by Peter McLaren

Valentino Rossi won the respect of almost the entire two-wheeled world for having the courage to walk out on the most desired seat in motorcycle racing, and Nicky Hayden, the man he left behind at Repsol Honda, has stated his own support for the Italian's 'brave' move.

Hayden faced a tough task in 2003, the benefits of being a factory rider balanced by the considerable pressure that goes with the position - and amplified by the need to learn a new machine, circuit and championship. asked the former AMA Superbike champion about being Rossi's team-mate - and whether he was able to learn from 'The Doctor' last season, in which the famous #46 won nine races and a fifth world title.

"Last year (Rossi and I) had the some colour bike, but we did our own thing," said Nicky. "I definitely tried to learn from him any chance I got and picked up a few things. We got along good and he was really supportive of me always and treated me nice - especially when I struggled and stuff - so I gotta lot of respect for him."

Hayden was then asked for his opinion on Rossi's defection to Yamaha - did he think the Italian was brave or crazy to leave Honda?

"Brave. I respect him for it; he could have stayed where he was. It took some balls to make that decision and if that's what his heart felt - you gotta do what makes you happy," stated the American.

"A lot of people are gonna point fingers if he does bad and say 'I told you so', everybody's gonna have their opinion, but at the end of the day he's gotta do what he wants to do," concluded Hayden.

Hayden will start his second MotoGP season this Sunday in South Africa.



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