For the past month or so, Nicky Hayden has been telling the press that an announcement on his future should come in the next couple of days.

On race weekends, the press asks on Thursday whether there’s any news, and then again on Sunday, and get the same reply: No, not yet, but it shouldn’t be long.

We know who Hayden will be signing with – Hayden has been spotted going in and out of the Aspar team’s truck so often, that you start to suspect he’s already been given a spare key.

And up until recently, we though we knew what he would be riding, a heavily modified version of the Aprilia ART machine, with a new engine with pneumatic valves and a seamless gearbox, and a new chassis to put it in.

But it appears that that bike has been put on hold, as the most important contract negotiations for 2014 are starting to reach a climax.

The man in the eye of the storm is Gigi Dall’Igna, currently head of Aprilia’s racing department, and responsible for many of the successes which the Italian factory has enjoyed over the years, including a World Superbike title with Max Biaggi.

Reports that Ducati have been trying to tempt Dall’Igna away from Aprilia had emerged before the summer, but Dall’Igna appeared to have rejected Ducati’s offer. Dall’Igna had decided to stay with Aprilia, after receiving assurances that the MotoGP program would be expanded, to include the new ART machine incorporating more pure race technology.

Now, it appears, Dall’Igna’s situation is up in the air again. Several sources are now reporting that Dall’Igna could be on the verge of a switch to Ducati, after finding himself under budget constraints at Aprilia, and having received guarantees of a free hand at Ducati.

With Aspar seriously considering a switch to the Honda production racer – with backing from HRC and American Honda, who are keen to see Nicky Hayden back on a Honda, US publication Sport Rider is reporting – and Karel Abraham’s Cardion AB team already having switched to Honda, there are few options left in MotoGP for Aprilia.

What could be even more decisive is the power which Dall’Igna is being offered at Ducati Corse. Although he will report to Bernhard Gobmeier, who is currently head of Ducati Corse, Ducati is believed to have offered Dall’Igna a free hand in reorganizing and clearing out a number of engineers from Ducati Corse.

This is one of the most urgent priorities, according to Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso. At Aragon, he told reporters “[The engineers] who work in the bike didn’t fix the problem. So it means the people who tried to fix the problem, are not fixing the problem.”

The problem was also caused by the removal of Filippo Preziosi as head of Ducati Corse after the purchase of Ducati by Audi. Nicky Hayden told reporters at Aragon that he felt that Preziosi’s departure had left a big hole in the racing department. Preziosi was a clear leader, and that appeared to have been missing since he was gone, Hayden said.

Having a man like Gigi Dall’Igna take the place of Preziosi – technically reporting to Gobmeier, but with a free hand to do as he pleases – would mean the return of strong leadership and a clear direction to Ducati.

Dall’Igna may not be the only name in the running at Ducati Corse. We have learned that Ducati have also been looking to Japan for engineering expertise.

There has been no evidence that the persistent paddock rumor naming former Yamaha boss Masao Furusawa as the man Ducati is interested in has any foundation in fact, that suggestion probably arising from the contact last year between Furusawa and Filippo Preziosi. But given the seriousness with which Ducati is approaching their MotoGP project for 2014 and beyond, it cannot be discounted.

Ducati has no choice but to make its MotoGP project a success. Although Philip Morris has signed up again for another year backing the project, the patience of the tobacco giant is wearing very thin.

Ducati has gone backwards since winning the title in 2007, with development never keeping up with its rivals. If Ducati doesn’t bring in someone with the engineering brilliance and the leadership skills to stop the rot, the company’s time in MotoGP will be very brief indeed. The list of individuals qualified to take on such a role is really rather short.

Source: GPone, Speedweek, & Sport Rider

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Piston

    I think they spoiled the whole thing when they switched to that deltabox frame…
    Stoner made the bike shine with the carbon one. What was wrong? Oh, sorry, that know-it-all couple…

  • Piston

    I think thet spoiled the whole thing when they switched to that deltabox frame.
    Stoner made the bike shine with carbon one. Why did they change? Oh, sorry, that know-it-all couple…

  • smiler

    Are you serious Piston? Stacey won the 07 title on the scaffolding frame. However he did not like the fact that 2 bikes would feel different and demanded a new frame. Ducati had no experience with anyother type of frame. So they went to Ferrari. No one has ever built a successful carbon frame and the feedback is very different.

    So new carbon frame and bridgeston control tyre. Stacey makes 4th & 4th then jumps off to Honda. Ducati screwed. Burgess and Rossi only have experience wit ali beam frames and inline fours.

    The rest is history…….

    Ducati seems to be making or trying to make the right changes to Ducati Corse.

  • smiler- can you clarify your comment, “No one has ever built a successful carbon frame and the feedback is very different.” ? Did you mean in GP?

    The 1st ever cf frame on a race motorcycle was highly successful & it came from a NZ backyard garage.

  • jzj

    Thanks for an informative article that nicely explains why there had been no Hayden announcement. The only additional thing that would be helpful to know is whether there is any sort of deadline for any reason for Aspar, or Honda Racing, or Ducati, or any other player (perhaps a filing requirement, or contract expiration, or anything of that nature). I know that all teams seem to have all their seats filled by the end of the season so they can move ahead with testing immediately after the season ends, but I don’t know if this is a requirement or merely custom.

  • Sander

    Haha gigi getting ducati back in order. Dont make me laugh.
    Dorna and there Honda friends destroyed the winning ducati’s
    The bridgestones where perfect for the way the ducati was back then.
    Now with single rule tyres the design of the duc doesnt match the rubber. Hence less performance.

    Audi is negotiating the aprilia brand but they dont want piaggio.
    Mercedes already let it go.

