Rumors have been rife over the future of Nicky Hayden in MotoGP, as the former-World Champion and five-time Ducati man is seeing his seat up for grabs at the Italian factory team for yet another silly season. With it being no secret that Cal Crutchlow is looking for a factory ride in the premier class, and Yamaha reportedly not stepping up to the plate in that regard (add more fuel to the fire with Pol Espargaro reportedly coming into the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team next year), Crutchlow has all but officially been seen in Ducati livery for next year.
With Ducati keen to retain the services of the Italian Andrea Dovizioso, Hayden is left as the odd-man-out in this game of MotoGP musical chairs. With his options in MotoGP very grim because of the four prototypes agreement the MSMA has inked with Dorna, the American’s options outside of Ducati Corse are limited really to non-MSMA bikes, unless something radical occurs in the Pramac Racing side of the Ducati camp (Ben Spies has a contract thru 2014, and Iannone is hotly tipped to retain his seat for next year).
With limited options in MotoGP, many have opined Hayden to try a switchover to the World Superbike Championship. While the obvious choice would be for Hayden to enter through the Ducati Alstare SBK team (presumably replacing the 40-year-old Carlos Checa), and continue his role as US ambassador for the Italian brand, MCN is reported just last week that the real interest in WSBK for Hayden’s services are coming from Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad.
Nicky is a huge force for Ducati in the US market though, and we would be surprised to see Ducati let the American out its family, especially after the five long years the Kentucky Kid has had at Ducati Corse, the last few being the most forgettable.
With Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati’s MotoGP Project Director, spilling the beans on a Ducati Desmosedici GP13 production racer, and the roster for Ducati’s “Junior Team” not yet set in stone, there are avenues in MotoGP for Hayden, though none of them are likely commensurate with his worth as a rider.
This may help nudge Hayden towards a World Superbike ride — where in WSBK he would surely become and instant favorite to win the Championship. But as we have seen in the past, GP riders truly view WSBK as a step-down in their career, and tend to pick bad rides in MotoGP over good rides in World Superbike.
However with reports this week out of Germany suggesting that Ducati is keen to retain Hayden in some form or another, including on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R, the initial rumor of Hayden on a factory Ducati in World Superbike enters back in the fray — and so goes the back and forth over the American’s future, with so many options on the table, just none of them clearly better than another.
We will perhaps not have to wait long for Hayden’s decision though, as it is being rumored that an announcement is forthcoming at this weekend’s race in Laguna Seca. As always though, time will tell.