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
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.