New MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden has promised erstwhile title-holder Valentino Rossi that he is prepared to go 'toe-to-toe' with the Italian in order to defend his crown in 2007.

The American, who snatched the 2006 title seemingly against the odds in Valencia, told BBC Five Live radio that, despite still getting to grips with the new 800cc Honda being introduced for next season, he could only improve as a rider and that that would help him take the fight to previously unbeatable Rossi.

"Beating Valentino this year was unbelievable, and extra special," Hayden admitted, "It's not like beating up on your little brother or picking on the little kid!

"However, I think we've made him mad, and he's going to come out fighting. But my best is still to come, and I'm ready to go toe-to-toe and duke it out with him in 2007."

Hayden revealed that winning the title had helped him to heal the potential rift with Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who had skittled the American - and, seemingly, his title hopes - at the penultimate round at Estoril. Although the air between them was understandably frosty for a while, Hayden explained that Pedrosa had vowed to make amends by helping his team-mate in Spain and, with the title won, the pair needed to work together to keep the upper hand over Rossi and Honda.

"We need to work together with Dani to develop the new 'bike," he said of the mandatory move to an 800cc machine for 2007, testing of which has led to calls for greater power and more adjustability.

"The new 'bike is quite different," he revealed, "It's smaller and I'm not yet comfortable on it. We've still got to understand its full potential, but I've got some good guys working for me at Honda...."



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