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Hayden Looking Forward to Racing in America - February 3rd 2005

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    In a recent news release issued by AMA Pro Racing on the combined MotoGP/AMA Superbike event Nicky Hayden was inadvertently left off of the list of returning U.S. MotoGP riders. It was a simple editing error and AMA Pro Racing regrets the mistake.

    Hayden, the 2002 AMA Superbike Champion, is obviously one of the big reasons many fans are looking forward to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix on July 8-10, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

    The combined MotoGP/AMA Superbike event promises to be one of the biggest motorcycle racing events ever held in America. It's been nearly three years since Hayden raced in the U.S. and he's happy to be finally coming home to perform in front of home fans.

    Of the four American riders currently competing in MotoGP he is the only former AMA Superbike Champion.

    We caught up with the 23-year-old Hayden, who is also the youngest rider ever to win an AMA Superbike title, this week when he was home in Kentucky between a heavy schedule of a pre-season testing with the Repsol Honda squad. Larry Lawrence, the author of the original news release, confessed to Hayden his mistake of inadvertently leaving him off the Laguna Seca release. Hayden laughed and was very gracious in accepting Lawrence's apology.

    Nick, what's it going to mean to you to come back and race in America?

    I'm super excited about coming back. It's going to be a big honor to race the GP here in my home country. I think the home fans here are hungry to finally have a GP.

    How about the decision to bring the U.S.G.P. back to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?

    I love Laguna. It's a great location for the fans and I've done well there in the past. If you're going to bring a lot of people from around the world to America you really couldn't pick a better place. I've heard a lot of work has gone into bringing the track up to MotoGP standards and hopefully all that work by Dorna and the track and everyone else involved will pay off.

    How strong is the support for an American round among the GP regulars?

    People are pumped about it. I think it's going to be a huge weekend. When I was in Malaysia it seems like the whole paddock is excited about coming to America. We go to a lot of countries that people don't look forward to going to I guess as much as America. There's a lot of racing history here and a lot of mystique about running at Laguna. This country has produced so many of the great riders over the years too. The mechanics and others riders stop me and want to know about Laguna and how far it is from different places. I think a lot of people plan on sticking around or coming early to do some sightseeing.

    Do you think America can match some of the other host countries of MotoGP in terms of general interest from racing fans and the media? I think so. I've heard the ticket sales are already strong. People watch some of our national races on TV and think that there aren't many fans of motorcycle racing. I know sometimes television doesn't do it justice and I've told those guys [his fellow MotoGP racers and team members] that some of the AMA races are pretty big. I think when they see the kind of crowd that shows up at Laguna that they'll know that we're into it just as much as most of the other countries we go to.

    Another thing that American fans should love is getting to see the GP bikes up close and in person for the first time. They're pretty trick and the sound, the acceleration and braking, everything makes these bikes really neat to watch.

    What do you think of the idea of combining a MotoGP with an AMA Superbike Championship round?

    I think it's going to be good for the GP guys to get to see how strong AMA racing is firsthand. I mean they see it on TV, but they'll probably be surprised at how much talent there is in this country. And for the fans it's a win-win situation. With all the AMA classes they're definitely going to get their money's worth.

    Do you think the American riders will have a bit of an advantage at Laguna Seca since they've raced and tested there so often?

    To be honest, with the level of the riders in MotoGP it won't take them long to learn the track. But maybe if it rains leading up to race day, that might give us a bit of an advantage. Laguna's not the easiest track to learn for sure and maybe a little bit of knowledge of the track will make a difference.

    Will you guys be testing before the MotoGP?

    No our team isn't and I haven't heard of any other teams testing there, plus the series has restrictions on testing at certain tracks that host a GP so I doubt that there will be any going on. But like I said, these guys are world class riders and we raced for example at Qatar last year and everybody was up to speed pretty quick, so not having testing shouldn't be a problem.

    Do you have any idea what the lap time difference between the GP bikes and the AMA Superbikes might be?

    I'm not real sure to be straight up. Not a lot probably. I mean you know Laguna doesn't have a lot of long straightaways or anything like that where the horsepower is going to make a big difference. If I had to guess I would say a second and a half or maybe two seconds.

    When you found out Laguna Seca was going to be on the schedule did something in the back of your mind say that might be a good place to earn your first victory?

    Well to be honest any place to get my first victory would be pretty incredible (laughs). There's going to be a lot of emotion for all the American riders racing a MotoGP in their home country. For me I'm going to have to put all that aside and go out and do my job.

    How about being able to race on the same weekend on the same track with your brothers again?

    Oh yeah, that's going to be fun. Whenever all the family gets to come together at the track with all our friends it's a great time. There's a lot of my buddies here in America that have never got to see me race in a MotoGP event, so that's going to be fun as well.