Though Ducati have told Nicky Hayden that there is no room for him in its factory MotoGP team, it is no secret that they would like to keep him within the Ducati family.

The American retains a huge following in his native country (according to Google Trends, he is the second most searched MotoGP rider, after Valentino Rossi, though Marc Marquez is hot on his heels), and is a favorite with sponsors thanks to his willingness to help the people who help pay his salary. Hayden has been a great ambassador for Ducati in the US during his four and a half year tenure at the Italian factory.

So Ducati are doing all they can to persuade Hayden to move to World Superbikes, and take on the challenge of racing the Ducati 1199 Panigale R. To that end, Hayden rode the World Superbike-spec version of the bike at Mugello last week, to assess what he was getting into before making a decision.

Hayden was fast: according to reliable reports from the UK site, Hayden was quickly under the unofficial WSBK lap record at the track, posting a time of 1’51.2, faster than Troy Bayliss went at the iconic Italian circuit when he rode the Panigale there earlier this year, according to

Though Hayden was immediately fast, his biggest shock was adapting to the soft and squishy Pirelli WSBK tires. According to, Hayden’s initial reaction when coming back into the pits for the first time was to jump off and squeeze the front tire, to see if it was really as soft as it felt.

His test was brought to a premature end when he suffered a relatively minor crash. Reports say that the bike was damaged too badly to be repaired at the track. That phrase is usually something of a euphemism: in this case, it means the bike caught fire and burned itself to a crisp.

Hayden is known to be seriously considering the option to remain with Ducati in WSBK, but he is wary of the task he faces there. On the one hand, Hayden told reporters before the summer break, the notion of trying to become the first rider to win both the MotoGP and World Superbike championships was very appealing.

On the other hand, his main objective was to be on as competitive a bike as possible. Hayden was cautious of taking on the Panigale, saying that at this stage in career, trying to develop a bike into a winning machine was not the challenge he was after.

Given Hayden’s speed on the Panigale, a switch to WSBK could well be one of his best options, as well as his most lucrative. Attempts by American Honda to put the 2006 World Champion on a production racer at LCR Honda have stalled, as so far only half the budget has been found.

At Silverstone, rumors emerged that CAME, the Italian manufacturer of security gates and other equipment, were considering backing Hayden at LCR, but recent reports on suggest that CAME are also giving serious consideration to remaining with the IODA Racing team.

Remaining with IODA is an attractive option, as the team has scored excellent results with Johann Zarco in Moto2, and with Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding moving up to MotoGP next year, Zarco will be one of the favorites for the title next year.

Hayden is also one of the riders tipped to take one of the two FTR-outfitted Yamaha M1s being leased to the NGM Forward team, which will be using the Dorna software for 2014.

While having a Yamaha M1 (or most of one, the lease package includes the engines, swingarm and chassis, with fuel tank and bodywork being built by FTR) underneath him could be Hayden’s best chance of being competitive, the question of how good the bike will be with the spec-software is still an unknown.

The difference in performance levels between the spec-software and Yamaha’s proprietary software is likely to be significant, which will have an impact on how good the bike will be.

Hayden is also believed to be on the radar of Aprilia, who will be supplying a totally revamped version of the ART bike to Aspar next year.

Again, Hayden’s combination of competitiveness and marketability is the driving force behind Aprilia’s interest: Hayden would be used to market not just Aprilia, but the entire range of Piaggio brands in the US, including Moto Guzzi. The bike itself is expected to be a major improvement, with a new engine, pneumatic valves, a new chassis and perhaps even a seamless gearbox.

The NGM Forward team have told reporters they expect to make an announcement this week. Hayden, on the other hand, told reporters at Silverstone that he did not expect to be making a decision in the short term, though he did say he expected it to be announced before the flyaway races in October.

Source: Bikesportnews, Superbikeplanet, & Infomotogp; Photo: © 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.

  • Damn

    several times the pain-igale burned down after crashing. and i dont believe the laptimes. after all the hype and “checkmate” talk, the fail-igale was outside the top 10. a non performing bike. think the cheat factory are lying again.

  • smiler

    Damn…..full of factual info as usual.

    Difficult to do a direct comparison because WSBK and MotoGP do not share many of the same circuits and Checa was on the 1198 last year. H0wever….

