It’s not often crankandpiston gets a media invite to cover a café opening. Throttle response and suspension settings rarely meld seamlessly with cucumber sandwiches and OJ, after all. Still, since the Ducati Caffe (more on which to come) is the Italian marque’s first ever restaurant – and in our own Dubai Mall no less – we figured we’d check out the scene. And couldn’t quite believe our luck.
For the event, the powers that be had flown in Nicky Hayden, current MotoGP rider for Ducati and a former series Champion. Naturally time with the American was going to be short, a packed schedule and a sea of fans angling for autographs and photos comprehensively monopolizing his time. Still, espying a gap in the traffic, we managed to grab a few minutes with Nicky to discuss his life in the two-wheeled fast lane.
Nicky, firstly welcome to Dubai. How are you enjoying the city?
“I love it! Y’know you see a lot and hear a lot about the place, but this is my first time to really check it out. I’m here for less than 48 hours though. I’m out of here and back on a plane at two o’clock in the morning! But tomorrow I have a bit of time to check Dubai out. I’m looking forward to that.
“But tonight I’m here for this opening, and it’s been great! The fans here have been so passionate, and it’s always cool being around excited fans. I think we’ve had a really good turnout too, and everyone seemed to have fun. So yeah, for me, the event has been awesome! I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Glad you’re enjoying the event tonight, because things have been a bit tricky for Ducati on the MotoGP grid these past two years…
“Yeah, ‘tricky’ is a good way to put it! It’s not been easy. Y’know, MotoGP is at such a competitive level that we just need to do a better job. We do what we can as and when things come up, but at the moment we’ve just got what you see. We’ve made a few mistakes and some of the rule changes haven’t exactly helped us, but…I don’t know what to do other than keep working. But I’m confident we can get back to the front. Ducati is doing the work, the commitment is there clearly, and I think all the pieces are there.”
What can we realistically expect from Ducati during the remainder of 2012?
“I think you’ll see us getting closer to the podium and more consistently. Valentino [Rossi] just scored a podium for the team [at Le Mans], and that was a big morale booster. The team really deserves that. More than anything though we want to do well, and y’know, we want to make the fans proud!”
Having fallen further from the front of the grid than you’d like, it must be quite difficult to keep yourself motivated…
“Yeah, you’re right, it’s not easy. You always want to be at the front. But it’s not the first time in my career I’ve had to overcome this kind of situation, and in the end it really motivates me to work harder and push more. Hey, that’s the least I can do!”
So you’ve just done the French Grand Prix, now you’re here in Dubai for the opening of the Ducati Caffe. Then you’re off to Barcelona for the Catalan GP this weekend. Be honest, it must be knackering!
“Yeah yeah, sometimes! But I don’t think of it as a big deal. Y’know, if you work in a factory or an office and you’re doing the same thing day after day, then that’s going to tire you out too! So it’s not too bad.
“Saying that, I’ve had quite a busy week, so I’m getting pretty close to beat now! We were testing in Mugello yesterday, and I did 80 laps, and then I flew on the red eye to be here today. But hey, I love this! So I just deal with it.”
You first made your MotoGP debut back in 2003. How do you think the series has changed in that time?
“I think every year the level keeps going up, All the riders keep pushing each other to the limit. MotoGP sets the bar, so everyone wants to be on the best bike and be the most competitive guy out there. Everyone wants to be the best though. That’s definitely not changed!
“For me, I’m proud to have been a part of MotoGP for ten years. But I don’t really think about that. I think about what’s next, and that’s Barcelona. It’s always about the next race.”