Nicky Hayden made his 'official' Ducati Marlboro debut on Wednesday, when he appeared in full team livery alongside fellow former MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner as part of Ducati's annual 'Wrooom' Press Ski Meeting at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy.

"On Sunday I tried on my Ducati leathers for the first time in an official photo session and I felt very proud," said the 2006 MotoGP world champion and former Repsol Honda rider. "I know what a huge opportunity I've been given and I'm very grateful to Ducati, Marlboro and everybody who has shown faith in me in this new chapter of my career."

But while Hayden may not have tried his 2009 leathers before this week, he has already ridden his 2009 machinery, during post-season testing at Valencia and then Jerez.

After seeing so many riders struggle to tame the 800cc Desmosedici, not least his predecessor Marco Melandri, Hayden has a healthy respect for a machine that has won 16 races in the hands of his new team-mate Casey Stoner - but claims he already 'loves it'.

"So far everything has gone really well. Obviously I need to get faster in order to be truly competitive but I already love the bike," he declared.

"I can't say it's easy to ride, it gets pretty loose on corner exit sometimes but the engine is powerful and that is important, especially in a race situation. The chassis is nice and stiff so you get plenty of feedback and I like the feeling with the front, which is really stable in the fast corners.

"So far we have only had two test sessions at Valencia and Jerez, which are tight and twisty tracks, and I think that at places like Malaysia and Qatar it will be even better," he added.

The American, who endured a 'difficult' relationship with former team-mate Dani Pedrosa, also repeated that he is looking forward to working closely with Stoner - although it will be every man for himself once the red lights go out.

"I'm happy to be working with Casey - we've known each other for a few years now, you could say we've got similar backgrounds having not come up through European competition and having started out racing in dirt-track," said the #69. "We're both competitive and we're going to want to beat one another but we'll also work together to make a strong team."

Despite being winless since the change from 990cc to 800cc machinery, Hayden insists he hasn't lost faith in his ability - and his first goal is a simple one; to get back to his 2006 form.

"As far as my expectations for the season are concerned, I still have a lot of faith in myself and in what I'm capable of," he declared. "The first objective is to get back to the same level I was at in 2006, challenging consistently for the podium and trying to start winning races again."

Hayden will make his track debut in full Ducati colours during the first test of 2009, to be held at Sepang in Malaysia from February 5-7.



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