A year of additional experience under his best, a new bike which promises great things and an important sponsor on the fairing. Nicky Hayden h as everything he needs to achieve his goal: to be the first rider to win both the MotoGP and SBK championships. To do this, he's betting on Honda, the manufacturer with which he scored his first crown, and the new CBR1000.
Nicky, let's start with the new bike - what are your first impressions?
“It's very similar to the old one in terms of ergonomics, the biggest difference is the engine, with more torque on corner exit. To be honest, the team hasn't had much time to sort the bike as we only got it two weeks before the tests. Basically it was a shake down, the positive thing is that we didn't have any problems and can get to work on it”.
How much time do you need to reach your strongest competition?
“I don't want to say, at Phillip Island we'll have the new engine but between Australia and Thailand we can't do anything on the bike, I hope something new will come at Aragon. The team has shown me the schedule, but it's not all clear yet”.
What's your goal for your second SBK season?
"l came to SBK for one reason - to win, and bring home the title after winning the MotoGP title. This is my motivation and what I'm working towards. We'll wait for the tests in Australia to understand where we are, the team has already made some improvements but after Portimao we were missing a couple of seconds which isn't good. I believe in myself, I know I have a great team behind me and we'll see what we can do”.
You need to face up to the 'usual’ Kawasakis and Davies, but also Laverty and Melandri…
“There's no doubt that this year will be tougher but I cannot wait to start. It's a world championship so we have the best riders and many competitive manufacturers, I hope to see some new race winners because last year it was always the same guys and that's not great for the fans. It's better to have some new faces up front and some great racing”.
What do you think of the new Race 2 grid inverstion rule?
“As a rider I don't really like it, but on the other side I can understand why they've done it, for the show. We need to wait and see how it works, sometimes you think one thing and then change your mind”.
What are the main differences between MotoGP and SBK now you have clearer ideas?
“The budget of the teams is different, as is the cost of the bike, in SBK you need to pay attention to cost. What I like more is the two-race formula, I love this. Having just one bike is a big chance because you have to face practice in a different way. In terms of the bike, you make less changes, for example the gear ratios, and so it's always a compromise. In general, I miss some things about MotoGP but have found other things that I like”.
Did you watch the Sepang tests?
“Of course, I didn't sit at the computer following it all day, but yes, I kept an eye on things. Last year was incredible, with nine different winners., I don't think that will happen again but it will be another exciting season. Maybe even more with Jorge now in Ducati, Maverick in Yamaha and other changes, then there's Valentino, he's history and is still there up front. I don't want to make any predictions though, I'm not a gambling man”.
And what about Stoner's performance?
“I can't say Casey surprised me, I was his team-mate and know how fast he is, especially at Sepang. Many things can surprise me, but Casey being fast isn't one of them (he laughs)”.
We're missing some new America names, do you see ant young talents?
“I don't want to name names and then forget someone like I've done before. MotoAmerica is improving and the level of competition is going up. There are some young riders, only a few really, who are starting to stand out”.