Nicky Hayden is in Mugello today, testing the Ducati 1199 Panigale RS13 with Ducati Corse’s World Superbike contingent. The purpose of the day’s track excursion is surely a bid by Ducati Corse to keep Hayden in the Bolognese family, and to give Hayden an idea of the Panigale’s WSBK racing package, as the Kentucky Kid is weighing his options for the 2014 racing season.
The test coincides with rumors emanating from the WSBK paddock that Carlos Checa is reportedly looking for a way out of his contract with Ducati Corse, as the Spaniard has struggled to find results with the Italian company’s latest superbike platform. Whether Hayden is auditioning for Checa’s seat is uncertain (Marco Melandri is rumored to be in the mix as well), though we imagine Ducati wouldn’t mind having both riders on its WSBK roster next year.
That proposition will be a tough one for Hayden though, as he has been linked to multiple rides in the MotoGP paddock as well — despite Dorna’s hope for a top talent and lovable personality, like to join and inject life into the World Superbike Championship. Surely near the top of the list is a position in the NGM Forward Racing garage, where he would ride a non-MSMA spec Yamaha YZR-M1 race bike.
That move may be tough though, as Yamaha Racing has been said to be pressuring Forward Racing to sign a younger rider, to help develop Yamaha’s future talent pool, and then of course there is the issue of Colin Edwards, who has been pushing to stay with the team.
Another option may reside with Team Aspar, which will continue with the Aprilia ART package for next season. Already showing itself to having the best CRT package in MotoGP, Aprilia Racing have committed to building an all-new machine for next season, with the rumor of a pneumatic valvetrain not being denied.
With Aleix Espargaro already showing that the ART can compete with the Ducatis under the right conditions, a more powerful engine and revised chassis only whets the appetite further on what the other Italians can do in MotoGP.
Lastly, there is the possibility for Hayden to join the LCR Honda squad on the new Honda RCV1000R “production racer” machine that has been so heavily talked about in the news. Rumors in the GP paddock suggest though that Lucio Cecchinello is looking for money to bring Hayden back to Honda, and the biggest wallet that is open right now is the one from American Honda, which would like once again to use Hayden’s star power in the United States to sell some bikes.
With four interesting options, and likely additional less interesting ones, on the table for Hayden, we can understand why he is taking his time making a decision for next year. One thing is for certain though, the former World Champion is now the next levy holding back the rushing waters of the 2013 Silly Season.
Once Hayden decides where he will race next season, a slew of other contracts will be finalized. For now, we wait to hear the results of the Mugello test with Ducati and the WSBK-spec Panigale.