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Nicky’s Development Skills Emerging

With all the responsibilities placed on Nicky Hayden’s shoulders this year, some of us had begun to doubt his ability to handle the job. Of course, we have the utmost respect for Nicky’s skill as a racer, but he lacks experience in developing an all-new machine. With Nicky being the only Honda rider to have the new 2006 RC211V, it almost seemed as if HRC had set him up for failure – few would have been surprised if Nicky had spent at least part of the season struggling with the new chassis, resulting in lackluster finishes.

As he has at many times throughout his career, however, Nicky has come through and exceeded all reasonable expectations. Just as some might have begun to dismiss him as a title threat, Nicky ran away from the rest of the pack and challenged Rossi for the win at Qatar. This makes it clear that not only does he have the heart and skill to fight for the championship, but he possesses the ability to quickly develop an effective setup on an all-new bike.

If we had waited to ask the question about the ‘heir to Rossi’s throne’ until after the Qatar round, we wonder if many of our readers would have picked Nicky over Dani Pedrosa to be the next king of MotoGP. At the same time, it feels like each round of the championship this year brings something unexpected — like Casey Stoner’s pole position at Qatar. The only sure thing in 2006 is that Valentino Rossi is the man to beat.