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Hayden comes to home race on top of the world

Hayden comes to home race on top of the world

Hayden comes to home race on top of the world

Repsol Honda star Nicky Hayden will start his home race this weekend leading the world championship and full of confidence for Sunday's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. The 24-year-old from Owensboro, Kentucky is enjoying a brilliant 2006 season and, after his debut MotoGP win at Laguna Seca last year, he will be determined to take his RC211V to a second victory of the season and stretch his 26-point lead in the riders' standings. A fighting third place in last weekend's German Grand Prix where he finished just 0.26s behind the winner sets up Hayden nicely for the challenge.

MotoGP returned to the Californian circuit last year after a 10-year break and saw Hayden putting in a dominant performance to delight his home fans. He was fastest in all the practice sessions bar the first, took pole position and controlled the race from the front to win by 1.9s. With recent changes to the track to improve safety, Hayden and his rivals will begin Friday practice looking to find the bike settings and tyre choice to best-suit the modified layout.

At just 3.610km (2.243 miles) in length Laguna Seca is the shortest track on the MotoGP calendar and correspondingly has the highest race lap count, at 32. It's one of five tracks in the 17-round world championship that runs anti-clockwise, and is the only venue where the 125cc and 250cc Grand Prix classes are absent.

Because of this, Hayden's sensational young Repsol Honda team-mate, MotoGP rookie Dani Pedrosa, who graduated to the top flight from 250s this season, will be experiencing Laguna for the first time this weekend. However, the reigning 250cc World Champion has already proved that this should be no obstacle to him recording another impressive race performance. With two wins and four pole positions under his belt in 2006, it's a mark of his meteoric progress that last weekend's fourth place in the German Grand Prix, where he led the race and finished just 0.307s after the winner, was viewed by Pedrosa as a mild disappointment. He'll be looking to put that right at Laguna Seca.

Nicky Hayden
"It's a pretty good feeling to be leading the world going into my home race. Even though there's a lot of racing still to go and I really want to be leading the championship at the end of the season, I'm proud to go home to my fans out in front. Plus it's a while since an American has been on top so I'm excited. But more importantly we're going to go to Laguna and try to get 25 points. The circuit has been completely repaved and they've changed some parts of the track so it's going to be different this year. They've altered Turn 1 and Turn 6, which affects the approach to the Corkscrew, so in some ways we're starting from zero in terms of tyre choice, settings and gearbox – a lot of things could be different. Nonetheless I'm really looking forward to it and hopefully the American fans are ready to come out and show all their love and we can give them something to get wild about on Sunday".

Dani Pedrosa
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend but I'm not sure how I'm going to find things at Laguna because it's a new track to me. It's a long time since I've raced at a circuit I don't already know and most of the others have seen it before, so it will be difficult for me and the other new MotoGP riders at first. My job will be to adapt to the track as quickly as possible, find a base setting for the RC211V and have another strong weekend. I was a little disappointed to finish fourth at the last race in Germany, but I believe in myself and I'm still pretty confident. We are having a great season so far and I've just got keep working on the areas where I can improve".

Tags:
MotoGP, 2006, RED BULL U.S. GRAND PRIX, Nicky Hayden

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