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Nicky Hayden on life after Rossi at Repsol Honda

Nicky Hayden on life after Rossi at Repsol Honda

Nicky Hayden on life after Rossi at Repsol Honda

Despite his emergence at the front of the MotoGP pack on the Repsol Honda RC211V this season, it still seemed strange to see Nicky Hayden riding Valentino Rossi's old bike at Catalunya earlier this week. The American youngster, who finished fifth in the championship and won the Rookie of the Year title despite crashing out of the last round at Valencia, was at the Spanish circuit to warm the machine up for a group of international television and print journalists in the now traditional end of season test. However, he could not hide his keenness to take over the reigns of the number one machine on a permanent basis next season. spoke to the former AMA Superbike Champion about life after Rossi in the leading factory team of 2003. When did you find out that Valentino would be leaving Honda?

NH: Like everybody else, I had heard all the rumours but I didn't know anything for definite until the announcement on Sunday night. I am a bit disappointed to hear he might be going to Yamaha because I was hoping he might sign for Proton! I'm just joking… seriously, I am quite surprised he has left but it's his deal. He's accepted the challenge to try something new and he's shown he's got balls, that's for sure. Not having him as your team-mate next year… will that be a good or bad thing?

NH: I enjoyed having him as a team-mate – he is a nice guy and he was always good to me. The relationship in the team was very good, there was a cool atmosphere between the two crews… but maybe it will be good for me that he's gone. This year Valentino was obviously the number one guy – he got all the new motors and everything – whereas I rode the same bike all year. That was fine, obviously, because I was learning and I made a lot of improvements. But next year I know I will be at least on the same bike as the number one, that's if I'm not number one myself, and I should have a decent shot at the title. Do you think you would have had a chance of winning the championship if Rossi was still on the Honda?

NH: That's hard to say. Everybody can talk about that and have their own opinion but we will never know the answer. How would you rate your own season this year?

NH: Well, I won Rookie of the Year so that was a good achievement, but overall I would say I improved a lot. It was a learning year for me and the team and we were getting there by the end. Now we have a whole winter to improve before the new season and I think we can become very strong. Finally, what are your thoughts on the news that your compatriot Colin Edwards will also be riding a Honda next year?

NH: Colin is a great rider and a cool guy, but I'm not really thinking about him – I'm more worried about myself, and doing the best I can. But the bike is awesome and I'm sure he'll love it.

MotoGP, 2003, Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden

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