Despite Friday night traffic and rainy weather, fan’s packed in at Southern California Ducati to welcome new Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team rider Nicky Hayden.
Hundreds of fans assembled at Southern California Ducati in Brea, California to welcome new pilot and 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden into the 2009 Marlboro Ducati MotoGP family. Hayden’s entry into the Italian marquee marks the first time an American rider has joined Ducati’s MotoGP team since its inception in 2002.
Playing host for Hayden’s U.S. welcome party was Ducati’s largest California dealer who went all-out in a show of appreciation for both Hayden and his fans, extending their hospitality by providing food and drink to those who made it out despite heavy traffic and rain. Inside, Hayden spent most of the evening signing autographs and pieces of memorabilia, as well as mingling and taking photos with his many admirers.
“I’ve certainly noticed how strong Ducati riders are,” Hayden said. “Definitely it’s a pretty tight group. They definitely have a big passion for racing. I realized that the first time I walked through the factory in Italy. They have the bikes from all the years. Each bike there is like their babies, they don’t even want to sell them.”
Having just returned from the team’s official “Wrooom” press launch held in the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio last week, Hayden’s been on an extensive press tour during the series’ annual winter testing ban.
“It was cold. That’s the thing that stands out mostly [laughs],” said Hayden in reference to last week’s combined Marlboro Formula One and MotoGP Wrooom team launch. “I’d come out in the morning and snow would be up to my knees, it was the first time I’ve been in real mountains. The highlight was an ice race on go-karts. That was pretty sick. We got to race with the Formula One guys and I’m not talking about some little club karts or kiddy karts you see. These were full-on studded tires, we did some skiing too—just hanging out really—it was pretty laid back actually.”
It was standing room only as Hayden took the stage for a question and answer session with Ducati North America CEO Michael Lock. The entire crowd cheered as Hayden took the microphone and filled in everyone on what he’s been up to during the off-season and his initial impressions of the new Desmosedici GP9 machine.
Towards the end of the evening a fashion show was put on, highlighting some of Ducati’s newest casual wear.
“I love the bike, I really do,” said Hayden. “The bike is certainly pretty physical, but my favorite part is the engine. But honestly there’s still a lot of work to do. I haven’t really ridden the bike a whole lot. Due to the weather we only got a half of a day at Valencia and then another two days at Jerez. The bike is certainly a lot different than where I came from.”
While Hayden spoke on stage a silent auction was held benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Some of the item’s auctioned off items included: A Roland Sands Designs custom painting, a Troy Lee Design’s painted helmet, a Casey Stoner autographed Nolan helmet, limited edition Nicky Hayden Tissot watch, and an autographed Espresso machine. Afterwards the stage was cleared for a fashion show that showed off Ducati’s latest casual wear. All in all it was a really fun night and an excellent start to what is sure to be a wonderful relationship between Ducati, Hayden and American fans.