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Nicky Hayden starting to show real promise as he nears the end of his first MotoGP term

Nicky Hayden starting to show real promise as he nears the end of his first MotoGP term

Nicky Hayden starting to show real promise as he nears the end of his first MotoGP term

Starting your first ever MotoGP campaign as team-mate to Valentino Rossi on a motorcycle that has more than proved its capabilities with a slew of trophies over the last two years is perhaps a globe of pressure that is hard to comprehend.

Then step forward World Championship rookie Nicky Hayden and accept the plaudits for seeming to cope with the whole deal and revealing the raw potential that saw his name bandied around pre-season as a rider that simply had to be a part of the world's premier motorcycle racing series.

Hayden has overcome some hefty odds that have seen lesser riders fade off the scene and a year of hard work was partially rewarded last weekend in Motegi when he was awarded his first podium result.

Still only 22 years of age, the friendly and marketable American has been building up to his first spray of champagne (granted, last week it was by default after Makoto Tamada's disqualification, but there is hardly anyone in the paddock who would have denied Hayden his spoils) in the latter half of the calendar after seeming to get to grips with the Honda four-stroke; he was even sliding the rear wheel into the corners last Sunday in a manner with which his World Championship winning team-mate would have been proud.

Before Motegi Hayden had been working toward his achievement with two 5th positions and a 6th place in last four races but the dedication of his work ethic and ambition can be measured in the reaction to the method of obtaining his first MotoGP podium, despite the fact he was in contention all race long for the third step.

"This is not the way I want to move up the table," he said on Sunday evening. "I want a proper podium and that's what I'll keep workin' hard for. That was a wild race for sure! I wish I was scrapping for the win but I'm pretty happy with a season's best placing. I was riding really hard. I was all over the place. I still need to smooth things out a little bit. At the end of the GP I made a little mistake and a gap opened between myself and the Gibernau/Tamada fight. I would like to have been a little closer to take advantage but I'm still learning every week."

He currently lies seventh in the standings and has a real chance of taking fifth, trailing Troy Bayliss by only 11 points, with three races to go.

As the World Championships move on to Sepang this weekend it will not only be the fans of Nicky Hayden who will be watching his endeavours with closer interest.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, Nicky Hayden

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