    At Assen this year Checa a 1.364 on the 1199. Hayden put in a 1.361 on the GP13. Similar time to Checa then on a shorter track. Checa was 11th on the grid and Hayden would have been 4th on the GP13. Superstock qualifying was 138.5 @3 secs slower.

    At Mugello Hayden does a 1.512 on the 1199 and 148.00 on the GP13. 8th during qualifying.

    So the 1199 would have been 11th place on the MotoGP grid.

    The Italian championship bike are doing @1.54 laps. Much like Superstocks these are @3secs slower.

    So 1.521 sounds like a reasonable time. In 2010 Fabrizio dropped a 1.52 at Mugello and at Assen a 137.1.

    Oh and the site mentioned don’t get the times from the team.

  • SBPilot

    The 1199 isn’t a failure, it took pole in it’s first race. But since that crash the better rider (Checa) seems to have really lost his form. I can’t blame him, he had a concussion, he’s also not getting any younger.

    The bike does exceptionally well in Superstock (meaning the bike is very strong from the box), the 4 banger Beemers and Kawis will always have that straight line advantage but those bikes have had years of development now.

    WSBK is a freak modification show for Superbikes, and rarely does it rely on how good the base bike is. Even the Honda/Suzuki which are so old in terms of technology can somehow do good at some races, purely on modification. It’s more about how capable and talented the team is who’s running the bikes plus a very good rider of course. That’s why having factory support is huge in WSBK. Having said that the bike still makes a difference.

    I’ve always wondered why there are no RSV4s in Superstock.

  • Norm G.

    re: “Hayden’s initial reaction when coming back into the pits for the first time was to jump off and squeeze the front tire, to see if it was really as soft as it felt.”

    this thing got air in it…?

  • sburns2421

    RSV4 is not in Superstock because in more or less stock form it has a power deficit compared to the Kawasaki and BMW.

    As for Hayden, frankly none of his options in MotoGP seem that appealing. The “production” FTR M1 and RC213V will be a third class of prototype behind factory and customer-leased machines. Aprilia may have a decent package that allows them to compete with these production M1 and RC213V bikes. However simply put you either are on a factory Yamaha or Honda, or you are filling up the grid. The chances of him actually getting back on a factory bike in 2015 or 2016 bike seems slim and none in MotoGP.

    On the other hand, going to WSBK could be just the change in scenery he needs. He will be the first former MotoGP champion to ever race in the series, and will be a fan favorite for sure. WSBK needs a guy like Hayden, and Hayden probably needs WSBK too.

    So there would undoubtedly be opportunities in WSBK from several teams and he could probably have his pick. The upcoming Honda V4 street machine would be interesting, and Kawasaki will have a strong package along with a likely defending champion next year. But Ducati with the new 2014 rule structure could also be more competitive.

    I am of the opinion he already knows he is riding the Panigale next year. The loss of face for Ducati to let him test it and then jump to another brand in WSBK would be very detrimental. While keeping tests quiet seems difficult these days, had Ducati really been worried he would throw the bike down and kick it John Hopkins-style, they would have done the test in more secrecy.

  • Faust

    Smiler and SBPilot, you’re wasting your time. It doesn’t matter that the 1199 is winning in SSTK, or that it’s taken 2 poles and a podium in its first year in SBK (far better than the debut season for the S1000rr, where they never got higher than 5th). Some people are determined to hate this bike. Even when it eventually wins in SBK, people will say its only because Ducati cheats (even though anyone reading the current FIM rules would show you that it’s hard to run a twin). Some people refuse to give any credit to Ducati for anything, even having the first TC on a Superbike. Who cares what people say, still getting an 899!

  • Damn

    I know why the failigale wins in sstk but not in sbk. The superbike laptimes are faster then sstk and the function of having a frame comes in to play. Now ducati has virtualy no frame so when the tyres are on the edge of performing it can’t rely on a frame (flex) to help the tyres and rider for feeling and more performens. In sstk the tyres can handle all the stress because of the lower laptimes and the needs of a frame isnt needed. This concept can only work untill a certain level of performans on track. But dont be affraid after the rule changings in sbk the laptimes wil be higher and like in sstk the failures of the failigale wil suddenly dissapear and it wil be a front runner again. Oh and for motogp audi has changed all but the engine so……….. were should they search??? Damn i wouldn’t know

