7 April 2015
200th MotoGP for ‘lone star’ Hayden
“I doubt there are two younger riders out there who love motorcycles as much as Valentino and me” – Nicky Hayden.
Nicky Hayden will start his 200th MotoGP as the only American rider on the grid at this weekend's event in Austin, Texas.
Hayden, 33, made his MotoGP debut with Repsol Honda in 2003, won his first race in 2005 and went on to beat Valentino Rossi to the title in 2006.
The switch to smaller 800cc engines hurt Hayden's form and he moved to Ducati to start a five-year association in 2009. Hayden claimed just three podiums on the troublesome Desmosedici, but performed credibly against strong team-mates Casey Stoner, Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.
The Kentuckian returned to Honda by signing for the Aspar team in the new Open class last season. Held back by both the uncompetitive RCV1000R and a serious wrist injury, Hayden is physical fitter and riding the improved RC213V-RS in 2015.
“The truth is that I don't feel like I'm about to make it 200 Grands Prix. It is not the thing I am most proud of and it is not like winning something special, it's just a number,” Hayden said. “But what I am proud of is that I am still motivated, still hungry, and I still want to fight and to be fast. Some of those 200 races bring back better memories than others, but I guess that is normal.”
Picking out the biggest changes in MotoGP since 2003, Hayden explained: “Lots of things have changed - the tyres, the switch to 800cc was one of the biggest changes but perhaps not the best… I think the biggest change overall has been in the electronics. But no matter how much things change, at the end of the day it is still about riders taking machines to the limit.”
Hayden describes his shock 2006 title victory, which ended Rossi's run of five consecutive championships, as a “dream come true”. Fast forward nine years and the pair are now the oldest riders on the grid.
“We are both riders with long careers behind us. It is true that we are the oldest on the grid now but I doubt there are two younger riders out there who love motorcycles as much as Valentino and me. If there is one thing we have in common it is our passion for bikes.”
Hayden, who finished 17th in the opening round in Qatar, cites electronic work as the main priority for his new Open Honda heading into round two at COTA.
“We know where we're at right now, where we need to improve, which is mainly in the electronics. I am looking forward to getting there and competing in my home race, in front of my fans. We understood more about the chassis in Qatar so hopefully this weekend we can use that knowledge to fight for a better result.
“It is early to set any clear objectives but obviously the initial idea is to be the best of the Open category and to get back to our best form. I struggled a lot last season with the wrist injury and I wasn't happy with my performance, but I expect to do much better this time around.”
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