Nicky Hayden Interview

Nicky Hayden talks about the move to World Superbike, the MotoGP years and his time as teammates with Casey Stoner. And the dream of winning the Dirt Track Grand Slam
Nicky Hayden
Nicky Hayden

We recently caught up with the affable Nicky Hayden while he was in Australia for the Phillip Island MotoGP round. We bring you the transcript of that conversation here, as Nicky prepares to have his second outing on the Honda Racing Fireblade SP during a test session at Jerez. Hayden threw his leg over the WorldSBK Fireblade SP for the first time earlier this month during a private two-day test at Aragon.

Trevor:  Thanks for your time Nicky, and welcome to Australia again.  You are on the cusp of broaching some new horizons, heading off to World Superbike, on the upside that means we don’t have to wait 12 months to see you here again, we’ll see you back here at Phillip Island in February for the opening round of the 2016 Superbike World Championship.

Nicky Hayden
Nicky Hayden

Nicky: Yes, that’s what I was telling someone, one of the good things is that I won’t have to wait a year, so it is nice cause it’s going to be nice to go to a few tracks I do know, and Phillip Island is one I definitely know well.

Trevor:  Is it a one year deal or a two year deal?

Nicky: It’s a two year deal.

Trevor: So they’re expecting a new bike in the second year, 2017?

Nicky: Yeah for sure, that was one of the big enticing points for me.

Nicky Hayden after taking the 2006 MotoGP Championship
Nicky Hayden after taking the 2006 MotoGP Championship

Trevor:  Spending the last few years on uncompeititive machinery, after you’ve been at the top of the tree, it must be hard to keep that motivation going. We know how hard you guys are still pushing on those motorcycles, you’re still putting everything on the line, it must be hard to keep the grit and determination going when there is no hope of battling with the guys up the front?

Nicky:  Yeah, of course it’s been not easy, as you say on an uncompetitive bike. But it is what it is, and you still have to do your job, and remain motivated to do the best you can. But for sure, it’s not been the most fun years of my life, but that’s how it goes. I try not to think too much about the negative part and think about the positive.

I could of hung it up and went home, but I still enjoy riding motorcycles, I like the fans and the thought of trying to be the first rider to win both (MotoGP and WorldSBK) titles is something that sounded like a lot of fun to me. I know it’s not going to be an easy challenge you know, I’m a bit older now, got a lot to learn, the competition is not going to be any easier there, I’m looking forward to it though.

Nicky Hayden - Honda Fireblade SP
Nicky Hayden – Honda Fireblade SP

I need to get there and see where the problems are for more before I say too much. I know Honda the team have some ideas on where they want to improve. I think a lot with the engine and electronics is the information I’ve got, but until I get there and understand where I need to improve with that bike, it’s all speculation.

Nicky Hayden - 2006 MotoGP Championship
Nicky Hayden – 2006 MotoGP Championship

I do still love dirt track and I follow what Troy Bayliss has been doing here in Australia. He was over in America racing, dirt track was my first love. I don’t have any immediate plans but I definitely will err…I haven’t forgotten about it here either. Where is the track here this weekend? I went for a walk over there and couldn’t find it?

Trev: It’s over near the supercross track. It’s very small, it’s easy to miss. Not like one back at home that’s for sure. Any plans to get back out and do some competitive dirt track, perhaps after you do give the world championship level road racing away?

Nicky: I don’t know, but yeah, there’s something in America that they used to call the grand slam, You used to have to win to be grand national number one you used to have to win  short track, TT, Half mile, mile and superbike and there’s only been about four riders to ever get the grand slam and I have everything but the mile. So I got 2nd place there, Scott Parker beat me in Lamar, well I was leading in the last corner but he got me. So that’s always been something I think I wanna go get. Because, now, dirt track and road race are even further apart, so not many guys are going to get that. But I’m going to focus on SBK for now, but we’ll talk about it later on maybe.

Trev: looking back through your career, you’ve come up against some hard charging Aussies in your time, who’s been your biggest foe in your time? You had lots of scraps with Mladin, way back in the early parts of your career, that was pretty intense. But who has been your most biggest foe over the years.

Nicky Hayden back in the AMA days as Aaron Yates and Mat Mladin gives chase
Nicky Hayden back in the AMA days as Aaron Yates and Mat Mladin gives chase

Nicky: Well I was team mates with Stoner and you know, he’s an incredible talent. His ability to find the limit of the track, the tyres, in the first session, right after rain was incredible. The best I’ve ever seen at doing that. So he was always pretty special.

And me and Troy (Bayliss), we were in our rookie year together first year in MotoGP. I always wanted to beat him.

Because I came from AMA. Some people thought I didn’t deserve a factory ride and I probably didn’t. But, I got it so I took it. Troy and Colin both came, and Melandri, and I was able to win rookie of the year. Had a few good races with Troy and watching him, man, as hard as he tried on the bike, was incredible.

Nicky Hayden in 2004
Nicky Hayden in 2004

Trev: And you weren’t really that far behind Casey on the Ducati, and it was eventually proved that nobody else could really ride it, well win consistently on it anyway. So you did pretty well as a Ducati rider, compared with those that came after you.

Nicky:  In 2010 I had a few good rides, was able to beat Casey a few times straight up, and out qualify him. I remember the first time in Jerez was the first time I really beat him, I think I got 4th and he got 5th, and he was closing on me. You know to beat Casey on any bike you knew you did something, but to beat him on the Ducati the few times I did, was probably some of my best rides.

Trev: Thanks Nicky, see you in a couple of months at Phillip Island.

Nicky Hayden 2010
Nicky Hayden 2010
Nicky Hayden with Casey Stoner in 2010
Nicky Hayden with Casey Stoner in 2010
Nicky Hayden 2010
Nicky Hayden 2010