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GP Week : Issue 56
5 MINUTES WITH ... Nicky Hayden American Nicky Hayden is getting there, slowly, in his first season with Ducati. He spoke toMICHAEL SCOTT America’s only MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden won Honda’s last World Championship in 2006, but since then hasn’t won a race. This year he switched to Ducati, and has been struggling with the same secondrider syndrome that so troubled Marco Melandri. Halfway through the year, however, he has started moving forward. GPWEEK: The way your first Ducati season’s been going, it’s hard to know where to start. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? NICKY HAYDEN: I think so. On paper we are: 12th, 10th, eighth, fifth (to the US GP). That’s real progress. I think more than anything we’ve just found some direction and got the ball rolling. We’ve got a long way to go get in that front group, and that’s when it gets hard. If you want to get in there, stick your nose in with them boys, everything’s got to be perfect and you got to be ready. But I’m feeling positive and enjoying riding the bike more. That’s a lot. I guess it’s a much bigger step from sixth to first than from 12th to sixth. Let me make that step and then tell you. But the tenths get harder, the positions get harder, as you get closer. There’s a reason those guys up front get the big cheques. I’ve been in the back this year, and you can see … up front, nobody makes make mistakes. At the back, the guys give you a position every now and then. But up front, there are no gifts. You’ve said you’ve been here (in bad situations) before. When? I can remember being 12 years old and Daddy out of money, thinking … it’s done. In my career things didn’t always go smooth. In terms of being really up against it, this could probably be the hardest one, which has really stretched my head, and had so much going against me. That’s life. Not every day can be a holiday. Do you perform better or worse under pressure? 0 I don’t know. People at Laguna, my first home race, with all the pressure … seems like maybe the more pressure I have the better I gave. But I’m not sure. You had to tone down your Kentucky slang to help the team understand your English. How’s that going. It’s more them understanding what I need. It took us a while. At the beginning it was hard. I’d come in, they’d say: what’s the problem? So many problems! Now we’re kinda eliminating a few of them and really getting a focus on it. When I first got here I’d come into the pit, and they might just be cleaning the windshield but it looks like they’re changing the chassis … all arms and tools flying everywhere! I’d think: What’s going on – did somebody get fired? But I really liked the team from the beginning. Bikes all have a personality? What’s the Ducati’s nature? Seems like it can be a mean bitch. Every bike is different. All the Japanese bikes … basically it’s like they have the same mother but different fathers. The Ducati … everything’s different. A completely different personality. Unfriendly? No – because I’d say the faster I go on it the easier it gets, where other bikes it normally doesn’t get hard until you look for the last second. This bike … sometimes I can be two seconds off the pace and I swear it’s trying to kill me, there’s not another tenth in that bike. Then when you start getting closer, it gets easier to ride. More relaxed. So it’s kind of different from anything else. What is the mystery – that Stoner can ride it fast, but other riders struggle? I don’t have the answer yet. I looked at a lot before I signed to it. It’s taking time to understand. Maybe some people have gotten on it and when it didn’t come maybe they’ve given up on it. Look, we’re here, and the team has listened to me a lot. Me and Filippo (Preziosi – design chief ) – I’ve been to his office, just me and him with the door closed, looking at data and videos. It’s taken a lot … things are different on this bike. Things that you know in the past that you’ve spent your whole life doing, on this bike, it don’t work. Hard to explain, hard to understand, hard to do …