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GP Week : Issue 193
5 MINUTES Nicky Hayden’s GP journey began in 2003 and has run from the 2006 title with Honda to the doldrums with Ducati. Next year, he’ll be back on a production Honda. We caught up with him to talk about past, present and future. He spoke with MICHAeL sCOTT GPWeeK: What has it been like at Ducati the past few years? NICKY AYDEN: I hate to be too negative now that I’m leaving, because it was five years and, if we’re honest the results aren’t near what we expected. Ducati is a great brand, I love the guys I work with, and the Ducati fans ... but it’s true, it’s been a lot of hard work without a lot of rewards. I don’t want to go back too much now, you know – I wish we’d did this or maybe if we’d tried that. Truth is we tried a lot but – especially this year. I would say this has been the most frustrating because we had high expectations of the new bike we were going to try and a lot of changes going on. Also without Filippo [Preziosi, deposed design and racing chief] around it’s been hard. You made some remarks earlier this year that you wish Ducati had persevered with the carbon chassis ... That was actually the front-frame I meant. It got took the wrong way – it was a carbon chassis, but not a complete chassis, just the front frame. Iwasgoingtotryitattheendofthe season after Valencia, and then I broke my wrist and missed the test. So who knows if that could have led us in a different direction. The point being that instead they went to a conventional full chassis. Did Rossi steer Ducati the wrong way? I don’t want to blame it all on Rossi. It’s true that experiment also failed. Maybe there we caused a lot of confusion with too many changes. Everybody wanted to succeed so bad maybe we jumped ahead of ourselves. Also on the other hand I think Rossi did do a lot of good for Ducati, in the fact that he made it clear that the bike needed some work. I think there were some die-hard fans that didn’t really believe there was anything wrong with the bike, and it just needed more riders, more riders. And in the long run I think if you have spec tyres they need to be on a level of chassis. If Bridgestone build tyres around Honda and Yamaha, and you come to a weekend and you have two tyre choices, basically very similar tyres, and we are over here with a carbon-fibre chassis and different stuff ... it’s not going to work. I think if they could make a tyre profile especially for you, then I think maybe the carbon chassis has a lot of potential. If Rossi showed change was needed, did stoner do the opposite? What was his magic on the bike? I would say Stoner did the opposite. He was an incredible talent, there is no doubt about that. He was pretty young, he didn’t know a lot better in MotoGP, and was definitely able to ride through a lot of problems. But we went backwards since then. People ask me: ‘Could Stoner still be winning on this bike?’ In my opinion, no. 2010 when he won a couple of races I was third and a close fourth. So he has got more out of this bike than anyone, but when we were team-mates it wasn’t like I was tenth, 40 seconds back, like it is now. I don’t think he would be able to make up that gap. What is your greatest pleasure on the bike – is it physical, mental, or the results? I think it’s the result – leaving satisfied, knowing you did the best with that bike, did your job well. The bikes are fun to ride, but it’s not just riding the bike that is so fun. It’s more about for me the achievement. I like the work, I like to be a grinder, to put in the process, and when it all comes together seeing it pay off. There is times when the bike’s working good, things are clicking, and that feels pretty good. But I haven’t really felt that in a while, so ... Has Marquez upped the pace, raised the standards, in MotoGP? What’s left to be said now? He is definitely a game-changer. His style and his approach is incredible, and what he’s been doing. He’s 20. I remember 20, but I wasn’t leading the World Championship. He don’t really have any weaknesses from what I’ve seen. A little bit in the rain at Le Mans, but he figured that out by half-race. He’s fast, he’s determined, he’s smart, he’s charismatic. He’s making it tough foralotofus. Ten years done so far – almost 11. What is worse or better now? What do you miss? I do miss qualifying tyres. When you do a lap right with a qualifying tyre front and rear, qualifying fuel and even qualifying set-up ... that would be a good feeling. Do you miss the time of the tyre wars? I’m 50:50 on that. I wish Bridgestone maybe had more tyre options, so a guy could maybe use a soft tyre or gamble on a hard tyre, would make the race a bit more exciting, whereas now everybody just runs the soft tyre at every race, and there’s not really any unpredictability. There were also bad times with the tyre wars: we showed up at Laguna one year and at Brno where Michelin got it wrong, where you had no chance to win. That was really tough. But there was also times when Michelin got it right, so ... I know you have a dirt track at home. Do you ever get tired of riding bikes? Not too much. Maybe after a couple of bad back-to-back races and then doing a test Monday and Tuesday, those are hard. I love a motorcycle, but I love racing bikes. I do have a street bike but I don’t ride it too much. I like riding at the limit. I’m a bike guy. 5 MINUTES WITH NICKY HAYDEN 20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: