by Peter McLaren

Nicky Hayden has named former rival Mat Mladin as the AMA rider most capable of 'making headlines' in MotoGP, while stating that the future could see more than one Hayden in the world championship.
Repsol Honda rider Nicky, the 2003 MotoGP rookie of the year, raced in AMA Superbike from 2000 - 2002, taking the title in his final year with American Honda. That achievement launched him into MotoGP alongside Valentino Rossi at the factory Honda team.

One year on, asked Hayden if he felt any other AMA riders could make the grade in MotoGP.

"I believe America is capable of putting out great riders," began Nicky. "Right now Mat Mladin is for sure the strongest rider in America and I think he could get it done over here no problem and definitely fit right in - I don't know where - but he's definitely capable of making some headlines over here without a doubt."

Mladin is the most successful AMA Superbike rider of all time, having claimed a record four titles - in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003 - all with Suzuki. The Australian has prior GP experience and competed in the 1993 500cc world championship for Cagiva, taking a best finish of sixth, but returned to the Australian Superbike championship the following season.

The #66 moved to AMA Superbike in 1996, where he has been ever since, battling with the likes of Hayden, Eric and Ben Bostrom, Aaron Yates, Kurtis Roberts and Miguel Duhamel, with only Hayden breaking his recent title run.

32-year-old Mladin was invited to ride Suzuki's GSV-R MotoGP machine during a pre-season test at Sepang (middle pic), and turned heads by circulating just 2-3 seconds behind race riders Kenny Roberts and John Hopkins, despite limited track time.

Meanwhile, Hayden has two brothers still racing in AMA, Roger Lee (20) and Tommy (25), both of whom compete in the Supersport series for Kawasaki. With the Schumacher brothers in F1 and Roberts brothers in MotoGP - could the Hayden brothers be next?

"Yeah I think so," said Hayden. "Both my brothers are tremendous talents and have the potential to reach MotoGP - if they want to. But the AMA's not a bad life - they've got good jobs, good teams and get to stay at home."

Nicky Hayden will be joined at Repsol Honda by Alex Barros this season, which starts in South Africa on April 18.



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