Nicky Hayden claimed his first real success of the 2008 MotoGP season with an inspired ride to second place in front of his home fans at Indianapolis on Sunday.

Just days after the 2006 world champion confirmed that he will leave Honda at the end of this season, the Kentuckian led more laps than any other rider in the storm-shortened Indianapolis GP before claiming his first podium of the season and first ever for the pneumatic-valve RC212V, a machine he has been instrumental in developing.

Hayden, making his MotoGP comeback after missing the last two races due to a heel injury, had qualified fourth on the grid in the dry but had openly doubted his chances in the wet, having been just 14th fastest in similar conditions on Friday afternoon.

However, Nicky shot into second place at turn one of the planned 28-lap race and took the lead at the end of lap two.

"I changed to a slightly softer tyre at the last minute. Too many times I've thought 'I'll wait and let [the harder tyre] come in,' and in the rain it is so important to get away at the front in the first laps," he revealed afterwards.

Nevertheless, after such a frustrating season, Hayden admitted his early-race performance in front of his home fans was straight out of a movie script.

"Man, it felt really good to be in the lead and I felt quite comfortable. It's been a long time. I was thinking 'this only happens in the movies': your home race, missing the last two and coming back to win," he smiled.

But to make that movie complete he needed to hold off world championship leader Valentino Rossi, who reached second position by lap six and was soon applying pressure on his former team-mate.

"I knew who it was. But I was on the limit pretty good and I knew my rear tyre was a little bit soft. So I tried to be smooth and not destroy my tyre," said Nicky. "You know, there's a few places on this track you can hear quite easy when somebody is behind you. And Vale, he likes to put that pressure on, but I held my line. Once he closed up on me a little bit, I changed a few things to try to make sure I was getting all the corners good and at least making him work for it.

"I was able to stay focused but Valentino came past [on lap 14] and he had a little more speed, especially in section three. But then he touched the white line on the back straight [and got sideways] and I thought, 'you know what? Maybe I'm OK' and I was able to make up a little more ground."

However, weather systems surrounding the rampaging Hurricane Ike had other ideas, with furious wind and rain pounding down on the Indianapolis circuit shortly after the midway point of the planned race distance.

"When it started raining heavy, I was in trouble because I'd used up a lot of the left side of the tyre when it was drier, so it got pretty gnarly with all the water," said Hayden. "The wind guts were a big problem as well. One time, through Turn 5, I hit a big gust and it blew me straight out into the deep spots."

The #69 also revealed that he was concerned by unstable air fences as well as the possibility of large objects flying onto the track.

"I was looking out of the corner of my eye for the air fence, you can deal with the beer cans and the bags, but there's a lot of stuff out there that was moving, like flags and trees," he admitted. "I was just keeping an eye up and making sure nothing too big came up. It probably felt stronger than it was, I don't know, but I thought it was blowing pretty good."

As the surface water increased, Hayden began to drop several seconds a lap away from Rossi, whose team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was in turn closing rapidly on the Honda rider. However, the race was finally red flagged after 20 laps, confirming Hayden in second position.

"Sure, you dream about winning your home race, but honestly I shouldn't be too greedy with how things have been. I'll take this second and enjoy it," smiled Nicky, who was the top Michelin rider. "I gave the maximum today, I can't say I left much on the table and that's how it's supposed to be. When they stopped the race it was pretty treacherous. It was the right thing to do."

Nevertheless, Hayden confessed that part of him wanted to get back out for an eight-lap restart.

"When they said we were going to do another eight laps, part of me thought 'hey, let's line back up and try again'. I thought, you know, just give one more try at it. But I'm not leading the championship, so I've got nothing to worry about and it was the right thing to do with the air fence and the wind.

"It was really tough conditions. I think that's why you see three world champions on the podium today."

And did his heel injury hamper him in anyway?

"No, zero," he replied. "In the rain in front of that crowd and here at home, honestly I never felt it. Sure, it's probably not going to feel good in the morning, but for now no problem."

Hayden may have just four more races left with Honda - before a to-be-confirmed switch to Ducati - but insists he'll continue giving 100 percent until the last lap of the season at Valencia.

"I think anybody who knows me knows I'm not going to give up. I mean, I would just be hurting myself. I'm planning on finishing the season strong. I owe it to Honda. They have been a big part of my career, and I've been with them for a long time, especially my mechanics.

"I think [my mechanics] certainly have not given up on me one bit, they know what I've done," he continued. "It would be real easy for them to slack off early and get out of here pretty quick after the session, hurry through the bikes and go for a cold beer. But they've worked just as hard now as they did in the middle of 2006. I'm really grateful for that.

"I'd like to say a big thanks to my team, all my guys, my friends, my family, everyone who's stuck with me through tough times. Also, thanks to Indy and everyone for making this race happen. It's a great feeling to be able to race so close to home, I enjoyed it.

"A big thanks to the fans too, we only had to be out in the wet for an hour, they've been out there since Thursday," Hayden added.

Hayden, who has won the US GP at Laguna Seca twice and memorably held his nerve perfectly during the 2006 Valencia title showdown with Rossi, admitted that he tends to rise to a big occasion.

"I've really enjoyed racing in front of the home crowds, people think extra pressure and it's hard. But I always try the maximum. It's not like you can give more at other races, but it seems like at home it's always something special," he said.

"Through my career I've done better under a lot of pressure. Laguna has always been good to me, Daytona, some of the bigger races. I feel like I can rise up to the challenge, not always, but I enjoy racing in front of my crowd."

Hayden's team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who made his race debut on the pneumatic-valve Honda and his new Bridgestone tyres on Sunday, finished 31 seconds behind Hayden in eighth.


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after the us gp adn getting familiar with the bike, pedrosa will thrash him again like in 07 and 08

moaner? nicky s not obne but his fans def are. stop blaming pedrosa for 2 years of no wins. nicky even got the pneu bike when he wanted it.

took the whole pre season for rossi tio dial in the bstones