    The only thing that can save aprilia is do what they do best.
    They should be making a redicilous fast twostroke 400 cc 4 cilinder.
    Razor Sharp handeling tiny pricetag because twostrokes are verry cheap.
    And sell the hell out off them.

    Dorna engine rule for the future is worthless because its way more expencive to make an engine that lasts 6 races then to rebuild them infinetly.
    Twostrokes are even more cheap. So carmelo iff you want teams to reduce the cost step aside and let the technicians follow the path off evolution. And i know where it will lead.
    It started in the netherlands and the name was jamathi iff you follow that path it brings you to all answers for propper racing.

    Right now wsbk and motogp is just a muppetshow.


  • philly phil

    Well, ducati had troubles way before audi bought them.
    i think the issue is that Ducati is trying to keep that small factory feel. They may have not have enough engineers to really innovate successfully in racing at this point. The other manufacturers are much larger than ducati.

    And hopefully with some cash injection from Audi, we’ll see production of their bikes ramps up, prices come down and their books looks better. Which should help their ability to recruit and pay good engineers.

  • Johnnymac

    Both factories were overheard saying “We will hire him on one condition…. That he do something with that unibrow!”

  • jzj

    Here is a link to a timely Superbike Planet interview with Dall’Igna, addressing this article’s issues and more:

  • Piston

    Completely. Stoner still won races with carbon frame.
    The (pathetic) history was written by the nice couple…

  • sbpilot

    @Piston – it’s been already said in writing (from the crew of that couple) it had nothing to do with the CF frame, and everything to do with the engineers not listening. Stoner also said in the interviews that CF frame itself wasn’t the issue, but Ducati never listened to improve it. So after 2 years of the new frame but the company not listening, he jumped ship.

    So if you were Rossi/Burgess, you and your crew keeps telling Ducati to make certain changes (or at least try) for one entire year, they say, “no” all year, but at the end of the year they say “we won’t do that, BUT, what we have done is contracted FTR to make us a Alu frame, so your options are to stick with the CF the way it is or try our Alu frame we threw money at”

    So, is a shot in the dark better than sticking with the same frame that won’t improve? There’s no right answer, but if you were him and desperately seeking change, any sort of change, any sort of chance of improvement, you will take the drastic approach. I think that’s what they did.

    It’s no secret, Stoner said it many times, Ducati didn’t listen to his and his crew’s request. If you read the interviews now of Rossi and his crew on Ducati, literally the exact same answers, they didn’t listen.

    The media only knew how to point at obvious things like the frame changes and they need something to write about. So to this day, much of the public still think that. The real answers only came later, after the storm has already blow by. There’s no way the media will slag a company’s inner workings non stop during the race season, and no way the crew will reveal that info while still working for the company. There’s an interview with Alex Briggs in a recent article I think in Superbike or Bike, worth a read.

  • CBR_F4I

    Two hours ago the italian site ( confirmed that dall’Igna will be a ducati man next year.

    First confirmed by Max Biaggi, yesterday evening, on twitter:
    “È ormai certo che Gigi Dall’Igna n.1 Reparto corse Aprilia sarà un uomo Ducati da oggi. In bocca al lupo per questa nuova avventura”
    Translation (for you non italian user out there): It’s now sure that Gigi Dall’Igna, head of the Aprilia racing department, will be a Ducati man next year, starting from today. Best luck for his new Adventure.

    Followed by the official confirmation from Aprilia:
    “Il Gruppo Piaggio annuncia che l’ing. Romano Albesiano assumerà la responsabilità della gestione sportiva Aprilia in aggiunta all’incarico attualmente ricoperto di Responsabile del Centro Tecnico Moto del Gruppo. Il Gruppo Piaggio comunica altresì di avere immediatamente accettato le dimissioni presentate dall’ing. Luigi Dall’Igna – pur augurandogli come è naturale i migliori successi per il futuro – per le differenze di visione strategica in tema di gestione sportiva, e in considerazione dei risultati sinora conseguiti nella stagione 2013 del Mondiale Superbike.”

    Translation (sorry for my english):
    “Piaggio group announce that eng. Romano Albesiano, current chief of the Centro Tecnico Moto, will also be the next Aprilia Racing department chief. Piaggio group also confirms accepting the letter of resignation, because of difference in strategical vision in terms of bike development, presented by eng. Luigi Dall’Igna whishing him best luck for his future, and thanking him for the good results in the WSBK 2013 season”.

    So it’s official, i’m curious to see what the Aspar Team will do now.

    Again sorry for my English

  • @Sander: “Dorna engine rule for the future is worthless”

    Indeed, especially because it was an MSMA-concocted rule. The displacement changes, engine- and fuel limitations … all the doings of the factories as a means of creating engineering challenges for themselves. Dorna does a few wonky things, but the bulk of the bad rules changes have had little to do with Dorna and everything to do with the factories.

    Re: 2-strokes – I’d LOVE to see 2-strokes on the grid again. I miss the sound of angry bees. That said, it’s not a technology that we see on the street, so you’re unlikely to see it on the track. Whether anybody wants to believe it or not, the bikes we see on the track generally need to look and sound enough like the bikes in the showroom to drive sales. Without sales, there’s no means of supporting the racing. RZs and RGs using clean-burn tech would be glorious. I just doubt it’ll ever happen. I dearly hope that some manufacturer proves me wrong on that. Second-gear throttle wheelies out of a 250 would be nice to enjoy. :-D

    @CBR_F4I: “Again sorry for my English”

    Dude, your English is better than a lot of native speakers posting here. You’ve nothing about which to apologize.