INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden will stay in the premier class for at least two more years after signing a deal to ride a Honda for the Aspar Team in 2014 and 2015.
Hayden, from Owensboro, Ky., will ride a Honda RC1000R for Aspar, a Spanish privateer team run by former 125cc World Champion Jorge “Aspar” Martinez.
The bike is a “customer” version of Honda’s RC213V prototype and is believed to be only a small step down in specification from Honda’s factory machine, upon which rookie and 2013 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Marc Marquez is leading the World Championship this season. Retired World Champion Casey Stoner is testing the bike for Honda this year, and he recently said the machine’s performance exceeded his expectations.
The move to Aspar ends a frustrating five-year stint as a Ducati factory rider and signals a return to Honda for Hayden, 32. He raced for the Repsol Honda factory team for the first six seasons of his MotoGP career, from 2003-08, and won the world title with Honda in 2006. He has earned all three of his career MotoGP victories on a Honda.
“It is great news for the Power Electronics Aspar Team to have the acquired services of Honda and a rider of the profile of Nicky Hayden,” Martinez said. “We are taking a huge step forward in terms of quality, prestige and image. We have grown a lot in a short space of time, and we are all very excited about this new project with Honda. It is the factory that the Aspar Team first started with back in 1992, and I have great memories of that period. Our objective is to continue being a reference point in the premier class.
“I think the combination of Honda’s MotoGP production racer and Nicky Hayden is going to be a very successful one. We are thrilled to be working with a manufacturer with the history that Honda has and a rider like Nicky, a World Champion with huge experience.”
The signing ended a tense week for Hayden, one of the most popular riders in the sport. He was in final negotiations earlier this month to sign with Aspar to ride an Aprilia “customer” bike, but that deal disintegrated when Aprilia Racing boss Gigi Dall’Igna announced last week he was leaving the manufacturer to become the leader of Italian rival Ducati Racing starting in mid-November.
Aspar owner Martinez was reluctant to continue with Aprilia after the departure of the well-regarded Dall’Igna. The Aspar team considered leasing a customer Ducati next season, as Dall’Igna and Martinez are longtime friends and Aspar was a Ducati satellite team in the past. But running a Ducati may have forced Hayden to look elsewhere, as he was winless and scored just three podium finishes in five years with the Italian manufacturer.
So Martinez decided to run the Honda RC1000R, which also kept Hayden – who has strong ties to Honda’s racing arm and American Honda – committed to the Aspar team.
“It will be a big change for us after so many years working with Italian factories, but we have high hopes for this new project,” Martinez said. “We are up for the challenge, and we will give maximum effort to making sure the Power Electronics Aspar Team continues achieving top results.”
Hayden’s teammate in the two-bike team was not announced. Former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan has been mentioned as a primary candidate due to his longtime ties with Honda.
–From the Indianapolis Motor Speedway