Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden at Wrooom. Nicky is making his debut in Ducati Marlboro Team colors.
The Wrooom - MotoGP Press Ski Meeting 2009 got underway in the best manner possible on Monday, Jan. 12th, with a welcome cocktail party for the world’s media at the Hotel Spinale before the focus turned to both work and play in the opening Wrooom press conference at Madonna di Campiglio this morning. Both Casey Stoner and his new teammate Nicky Hayden (making his official debut in Ducati Marlboro Team colors) were under the spotlight before spending a relaxing afternoon on the stunning slopes of the Italian Dolomites.
There were plenty of talking points for the media, who have flocked from all corners of the globe, not least in seeing an American rider in the Italian factory’s Grand Prix uniform for the very first time.
“On Sunday I tried on my Ducati leathers for the first time in an official photo session and I felt very proud,” said the former World Champion from Owensboro, Kentucky. “I know what a huge opportunity I’ve been given and I’m very grateful to Ducati, Marlboro and everybody who has shown faith in me in this new chapter of my career. I was immediately struck by the dedication and passion that the team is famous for and by how hard everybody is trying to make me feel comfortable in these new surroundings, as they have done helping me adapt to the bike and get the most out of it. So far everything has gone really well. Obviously I need to get faster in order to be truly competitive but I already love the bike. I can’t say it’s easy to ride, it gets pretty loose on corner exit sometimes but the engine is powerful and that is important, especially in a race situation. The chassis is nice and stiff so you get plenty of feedback and I like the feeling with the front, which is really stable in the fast corners. So far we have only had two test sessions at Valencia and Jerez, which are tight and twisty tracks, and I think that at places like Malaysia and Qatar it will be even better. I’m happy to be working with Casey – we’ve known each other for a few years now, you could say we’ve got similar backgrounds having not come up through European competition and having started out racing in dirt-track. We’re both competitive and we’re going to want to beat one another but we’ll also work together to make a strong team. As far as my expectations for the season are concerned, I still have a lot of faith in myself and in what I’m capable of. The first objective is to get back to the same level I was at in 2006, challenging consistently for the podium and trying to start winning races again.”
“I’m reasonably happy”, answered Stoner when questioned about the recovery of his left wrist, which was operated on late last year. “I would like to have a little more movement but the check-up went well yesterday, the bone graft has healed well and that is very positive. It means I can start to work my hand and arm a little harder now and start to recover some muscle mass and get in the best possible shape for the next test. So far I’ve only ridden the GP9 twice, at Barcelona during the season and for a day at Valencia in November. It wasn’t much but it was enough to understand that we’re not a long way off and that the new chassis is an improvement. We need to work on improving the set-up and refining a couple of areas on the bike. Last year we were perhaps a little too confident and overlooked some of the work we needed to do, leading to a few highs and lows at the start of the season that end up costing us dear. In any case, despite a breakdown and two crashes we still won six races and finished second in the championship, which means we can look forward to next year really positively. I’m really happy with the addition of Nicky to the team. He has always been kind to me, even when I was racing in the smaller classes, and I think we can work well together. The communication between us is great and I think we can work together on fixing certain situations and getting the most out of the GP9 so that we can both be competitive. From my side I also plan to be a little more aggressive this season and maybe be a bit more decisive in races where nobody seems to want to take the initiative.”
The event programme continues tomorrow with a press conference with Claudio Domenicali and the official unveiling of the new Desmosedici GP9.