When you look up professional in the dictionary there should be a picture of Nicky Hayden. The guy works hard – both on track and off. He’s always at the top of the list in laps completed at tests; and he does the most public appearances – by far. If Ducati needs him in Indonesia, he’s there. An autograph signing at a Dainese store in Timbuktu, he’s there. And he’s modest enough that if you ask him if he’s the hardest working rider in the paddock, he brushes it off and says that everyone works hard.
So far the season hasn’t been great for Ducati and Hayden, but it has gone better. The steps might be baby steps, but at least they are steps going forward. The problem is the world of MotoGP is one that moves quickly and it’s easy to get left behind. Hayden knows this. And he makes no bones about the fact that the progress is not coming as quickly as he would like, but he doesn’t badmouth and he doesn’t fly off the handle. Instead, at a time when most people would be in a padded room pulling their hair out and throwing tantrums, Hayden continues to do what he does best: He just puts his head down and does more work.
We had a chance to catch up with the 2006 MotoGP World Champion about the upcoming MotoGP race at Catalunya and thoughts on his future.
There’s a lot of tracks to choose from with 18 rounds in the championship, but where does Catalunya rank for you as far as tracks go?
Well, I would say that Catalunya is one of the better tracks. I mean really for a MotoGP bike it’s plenty fast, it’s got a lot of everything – and it’s in Spain so the atmosphere is great. But it’s not really a track I’ve ever had great, great success on. It’s one of those tracks you go to and the lap times don’t always seem to come as easy as the other tracks. That always makes the difference. It could be the worst track in the world, but if the lap times come then you love it and you have good results. So it’s somewhere in the middle, but it is a great track.
How do you feel going into this weekend’s race?
We know the season hasn’t gone as what we’ve hooped. We had hoped to be introducing a new bike by now. We’ve tested it a couple times without the results we’d hoped for. But that’s… you know the last couple of years - it’s not the first time we’ve had this problem. We can’t let that affect us and just keep doing the same job. So, of course, it would be nice to be closer to the front right now up at race pace. Every race is big no matter what situation it is. You can find a way to get up for every week.
There’s a whole lot of talk about the silly season, are you thinking about next year?
Of course, you keep it in the back of your mind. My contract’s up this year so of course you know its something I have thought about. But I haven’t really had any real discussions just yet. But I’m sure in the next week or two… well the next couple of races is when things will get going. The easiest way to start those conversations is with some good results. So I need a good result soon.
What do you see as your options?
Well, my first choice, obviously… I mean Ducati is my first option. It’s where I’ve been for five years and I believe in this project. So, of course, we’ll see. I had some talks last week about the future, not so much my future but where we’re going and stuff. So obviously that’s where I’ll start.
Are you happy with the direction that they are going in?
I mean I would love to see more progress. That’s clear. We had hoped for… you know to be racing the new bike this weekend and being closer to the front. So I’m not happy to say that we still haven’t seen the progress we want. But that’s how it goes. I mean I’m not gonna you know get into what we are working with right now. But I certainly believe in these guys. We have an amazing sponsor. There’s been a lot of changes and a lot of adjustments that’s probably just taking more time than we’d hoped.
People throw it out there… World Superbike, do you ever see that as an option in the future?
You know I love racing motorcycles. So I don’t know. I wouldn’t ever rule out the option of World Superbike, but at the moment the thought of World Superbike doesn’t really excite me.
It seems like this year you’re on the road more than normal… does anybody work harder than you?
Well, I think everybody in this paddock certainly works hard, mechanics included. But, yeah, I’ve travelled a lot this year, obviously with Ducati on top of racing. Their brand and image is really important so we seem to do quite a lot of stuff on that side. With testing… you know we tested after Jerez, we tested then at Mugello and then we tested again last week. So it hasn’t been time to go home. But I wouldn’t say I’ve travelled a lot more than in years past. I mean this part of the season is definitely the busiest stretch. I love what I do. So it’s not a problem.