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A Lap of Indianapolis With Nicky Hayden

Racing at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway is something special for the whole MotoGP paddock. But for Nicky Hayden, it’s “the place.” The Kentucky Kid missed the race last year because he was injured, so he is very curious to sample the modifications to the track that were made in 2014. With Nicky’s brother Roger competing in the MotoAmerica series, the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix will have a more familiar flavor for the only American rider lined up in the MotoGP grid. Here, Nicky talks us corner by corner around the 2.591-mile Indianapolis MotoGP circuit:

“Turn 1 reminds me of Daytona and a few tracks where I grew up racing.  It’s inside an oval but the banking isn’t severe.”

“Turns 2-3-4 are pretty tight, pretty much one line.”

“Turn 5 is fun to ride as you can slide a lot. This is my favorite corner on the track.”

“Turn 6-7-8 are almost one line and they are really important to set up well for Turn 9 and get a good drive into the back straight.”

“In Turns 10-11-12-13, it’s very important to be on the right line because the corners are connected. Watch out for the big slide at Turn 13. You are on the side of the tire for a long time and the temperature comes up. These corners prepare you for the long straight, so better be ready for trying to pass someone. The best places to overtake?  Braking for Turn 10, the slipstream on the front straight. And Turn 6 is a good passing opportunity.”

PROGRESS REPORT

Nicky is 21st in the 2015 MotoGP championship with 8 points. His best result this year was an 11th at the French GP in Le Mans. Nor will Indianapolis be easy. But the 2006 MotoGP world champion is positive and determined. His Honda, which runs in the Open class, has improved since last year, but it is still not at level of his competitors.

“This year I’m healthy and the bike is a little bit better, so I have no excuses,” Hayden said. “We are not getting the results we expected but the season is not over, so I will keep pushing. The machine has improved a bit but everybody is better this year. The engine pushes better in acceleration, but we are missing some power on top. The main issue is the whole balance, as we cannot find a good compromise. Our goal is fighting in the top 10, fighting with the other satellite bikes. But we are not there at the moment.”

It’s too early to speak about the future, but Nicky still enjoys racing, and he plans to continue doing so in 2016. During his three-week break the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, he recharged his batteries and enjoyed family life. His sister just had a baby, so Nicky got to spend some time with his new nephew, a kid who might someday continue the Hayden racing saga.

Any regrets? “Life is about timing. You need to be at the right place at the right time. I was lucky to be in Honda in some good years. The 800cc seasons were probably not the best years.” What about Ducati? “The last year in Ducati was really tough. It would have been nice to have some extra fuel and the soft tire and all the concessions they are enjoying now. Anyway, in 2010, I had a good bike so I don’t want to complain. I love this sport; it’s not just a job. To see Valentino Rossi fighting and pushing hard every single lap motivates me. I would love to see him winning the title.”

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