the form of Australian Matthew Casey next season, who joins the team after guiding Aleix Espargaro to this year's Open class title at Forward Yamaha. There will also be other welcome 'additions'.
“I am really happy with the new additions. I have a new crew chief in Matthew and new electronics and suspension technicians,” Hayden confirmed. “We had chance to get to know each other at Valencia but we couldn't get much work done because of the rain. At least we gathered a little experience with the new bike in the wet.
“I feel comfortable with the new members of the team, the communication is good and we understand each other well. There is good chemistry between us all and that makes me feel calm and confident. We have a lot of work ahead of us but the initial signs are good.”
Joining Hayden on the other side of the garage will be World Superbike star Eugene Laverty, preparing to start his first MotoGP season. Like Hayden, Laverty comes from a family of racing brothers.
“I didn't get much chance to talk to Eugene at Valencia but he seems like a normal kid, very focused on his job,” said the #69. “He is coming from a successful career in World Superbikes so I think he will be competitive and I am sure he will adapt his style quickly to MotoGP. I'm also sure there will be a good relationship between the two of us, he comes from a racing family like me and he has two brothers who are both good riders too.”
In terms of targets for next season, first and foremost the 33-year-old simply wants to enjoy himself again.
“This will be my second season with the Drive M7 Aspar Team and my main objective is to enjoy riding again. I don't want to talk about last season anymore, it's over. I am focused on getting back to full fitness, riding like I know I can and getting some good results to put 2014 behind us.
“Right now I am the only American rider in the World Championship. That's not a fact I like but it is my responsibility to represent my country until the next generation come through. Hopefully I can do the best job possible to make my people proud.”
Hayden claimed a best race finish of eighth on his way to 16th in this year's world championship. The first official test of 2015 takes place at Sepang, Malaysia, in early February.
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