Nicky Hayden says he ‘just couldn’t say no’ to the chance to return to the Repsol Honda squad he won the 2006 MotoGP world championship with this weekend, with the American lining up at Phillip Island to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa.
A racer at heart, the Honda World Superbike racer says when the call came through, he believed he had to jump at what could be his last opportunity to ride a factory Grand Prix machine.
“What can I say, I like racing motorcycles! When I got the call, I knew immediately I had the chance to come back to what was always my dream team growing up and the bike I won the championship with.
“I told my World Superbike crew chief after coming back from Aragon that there would be no more GP, no more Suzuka – and when I got the call it was a case of ‘oh well, next year!’ I’m a softie, and I just can’t say no!”
However, despite that, he also admitted that when the call came through for the second time this year (after he replaced Jack Miller on the Marc VDS bike at Aragon) he did have to do a double take to the news of the factory offer.
“I woke up in Jerez and saw I had a message on my phone. I was still half asleep, and caught Repsol and Phillip Island in there somewhere and had to go back and read it again!
“I replied to say that I was interested – then I had to go race! I couldn’t let it creep into my mind, but I caught myself slipping a few times on Monday while I was out testing after the race, thinking about it while I was testing suspension!”
But despite the size difference between the diminutive Pedrosa and the Kentucky Kid, Hayden admitted that the team didn’t have to do a lot of work to modify the RCV213.
“Obviously our size, as you might have noticed, is slightly different! The handlebar position and tank, a few things like that, plus the suspension because I’m a bit heavier, but apart from that I’ll start on pretty similar bike geometry to Dani’s. We’ll leave it like that for now and see when I actually ride the thing.”
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