Reigning MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden’s bid for a third successive victory on home soil next weekend at Laguna Seca got a major boost today when he claimed third place in the German MotoGP race.
Nicky Hayden secured his second successive podium after a late surge to overcome the fast fading Bridgestone trio of John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki), Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda) and Casey Stoner (Marlborough Ducati).
With all three struggling badly with rapidly deteriorating rear grip, Nicky Hayden passed Casey Stoner and John Hopkins on lap 24 to leap from sixth to fourth.
And his podium was secured once he’d passed Gresini Honda rider Marco Melandri a lap later, though he had to fend off a determined challenge from compatriot Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha) who finished fourth.
It was the second race in succession that the American has come from the fourth row to claim a top three finish after he had finished the first lap in 10th.
Nicky Hayden though is hitting form at just the right time as he goes in search of a third win in Laguna Seca next Sunday (July 22, 2007).
Asked if he was heading home in a more relaxed mood Nicky Hayden said: “Well, more relaxed than last year, sure. Going home with the points lead last year I felt a lot of pressure. I mean, as much pressure as I’ve ever felt in my life to go home and want to win.
“But I didn’t want to throw away the championship just for a little pride at home. I would say there’s a little bit less pressure than last year.
“Last year I felt like the favourite and if I didn’t win Laguna, I felt like it was just going to send the wrong message that if I was leading the championship and couldn’t defend home, I wasn’t going to be strong enough to do it.
“I really felt like I had to win last year. Where this year, I feel more of an underdog. I know the track, but home track advantage…these guys aren’t club racers.
“After two years they know the track pretty well.”
Nicky Hayden said his confidence had received a big boost at just the right time after the defence of his premier class crown looked to be turning into an unmitigated disaster.
But his Sachsenring weekend had started off in disastrous fashion too as he crashed on Friday morning and then suffered a spectacular engine blow-up on the start/finish straight.
Nicky Hayden said: “The first two days were a disaster. It was just, ‘here we go again.’ It was quite frustrating. Friday I tore up everything I sat on except my scooter pretty much.
“I lost all the morning and a lot of the afternoon and got really behind and it was quite frustrating after coming in with some momentum from Assen. I got a decent start, not quite an Assen start, but I got a pretty good start and the first few laps were pretty tough.”
Nicky Hayden was then worried he was about to be struck by another mechanical problem when he added: “About lap four something made a weird noise. I don’t know if I cracked the exhaust, but something felt strange.
“I thought, ‘man something’s wrong and I went through all the electronic switches to see if it would make it better, run a little better. But I’m not sure what it was and I thought I was done. I lost a few positions and lost a bit of time.
“About two laps went by and it didn’t get worse, so I thought, well, put it back on the most powerful switch and put my head down. I could see that group coming back to me and thankfully the tyres worked well.”