By Christian Tiburtius

An exclusive interview with 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden, conducted on the eve of this weekend's Aragon Grand Prix.

Hayden is leaving the factory Ducati team, which he joined from Honda in 2009, at the end of this year...
Hi Nicky, here you are at the track where both Ducatis were last on the podium (in 2010), any chance this time?

Nicky Hayden:
That was a good day. You'd certainly get long odds if you were a betting man for this race though. At this moment it doesn't look so good but anything can happen in racing and we'll see on Sunday. Don't put a whole lot of money on it though.
You've raced in the best factory teams, you're a world champion and you're embarking on a new adventure, what keeps you motivated to keep racing?

Nicky Hayden:
Oh that's clear, I'm a racer and I love doing it. I love the challenge and competition, I even love the hard part; the getting up early, the training, the grind. It's what I do and I still have a strong desire for it for sure.

This year hasn't been a lot of fun but the enjoyment hasn't changed and I'm not ready to give up.
Does the thought of not racing frighten you?

Nicky Hayden:
I would say so, yeah. I still love it and feel I've still got a lot to give so I'm not ready to stop by any means.
What do you feel you've achieved in your time at Ducati?

Nicky Hayden:
Well, unfortunately, not a lot. I've been thrilled with the 5 years I've spent here but I definitely wish that I could have accomplished more and I don't see these years as a big success and unless something changes real quick I won't say that these years have been a real positive for me. It'll be very difficult to get any changes in the near future but we won't stop trying 'til the end.
Have you kept the same crew through you MotoGP career?

Nicky Hayden:
No, during my Honda years they changed once but in my Ducati years they've been more or less always the same, sometimes maybe an engineer might change, the majority has stayed the same though.
Did you feel you had a lot of influence on how the Ducati was developed?

Nicky Hayden:
I would say some influence but I wouldn't say I had a huge influence, no.
Did you find that frustrating?

Nicky Hayden:
Yeah, at times I would have liked more. Of course I would have, it was just that that's the way it worked out.
Did, for example, Jeremy Burgess' efforts make a good difference in the bike for you?

Nicky Hayden:
Of course I have a lot of respect for JB [Valentino Rossi's crew chief] and what he's done. He had a lot of ideas at Ducati, truthfully though we had a lot of problems apart from just set-up issues. We tried a lot of set-up ideas and they didn't really work. This bike is very different to ride and also for engineers so I can't really say that JB ever found some magic breakthrough that really helped us. The problems were harder than just that.
Did any developments from the other side of the pits come over to your side too?

Nicky Hayden:
Yeah, yeah, Ducati is a really open notebook, there really aren't any problems as regards sharing information and that sort of thing.

I've loved it here in that Ducati's a great brand, I won't say anything negative about it especially the fans and the guys I work with in the garage. It's going to be tough to leave them but it's time to move on and try something different. I do wish the results had been better, I learned a lot though and have some great memories, they're a really special group of guys to work with.
Did you feel that it was a disadvantage being Rossi's team-mate when he was at Ducati?

Nicky Hayden:
It was no secret he was the number one rider. They spent a lot of money getting him and his team but I had plenty of support and that's no excuse. Maybe there was something here, there and very small but that wasn't an issue.
The prospect of leaving seems to have motivated you to race pretty hard, like the pass on Dovizioso at Indianapolis?

Nicky Hayden:
No, I really don't feel like my motivation's changed. People can draw conclusions, if you're doing good, maybe it looks like that. I feel I owe it to Ducati to do my very best right to the end and that's what I'm gonna do. I was a little bitter that I didn't get to try the new bike in the test and to maybe possibly use it for the rest of the year, which was my understanding. I've still got a job to do though, so I'll try my best and be a pro until the last lap in Valencia.
When you say you couldn't try the new bike, is your bike the same as Dovi's?

Nicky Hayden:
No, his is a later spec. Earlier we were testing the two versions and at the time I liked the current bike better, but in the latest spec I haven't had a chance to try so I don't know if it's better or what the differences are. But I would have liked to try it for myself.
Has this got anything to do with the lab bike that we hear about?

Nicky Hayden:
No, that's not the lab bike, that's a bike purely for trying things out on.
Is Audi making its presence felt at Ducati?

Nicky Hayden:
You know, at the moment we haven't seen a big influence from Audi. Sure they own Ducati now but we haven't seen a huge influence from them now.
You've been a factory rider for your whole career, how does the prospect of moving on feel to you?

Nicky Hayden:
Well, I'm not sure what it's going to be. The thought of leaving Ducati without getting the results we wanted has been a bitter disappointment and I would have loved to leave with something better.

Now the thought of leaving has kind of hit home and I'm very excited about it and very excited for the future and to try a new bike and to see what's left. Now that I think about it, a change is best for me and I'm looking forward to it.
The rumors say that it's Aprilia or Forward Racing, can you confirm?

Nicky Hayden:
It's true that I've had a lot of discussions with Aprilia and it's a definite possibility but nothing's official yet.

The other possibility is a Honda customer bike.

I've also had some meetings in the WSBK paddock and talked about some stuff but my heart is still in MotoGP and I want to stay here. In the future though WSBK may still be an option.
Do you feel that you need a certain level of electronic sophistication on a bike to keep you interested?

Nicky Hayden:
Well on these bikes you need some electronics for the kind of horsepower they generate, but as long as they're similar to the rest I'm OK with it. The new rules in WSBK certainly didn't put me off, it was more that I still had options here, MotoGP is still the big show and it's where my heart is.
If it is the Aprilia option, what specifications do you understand the bike to be?

Nicky Hayden:
It would be something similar to Espargaro's bike [now] but they do have a lot of ideas and quite a lot of effort and interest from the factory to try and put up a better fight.
Would you be taking your crew with you?

Nicky Hayden:
No, my crew is under contract for another year at Ducati. It's going to be tough to leave those guys after five years.
Cal's taking your seat at Ducati, what advice would you give him?

Nicky Hayden:
Well, I mean looking at my results, I wouldn't take much of my advice! Cal's a fast rider, that's pretty clear, it just depends if they improve the bike as to how it'll go. I don't think that at the moment he'll be able to make up the difference. It's a very different bike, he'll find that out but at the end of the day it is a bike and I'm sure he knows what he's getting in to.

I think the best thing for him is not to talk to anybody or listen to anybody and just get on it and ride it and not have a lot of preconceived ideas in his head.
Finally, what's a bigger achievement, being a world champion or the inventor of the 'backyard move' (neat 2010 pass on Jorge Lorenzo at Aragon)?

Nicky Hayden:
Oh world championship for sure. I'm not sure I invented that move, maybe just the name, a lot of other guys used that move so I can't take credit for that. I will take credit for the championship in '06 even though I didn't dominate the season or win as many races as people would have liked. I'm really proud of that one.
Did you thank Toni Elias?

Nicky Hayden:
Yeah I have, maybe a couple of times. I'll always have a soft spot for him in my heart!
Thanks Nicky.