MONTEREY, CA, JULY 22 – Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden wanted to clear the air after being inadvertently drawn into an international controversy that was not of his doing.Hayden was quoted on an Italian website as saying that it was “shameful” that teammate Casey Stoner was leaving Ducati for Honda. The story was then picked up by various media outlets, including the Australian Associated Press.That caused no small amount of agita for the Ducati press officer, who explained the situation to the Ducati Marlboro rider this afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.The truth was that Hayden said no such thing. What he’d said was that it was a shame that Stoner was leaving.”I really don’t have a whole lot to say on it,” he said. “I didn’t do anything out of normal. I did the interview and (Ducati’s press officer) went back and she recorded it and was pretty clear what I said. I don’t know. Maybe the journalist is looking to sell a few magazines, because, for one, he knows me. I wouldn’t make a comment like that. It’s none of my business. We’ve talked about racing and what happens on the track. You know, I would like to say something got lost in translation, but I think they’re just trying to make a headline.”It was pointed out that it would be easy to mistranslate what Hayden said.”Yeah, maybe it was translation,” he said. “Like I said, I probably did say that. You know, I was just saying, Casey, they had a good run at Ducati – both ways – but it was a pity, but nothing lasts forever so he moved on. That’s it, but I don’t… there’s not more to it than that. I’m not making… wasn’t speaking for him or about it. It was just, yeah it’s a shame, pity, whatever, but hey, it happens.Hayden said he hadn’t spoken to Stoner about it, but was certain Stoner knows him well enough to know that it’s not something he’d say. Hayden said he saw the press officer surrounded by people, so he knew something was up. “Like I said, she listened to the interview and totally taken the wrong way. So I’m sure give Casey another reason to love the journalists. But I mean if I see him might clear the air. But I don’t even think I need to. I think Casey knows me well enough, knows I’m not going to go weigh in on something like that.”When the subject was changed to racing, Hayden perked right up. “What about the Ducati this weekend?” “Hey, there you go. Let’s talk about something that matters,” he said with a big smile.The long-life, big bang engine is much different to last year’s motor and Hayden said it would be a mixed blessing.”You know, there’s places it’ll be better and places it’ll be worse,” One thing, the other really came off the corners good and you really need that last corner, turn two. A lot of these corners, kinda, even though they don’t lead onto big straightaways you really need to accelerate off of them. There’s a lot of short little straightaways there. But on the other hand, this engine it’s smoother and allows you to ride it more aggressive, which is also important here. You need to be able to attack the corner. Every half-tenth, tenth is important.”Hayden qualified eighth last year and finished fifth. As bad as that sounds, it was the high water mark of his season to that point. He’d had problems with his Michelin tires the two previous years. He also pointed out that with the depth of the field, he had to constantly move forward.”Last weekend I was third on Friday, 15th on Saturday,” he said. “You have a little mistake or don’t improve. I didn’t really even go backwards, I just didn’t improve from Saturday and went from third to 15th. So that’s what we’re up against. But I’m excited for the weekend. I’ve been looking forward to it a lot. I’m going to try to just have some fun and I know that group up front’s going to be tough to get in there, but would love to get in there and cross swords with those guys, but it’s going to be tough. But got a good bike, good team and I’ve done it before, so we’ll see.”
Hayden Clears the Air
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.