Rating the Riders of MotoGP: Nicky Hayden – 6/10

01/10/2014 @ 10:09 am, by David Emmett8 COMMENTS


In the penultimate part of our restrospective on the season just past, we look back at Nicky Hayden. Here is our view of his final season with Ducati, and his move to Aspar for 2014. To read the rest of our reviews of last year, you can read part 1, Marc Marquezpart 2, Jorge Lorenzopart 3, Dani Pedrosapart 4, Valentino Rossipart 5, Cal Crutchlowpart 6, Alvaro Bautistapart 7, Stefan Bradl; and part 8, Andrea Dovizioso.

It’s been a tough few years for Nicky Hayden. Since joining Ducati in 2009, his results have been in steady decline, along with the performance of the Desmosedici. The 2013 season was the second season in a row where the American did not score a single podium, Hayden finishing in the same position as 2012, with four more points than last year.

This year was probably his toughest with the Italian manufacturer. Hayden found himself battling with teammate Andrea Dovizioso just about all year long, starting from the first race in Qatar. The Ducatis were a match only for each other, not for the other prototypes.

In twelve of the eighteen races, Dovizioso and Hayden finished behind each other, the only other rider they regularly tangled with being Bradley Smith, a MotoGP rookie. More times than not, Hayden emerged as loser of the intra-Ducati battles, finishing behind Dovizioso nine times, and ahead of him only seven times.

The fact that Hayden was not beating his teammate would end up costing him his job. The American was left waiting for a long time for word from Ducati, though by the time the circus rolled up in Assen, Hayden could see the writing on the wall. “I’m not feeling it,” he said, Ducati not even approaching him about a renewal.

At the Sachsenring, he was told there was no place in the factory team for him, though Ducati were keen to keep him in the family, trying to persuade him to switch to World Superbikes to race the Panigale, or else line up in the Pramac team with factory backing.

That news, and the news that Cal Crutchlow would be taking his place, left Hayden in frustration, but he turned his frustration into determination, focusing even harder on beating his teammate.

The battles between the two grew tougher, the most memorable moment coming at Indianapolis, where Hayden put a very harsh move on Dovizioso at the very last corner, the two running wide and jumping the kerbing laid down to mark where the infield track meets the oval.

Both Hayden and Dovizioso were spoken to firmly by Ducati management, and told to treat each other with a little more care on the track. Hayden complied, but still battled hard, beating his teammate in the last three races of the season.

Hayden had been hampered all season by a swollen wrist, the result of a screw fitted to fix an injury sustained at the start of 2012. The swelling came and went, but was clearly visible every time Hayden spoke to the press.

The American never complained – it is not in his temperament to complain – but appeared to be treating it gingerly on several occasions during the season. It probably had a bigger effect than he let on, and Hayden finally had the screw removed after the final race of the year at Valencia.

Being released from his contract with Ducati had the positive side effect of freeing him up a little from his corporate persona.

Ever the gentleman, and ever the good company spokesman, Hayden let things ride a little, speaking more freely than he ever has before, pointing more clearly to where he believes Ducati went wrong, and telling the press that he regretted not having another shot at testing the carbon fiber chassis again at the end of the 2011 season.

Release for Hayden came finally at Australia, when the Aspar team finally announced they had signed the American, and would be racing the Honda RCV1000R production racer. By that time, Hayden’s signing with Aspar was an open secret, the American’s father and brother having regularly been spotted entering the Aspar truck.

Being caught out on social media didn’t help, Hayden getting the privacy settings wrong on a training app, and uploading a run which he had taken in Noale, the home base of Aprilia.

After Gigi Dall’Igna left Aprilia for Ducati, Aspar quickly dropped their original choice of continuing with Aprilia, and with the backing of American Honda, secured a production Honda for Hayden and his teammate Hiroshi Aoyama. Having Hayden on a production Honda will be an excellent test for just how good the production Hondas are in 2014.

High Point:


Nicky Hayden’s season had very few high points on track, with the possible exception of his fierce battles with his teammate. But the real high point came off track, when he finally announced his signing with Aspar.

Though his future had never really been in doubt, signing with the best CRT team – or Open team, as we must now call them – was a boost for the American. A visibly more cheerful Hayden once again found new motivation. A change, as they say, is clearly as good as a rest.

Low Point:


If signing with Aspar was the high point of his season, the low point was losing his factory seat at Ducati. Hayden had been clear that his goal was to stay in MotoGP, and the World Superbike offer from Ducati was something he was only prepared to entertain as a last resort.

What irked Hayden most about losing the Ducati seat was that he felt progress was imminent. He had gone through so many hard years with Ducati that to miss out when (or if) Ducati finally did start to show real improvement would be too frustrating to contemplate. Given the revolution going on at Ducati at the moment, it would have been a long wait for Hayden anyway.

Photos: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

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

  • sideswipeasaurus

    You know he’s going to relish beating those factory Ducatis on his Aspar Honda at every opportunity. If Ducati don’t get a move on improving that bike Nicky could dish out a good deal of embarrassment to his former employer.

  • SJ Steve

    As a fellow American, Nicky & Colin Edwards & are the 2 guys I am always pulling for….even though the odds of either of them being up front continues to fade… more so for Edwards though. But hey… they both are World Champions.. Nicky in AMA Superbike & Moto Gp & Colin 2x’s in WSB.

    In my opinion, Nicky is stand out class-act in the circus that is Moto Gp…. no jumping in lakes, no tantrums, no whining… just balls out riding!

    I hope he stays in Moto Gp for a few more years since that is what he wants but I hope he does end up in WSB like Biaggi & take 1 or 2 championships there… or at least be up front dicing with the leaders.

    Unfortunately, the US seems incapable of developing a program to groom young racers capable of competing at the WSB or Moto Gp level other then the slim few like Nicky, Edwards & the 2 AMA guys riding for EBR in WSB this year. American racers used to be the bar the Euro riders were measured against… no longer…

    Good luck to Nicky this year.

  • Jw

    Yes the front 4 of the pack are great to watch, but the middle guys will be just as interesting in 14, especially Nicky in battle against the Ducati team. This is good and goes to show there needs to be a full grid with plenty of world class riders to enjoy. Of all the riders that I would choose to be my next door neighbor, it would be Nicky.

  • Conrice

    I respect all of the riders. I root for most of them.

    But there’s only one rider that I look up to – and it’s Nicky Hayden.

  • Bicho

    I like Nicky,he is really talented and a worl champion.But this season he was not better than Dovizioso,who just got on the Ducati team and made a better job than the AMERICAN!(too much bias in this article!)

  • Woodlandrider

    Its a joke and an insult to be rating MOTOGP(!) riders from the comfort of your laptop. Give it a rest or perhaps swing your leg over a MOTOGP bike and give yourself a rating. If you scrape a 1/10 you will have done well.

  • “If Ducati don’t get a move on improving that bike Nicky could dish out a good deal of embarrassment to his former employer.”

    In the spirit of just deserts, I sincerely hope so. The flip side for me, though, is that I also really like Dovi and Crutchlow and I want them to do well, too.

  • Craig

    Even if Duc goes Open class, Honda already has them beat to the table with a bike. Sure, Ducati will have freedom to change configurations around and such, but Honda is already there and tested. Here’re to hoping Nicky can tear it up this year!