By Nicky Hayden

92/CYCLE WORLD

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Pf WATCH

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I know what you'rf, thinking: how much different COULD A Dl.'CATI BE FROM A HONDA? But I've got to tell you, last year's Desmosediei, the GP9, was completely different from anything I'd ever ridden, as far as the feeling I got from the bike and trying to find its limits on the racetrack.

Now, however, having ridden the new GPIO, I can honestly say that I'm really starting to enjoy this bike.

I won't lie: Last year was tough. We made a change within the team after just three or four races because, as a team, we were going nowhere. We weren't communicating well. The guys were good, hard workers sharp engineers. But they weren't my people. We brought in Juan Martinez as my crew chief, and he got everything calmed down. Juan has a lot of experience and he's a leader; that's one of his strong points. Now, 1 feel a lot more at home.

I've never doubted my skills. If you doubt yourself and stop believing, then you're never going to get out of that hole—you're done. Sure, it wasn't fun at times last year. I wasn't doing a good-enough job. But I never thought, "Wow, I'm not going to be able to do this."

I could see my teammate, Casey Stoner, doing it correctly. Yeah, he's the only guy in the world who's ever been able to really ride that bike. But I knew we could do it. When I would overlay my data with Casey's, there were always places on the track, certain sections, where I was just as quick. But there were always one or two places where I really struggled, where I couldn't find the answers, and I would lose a second or a second and a half per lap.

Last year, I had a lot of bad luck. At Qatar, in the first qualifying session of the first race of the year, I had a big crash. Then we went to Japan and I got taken out in the first lap. Misano, in Italy, was probably my worst race, as far as a letdown. Sitting on the grid, I was the most excited that I'd been all year. I was finally enjoying riding the bike and working with the team. As far as outright speed, that was the fastest, the closest to the front, that I had been all season. I even passed Jorge Lorenzo in the pre-race warm-up. Then, bam! At Phillip Island, a track I'd waited all season for, I got knocked off' in the first corner. Man, I know it sounds like an excuse, but when you get taken out on the first lap on three different occasions...

Indy certainly was the highlight of my season. It was my home Grand Prix and my only podium of the year. That saved my job. Ducati saw progress and seemed to want me back, and I wanted

Nicky Hayden isn't a big fan of racing's electronic generation. "I spend more time working on electronics than I do suspension or even riding. I guess I'm old-school, but that's not racing the way it's meant to be."

to be there. Also, Lorenzo didn't come to Ducati; he re-signed with Yamaha. I had a couple of other good options going, but I didn't want to give up. That's not my style. I'm committed to making it work, to be able to say I could ride a Ducati.

Casey and I rode the prototype for this year's bike—the GP10—in

Valencia, Spain, after the last round of the 2009 season. So the first test of the year this past February in Sepang, Malaysia, wasn't my first time on the bike. I would have liked to have been faster—I ended up eighth-quick-est—but I was able to get up to speed quicker than in the past and was more consistent.

I get caught up in lap times just like anybody else. But, really, there's a lot more going on—who's doing those laps with a tow, who's got the fuel turned up, who's running what tire and who's banging out laps at 2 o'clock in the afternoon on used tires when the temperature is in the triple digits.

The big thing for everybody this year is the engine rule change: six engines for 18 races? That's crazy. Even Red Bull Rookies Cup kids go through more engines than that. It's going to be a big, big test for the engineers and manufacturers.

Ducati's new engine—specifically, the big-bang firing order—is our

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