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Nicky Hayden is back!
MotoGP™ Legend, 2006 MotoGP™ World Champion, 'Kentucky Kid', and now Honda World Superbike Team rider - Nicky Hayden has fit in a lot since he first twisted the throttle in anger on the dirt as a kid. Through AMA via some wildcards in WorldSBK, the American landed in the premier class of Grand Prix racing thereafter and took 3 wins, 25 podiums and a MotoGP™ World Championship during his tenure, beating none other than 9-time world champion Valentino Rossi to the crown in 2006. Now in WorldSBK and already a race winner and multiple podium finisher in his rookie year, the MotoGP™ Legend has returned for one appearance only at MotorLand Aragon, subbing for injured Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller - and, in his own words, 'not to take a holiday.'
MotoGP.com sat down with the man himself ahead of the weekend's track action, to find out his thoughts on the Aragon GP, his motivation for the return and the differences between the paddocks - before talk changed from present to future. Part 2 of the interview on WorldSBK.com sees the American look further forward as the last three Rounds of WorldSBK appear on the horizon, with Hayden targeting wins, podiums - and the title.
How does it feel to be back?
NH69: "It feels pretty good right now - I hope I can say the same on Friday afternoon! The opportunity came up and I wasn't going to say no. I still have a burning desire to race, not just MotoGP™ - I just love racing. So an offer to come here and ride a good factory Honda? I couldn't say no. I got the blessing from Honda Europe. I realize I've bitten off a lot with new tyres, new bike and new team but I won't start making excuses before we even go out on track! I'm just going to try and get my head down and get up to speed as quick as possible. I've only got one race so I can't be waiting around too long to get up to speed!"
There have been a lot of changes in MotoGP™ for this season...
NH69: "There have, but I don't want to get too caught up looking at every detail. It's been a long time since I've really ridden a full factory MotoGP™ bike and the tyres and electronics have changed but I've got plenty of experience, so I can't get caught up worrying about it too much. I'm just going to get involved. I've met with the team to go over some things and I understand a few things but until I really get out on the bike there's not a lot more I can say. I'll get on the bike and see what it's like - but obviously I have some experience to fall back on."
What are the biggest differences between a race weekend on a MotoGP™ machine and on your Fireblade in WorldSBK?
NH69: "Well the thing I like most about Superbike is that we get to race twice in one weekend. I love that! Maybe not so much the one bike rule but if it means more teams can go racing then that's a positive. But here, with two bikes if we really need to try two different setups we can afford to go out in between sessions and try them. But I think the big thing is more the stability - I think MotoGP™ machines are more stable and a lot more rigid. Then the speed - the straights certainly seem shorter on a MotoGP™ bike - and it's more physical. Another thing is the braking - with the carbon brakes here in MotoGP™ you can brake a lot harder and deeper into a corner."
What are you expecting to be the biggest challenge?
NH69: "I think the big thing is to try and understand the tyres. I've been speaking to some of the guys and it seems like the Michelin character is quite a bit different, especially in the front. The first thing is try and get the feeling in the front, confidence in the front and then the limit of the front. I have ridden on Michelins before but not since 2008.
What about your teammate for the weekend?
NH69: "I remember Tito from back in my Repsol days - you know back then we were both sponsored by Repsol! Tito has got to where he is with a lot of hard work and by being really resilient - and I like that a lot."
Expectations, predictions…what are you hoping for by Sunday evening?
NH69: "I'm not going to make any predictions now! I know how tough it is here, you know…these guys haven't slowed down. But I'm confident in myself - I've not come here to pick up some fancy new team clothing and just be on holiday. I want to push and try and get a good result so the team can justify why they brought me here. So let's see.
"My home is in Superbike now, my goals are in Superbike now - but this is a fellow Honda team needing a rider. Me coming in, trying to do a good job. I'm just a bike racer so if you give me a chance to ride a motorcycle I'm not going to say no. When I'm retired I guess I can look back on my MotoGP™ career but now I'm focusing on my goals for the future: to challenge for the World Superbike championship."
Hayden will be racing in MotoGP™ once again on Sunday at 14:00 local time at MotorLand Aragon in his one off return.
For Part 2 of our interview with the Kentucky Kid ahead of the next Round of WorldSBK at Magny Cours, head over to WorldSBK.com!
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