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GP Week : Issue 112
Nicky Hayden – 2006 champion but often the team underdog – is in the same position now Rossi has joined him at Ducati. MICHAEL SCOTT spoke to him 5 Minutes with ... NICKY HAYDEN GPWEEK: Year three with Ducati, and Rossi in the team. Do you feel a new impetus for Ducati? Have they been revitalised because of Vale? NICKY HAYDEN: They’ve always worked hard, but I would say you see more guys around there. There’s no Superbike effort. It looks like a bigger operation going on. Youhavetoputupwithalotof questions about Rossi. What would it mean for you to beat him? I’ve been teammates with him before. I knew what I was coming into. When I first spoke with Filippo (Preziosi – racing design big chief ) about signing two more years, we discussed teammates and my pick was Rossi. The whole show, the entourage and the fans, don’t really bother me. My ego’s not going to take a hit if more people are standing around him. I just looked at the positives. History shows places him and JB have went they’ve made some pretty good motorcycles and improved bikes and teams. It’s going to be a big challenge to beat that guy on the same bike. Obviously there’s going to be things he’s probably going to get, I’m not. I want to believe I’m going to get the same equipment and I hope that’s the case and it’s up to me to take it from there. Rossi describes the Ducati as ‘more of a prototype’ than the Japanese bikes, and that it’s more aggressive, that ‘you have to ride it with claws’. Agree? I wouldn’t say he’s far off. It’s a lot mellower than it was two years ago. The big-bang engine has made it much softer and we got rid of the pumping from the rear. That was the thing that was so hard when I got on it. Once we solved that, I think now it’s a more consistent bike, a more normal bike. But you still got to hold on tight sometimes and let its head move a little. Electronics have helped, but you riders don’t like them much. But what rider aid would you like to see more of? What we asked for, and I think Valentino also, was more advanced wheelie control. When I came from Honda that was one surprise. There wasn’t a real good strategy for that. I’ve seen them do way more advanced stuff. Before when we were having wheelie we’d just reduce the power in that corner in that spot. But some laps you need the power. If you get a really good drive and for whatever reason the weight is a little bit different, you don’t wheelie, so you want the power. Then sometimes as the race goes on or the tyre goes off and you find yourself being more aggressive trying to get the traction, then you have more wheelie, so that’s where you need the wheelie control. You’re back on the big-bang motor now, but the screamer is still around, with more top end. Would you like to pick and choose, different engines for different tracks? With six engines, that won’t work. Back to back at Valencia tests, I felt more comfortable on the big-bang, but on their race simulator there’s definitely some tracks that the screamer is projected to be faster. But I’d be surprised if the screamers get another go. We got ‘em so we might as well keep ‘em in the back pocket, because straightaway speed now is really important in 800s, not so much for a lap time, but for the races. Talking of top speed, it seems a problem with you, among the Ducatis. Last year, in fact, Barbera was often the fastest Duke, and you at the bottom. Is it your size making bad aerodynamics? You’ve spent some time in the wind-tunnel. You know, I have. And that’s one thing I want to improve. It’s not necessarily aerodynamics, but whatever it is, I lose a lot of time. At Malaysia, on Casey, it was a tenth and a half on the front and back straightaways. You can’t outrun that for 20 laps. They can’t understand it. because my numbers aren’t so bad in the wind tunnel. I’m a little bit bigger than the other guys. And Barbera’s speed, on a satellite bike? Really good. And he uses reduced power, probably the softest of any Ducati. We measured Aragon a lot because there it was really noticeable. They measured that straightaway where my and his speed changed over, and it was just at the end on very top speed. One time I tried exactly his electronic package. I tease him about why they give him the good engines. He’s known to get a tow here or there, but that’s beside the point. Really where we first noticed it was Silverstone. On the warm-up lap on the back straightaway I thought I’d go right past him, but I couldn’t. That’s when they started to really look at his data. Then somewhere else Casey got mad because he couldn’t pass him on the straightaway. After another winter training at home in Kentucky with your brothers, are you still the fastest Hayden? Ah, well, you’re putting me on the spot there. I don’t know. I guess it depends which one you ask. Some would say maybe my sisters are still the fastest. But, you know, we don’t go into that. We all have our days. Yeah, we push each other and are competitive, we’re brothers, but it’s all like playing for the same team, you know. We all talk and work together. I guess positive competition. It’s not trying to beat one down. You’re the one in MotoGP, with the World Championship trophy in your cabinet. Does that make you the luckiest Hayden? I don’t like to throw the word ‘lucky’ around. I feel like I’ve worked hard and put myself in good positions. But I definitely have been in the right place a lot of times and caught some good breaks where maybe they haven’t I’ve stayed relatively more healthy maybe. I’ve been pretty fortunate to catch the right breaks. But I don’t think it’s all just luck. Luck’s, you know... This sport, you got to take advantage of those opportunities when you get ‘em. 18