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Hayden: I'm not the favourite this year at Laguna

Hayden: I'm not the favourite this year at Laguna

World Champion Nicky Hayden has not had the easiest time defending the title he successfully battled so hard for in 2006, but The Kentucky Kid is still 100% up for his home race at Laguna Seca this coming weekend.

World Champion Nicky Hayden has not had the easiest time defending the title he successfully battled so hard for in 2006, but The Kentucky Kid is still 100% up for his home race at Laguna Seca this coming weekend.

Despite admitting that he feels like an underdog going into this year's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix the 25 year old is feeling relaxed and ready for the challenge of completing a hat-trick of home wins - having hit form at the right time with podiums in the last two races of this season at Assen and Sachsenring…

The start of the season as MotoGP World Champion has not been easy for you, although it seems that your situation is improving. Is there finally light at the end of the tunnel?
"Of course my situation has improved a lot. Third position is not the same as a victory, but obviously it has been fun to be out in front again and simply enjoying the ride. I must thank my team, everybody in the Repsol Honda Team, because I know that it has been quite a frustrating start to the season for all of us. We have changed some things on the bike so as to get better sensations and the boys are working really hard to help me do my best. So I hope that from now on I can be with the best every week."

What is the secret that has allowed you to be competitive again in the last few races?
"The training sessions in Barcelona helped me a lot. Changing many things on the bike, small things, but I also tried a new chassis out and that helped me get better sensations on the bike. I was able to ride a lot, and I think it was nothing more than that, being able to ride in the way I like. I simply feel much more comfortable on the bike now, more confident and enjoying the ride."

Can you tell us about the new chassis?
"The geometry is the same, but what has changed is the flexibility. It is true that the chassis seems to help a little, but I think that we have made more progress on all the other adjustments. Obviously we have to work hard because we know that we have not got the results we wanted, but I am dying to see what Honda is going to do, because I am sure that they will not accept losing. They make the best bikes in the world."

Your home GP is next up and you have the number one plate on your bike, but you are having a difficult season with just two podiums so far. Do you think that in spite of the bad start to the season you will be the favourite to win the American GP?
"No, I would not say that this year I am the favourite. I have not won a race this year. Racing on home soil sure helped me out in the first year because nobody else knew the track as well as I did. But now everybody knows it and the advantage I had is not so important. I know that there will be a lot fans supporting me I am dying to see if I can win again."

When you look back and recall where you were 12 months ago compared to where you are now, what comes into your mind?
"You cannot really look back like that. It is clear that last year I was going to Laguna at a moment when I was very proud to be leader of the World Championship. But I also went with a lot of pressure, because I had to win that race. If I could not win at home, I was not going to be able to fight hard for the title. I worked very hard over the whole weekend and I did not get a good grid position, but on the Sunday at 2pm I was able to impose myself and get the victory after a tough race."

"It was not easy because of starting in sixth position, fighting back, then Dani pressurising me, etc. It was not an easy victory, although perhaps it might seem so after winning with quite a big gap over the second placed rider. But that was a really tough race. The physical preparation helped me a lot and I am very proud of that victory."

Now you are out of this year`s title fight how are you going to tackle the second half of the season?
"Now the points are not so important. So I just want to enjoy myself and have a good time. I am simply going to go out to race, work with my team and try to improve. I will take things race by race to get the best classification possible and in some way try to make the rest of the season a little more exciting for me, fighting to be in the leading group without worrying about the points. Just racing."

At Laguna Seca this weekend one of your rivals will be your own brother Roger Lee. Have you given him any advice?
"I have not really given him any advice. I am sure that once we are there and things start we may make some comments to each other about something. But Roger likes to do things his own way. He went to Japan to test, but it rained most of the time. I can`t wait because I think it is going to be fun. There will be other riders from the AMA. This is good for American fans and will give those boys a chance."

After winning the World Championship, and with what has happened so far this season, do you think that you've changed, as a rider?
"I do not think that I have forgotten how to ride or anything like that. I simply think that the problem was that I was not happy with the bike. Sincerely, I look at myself in the mirror and I think I have done things well. I still feel like a World Champion, and if I have this number it is for a reason."

Courtesy of Repsol Honda

MotoGP, 2007, RED BULL U.S. GRAND PRIX, Nicky Hayden

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