MotoGP finally welcomed a new winner on July 10 when Nicky Hayden joined Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi, Alex Barros, Sete Gibernau, Loris Capirossi and Makoto Tamada on the limited list of active grand prix winners since the premier-class switched from 500cc two-strokes to 990cc four-strokes in 2002.

Of those, only Tamada and Hayden are recent additions - the five others had entered the elite championship by 2000 at the latest - but while Nicky's success was widely welcomed, fellow members of MotoGP's next generation, Shane Byrne and James Ellison - who have battled with uncompetitive machinery since joining MotoGP - couldn't help but feel a little jealous of Honda's patience with the #69.

Hayden arrived in MotoGP in 2003 as the reigning AMA Superbike champion, while Byrne joined a year later as the reigning BSB champion and a double WSBK race winner. Ellison then got an end-of-2004 ride as the reigning World Endurance champion and recently crowned British Superbike Cup champion (for non-factory bikes) before starting his first full season in 2005.

Nicky entered MotoGP with a two-year deal to ride for Repsol Honda, the most successful team in recent GP history - after a bidding war between HRC and Yamaha no less - but Byrne's break would be with the underfunded Aprilia outfit (destined to withdraw at the end of the 2004 season), while Ellison faced the might of the Japanese factories on a WCM.

Hayden looked to justify Honda's decision with a strong debut season, in which he beat WSBK champions Troy Bayliss and Coin Edwards to take top rookie honours, but Nicky then took a step backwards in 2004, sliding from fifth to eighth in the championship.

Team-mate Alex Barros would be sacked at the end of the team's winless season, but Honda reconfirmed their faith in Hayden with a further two-year contract to the end of 2006. That faith was finally rewarded when, after two and a half years with the factory team, Nicky dominated his home US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca for his first victory.

By contrast, Byrne has taken a best finish of 15th this season - at the same event Nicky won - with his newly born KTM powered Proton KR run by the independent Team Roberts outfit, while Ellison's highest finish on the underfunded, year old, WCM is 13th in the rain of Shanghai.

Given that situation, and with both Brits having arrived in MotoGP boasting credentials similar to Hayden's, Crash.net asked Ellison and Byrne what they'd give to have also had two and a half years on a factory Honda...

"(Laughs) I'm not going to say anything," began Ellison. "No, (Hayden's win) has been a long time coming, it was his home GP as well - I mean, he should have won before then to be honest. British riders don't get that kind of chance; you have one chance and that's it; you're out on your ear.

"I would give absolutely anything; all the money I own - which isn't a lot - I'd give up the car, the motocross - everything - just to have one go on a Honda, a Yamaha or a factory bike, to see what I could do, but it's not going to happen just yet," he added.

"F**k! What wouldn't I give to have two and a half years on a factory Honda?" replied Byrne, who then explained why he and James, although asked separately, had given such similar responses:

"The reason we say that is because - obviously there's Valentino and a couple of other people in the championship that are quite special - but there's a lot of guys out there that are just doing the rounds, and you know full well that given the same equipment you would do just as good a job - if not better.

"At the end of the day, if people like James or myself didn't believe that, there would be no point being out there in the first place, with the machines that we are on. I think we've just got to try as hard as we can, hang in there and see what happens.

"Nicky surprised me; I didn't think he'd win the race - I knew he'd go well, but fair play to him, the kid came good - but, f**k, it'd be difficult not to win with two and a half years on a factory bike!" smiled Shakey.

Hayden, Ellison and Byrne all crashed out of last weekend's wet British Grand Prix at Donington Park - Shakey while inside the top six - and will next be in action during Friday's practice sessions for the German Grand Prix at Sachsenring.

 

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