Nicky Hayden to make 200th MotoGP Start at COTA
This weekend Nicky Hayden competes in the first of two home races during the MotoGP season. For the American it is always a source of great pride to compete in front of his home fans, but the Grand Prix of the Americas holds extra significance, as Hayden makes his 200th appearance as a MotoGP rider. Few other riders can boast a career at the top level as long and as successful as ‘The Kentucky Kid’. Just over a week ago in Qatar he started his thirteenth consecutive season in the premier class and there are no prizes for guessing his standout moment. His crowning as MotoGP World Champion in 2006 was – just as the title of this interview suggests – ‘a dream come true’, but there have been many other highlights on the way to becoming the second oldest rider on the grid behind Valentino Rossi.
Congratulations! In Austin you will make your 200th MotoGP appearance…
“Thanks, although the truth is that I don’t feel like I’m about to make it 200 Grands Prix. It is not the thing I am most proud of and it is not like winning something special, it’s just a number. But what I am proud of is that I am still motivated, still hungry, and I still want to fight and to be fast. Some of those 200 races bring back better memories than others, but I guess that is normal.”
Will it be more special to reach this figure at a home GP like Austin?
“Yeah, for sure, but it will be even more special if I can score a good result in my home race. That would be awesome. Anyway, it’s always nice to receive the recognition of the fans.”
Even though Laguna Seca was your favourite circuit, how do you like COTA?
“I like Austin, the facilities are really impressive. The asphalt is interesting – the conditions last year were still like brand new. Safety-wise, everything there is incredible, but the track itself isn’t one of my favourites. I don’t like the first section, I prefer tracks that flow more rather than the hard braking and acceleration. Anyway, it’s a great track and I think it’s something for us Americans to be proud of.“
This is your thirteenth season at the top level. How has MotoGP changed during this time?
“Lots of things have changed – the tyres, the switch to 800cc was one of the biggest changes but perhaps not the best… I think the biggest change overall has been in the electronics. But no matter how much things change, at the end of the day it is still about riders taking machines to the limit.“
And what has changed about Nicky Hayden?
“My age! [laughs]. I have learnt a lot over the years and I have improved a lot in some ways, maybe not as much as I would have liked in others. In general I don’t feel like I have been around for 200 races.”
I am sure if I asked you for a career highlight you would say the MotoGP title in 2006. Can you sum it up in a single phrase?
“A dream come true.”
Do you have any funny or unusual memories from over the years?
“I can remember some great things from my career as a rider. Travelling, the different places, mainly just experiencing things that a kid from Kentucky couldn’t normally imagine. Feeling the passion of the fans up close and, especially, getting to share some of those experiences with my family.”
What is the secret to keeping your motivation the same as when you were a rookie?
“I love motorcycle racing and pretty much everything that comes with it. The people, the bikes… all these things form a part of me. It is who I am – a motorcycle racer.”
Old or mature?
“I’ve been called worse so neither of those definitions is too bad!”
Has it occurred to you that you’re the second oldest rider on the grid behind Valentino Rossi?
“Yes, we are both riders with long careers behind us. It is true that we are the oldest on the grid now but I doubt there are two younger riders out there who love motorcycles as much as Valentino and me. If there is one thing we have in common it is our passion for bikes.”
If you could go back in time would you change anything?
“Since that is something I can’t do, I don’t tend to waste much time thinking about what I would change if I could go back in time.”
What are your objectives for the immediate future?
“It is early to set any clear objectives but obviously the initial idea is to be the best of the Open category and to get back to our best form. I struggled a lot last season with the wrist injury and I wasn’t happy with my performance, but I expect to do much better this time around.”