  • Westward

    Smart money and career move would be WSBK, be a champion again and make history as being the first to win the title in both series, before Rossi beats him to it…

    In MotoGP, all he will ever be, is a grid spacer rather than a competitive racer. Besides, no matter where he goes, he will end up developing whatever package he ends up on anyways. Might as well fight for a title in WSBK, than for top ten in MotoGP…

  • Halfie30

    Does anybody actually watch WSTK?! “Pain/fail-igale”… Moronic expression to a bike that is more than competitive in closer to stock trim. Ducati just needs the right rider for WSBK. Nicky would be perfect. Ducati in MotoGP is a disaster (we’ll see if Cal can even ride it), but the panigale is quite the opposite. A lot of potential.

  • Willem Cirkel

    Yeah we seen that. Realy ALOT

  • Minibull

    @Damn: Please tell me you are kidding……..there are almost no words to describe what you said there…absolute BS filled tripe.

  • Mariani

    @Damn Shhh!

    The 1199 is performing in WSTK because it is on the same level of tuning of it’s competitors, but I’m fairly confident that that’s the case in WSBK.

    Duke is not supporting it’s new bike the way they supported the 1198/1098/999/etc.

  • Damn

    Minibull. If it isnt what i think, what do you think then. Because i think its pretty clear. Maybe you can come up with some einstein results. Like to hear that.

  • TexusTim

    @ Norm the low air thing is exactly what i thought..he knows the sidewalls are softer than bridgestones but to him they must have felt so mushy he thought the tire was suffering from low air pressure.
    the other thing is these versions burning up in not so heavy crashes..reminds me of the apriila collin rode…the “cube of fire” or was it “fire cube”?..or was it fry by wire ?….are they supping these things up for one off impressive lap times but the thing goes off like roman candle when crashed ?
    I dont really believe the lap times either thats like saying I belive my budys lap times given to him by his girlfriend with a stop watch…if it aint posted with a transponder you cant help but not believe the stop watch guys accuarcey…hell its probably more favorbal than the girlfriend with a stop
    I would love to see nicky on the aprilla if not then honda but please for the love of god no more ducati..turn and burn the page.. but please try to stay in moto gp…but of course its his decission and when made I will support him as loyalty to one the classiest riders will not waiver even if he rides a mini bike

  • Doug

    @Damn – re: “But dont be affraid after the rule changings in sbk the laptimes wil be higher and like in sstk the failures of the failigale wil suddenly dissapear and it wil be a front runner again.”

    Are you being sarcastic b/c this doesn’t make sense based on your earlier comments. If the lap times go up in SBK, then (by your logic), the Panigale will suffer in both series due to no frame

  • tony

    might be the thing to get wsbk back on u s telly eh boys?

  • WSBK is on the US telly….with the best coverage I have ever enjoyed from a motorcycle series. Speed’s “coverage” of MotoGP was so piss poor that I have had to pony up $100+ each year for the past 5-6 years to buy the MotoGP video subscription.

    Now that WSBK is on BeIn Sports the coverage is awesome. IT must be because they are used to covering soccer (football) games with limited commercial interruptions (read – during half time and post game only) that they are able to monetize the WSBK coverage without taking a 3 minute commercial break (as Speed have done during the only pass in MotoGP race the past few seasons).

    I am a BeIn sport fans! Love WSBK and now glad that WSBK would not sell me a video pass for the past 4 seasons when I tried to purchase it.

  • tony

    gonna try to get this revolutionary channel!

  • Damo



    I wish more people got BeIN Sports in the US, because the coverage is amazing.

    Speed is too used to covering 3-4 hours racing events. You can deal with long commercial breaks and mid race interviews with that format. When a race is only 45 action packed minutes, you can’t do that.

  • dave

    love all the armchair engineers, e.g. damn, who know exactly what is wrong or right with every bike. obviously, building a competitive twin isn’t easy to do, as despite such lame and uninformed barbs as cheaters, only honda and ducati have ever managed it. twins will never make the power of fours, so they have to look for their advantages elsewhere. as was pointed out, it has taken bmw a few years to get their bike competitive, and now they are dropping out of wsbk having never won the title. I guess by that metric, the bmw is a failed bike. I think it takes such a confluence of factors; bike,tire,team,and of course the rider getting the type of feedback he needs, to win a championship, that it has no bearing on what we will get out of these bikes. I am dismayed that powers that be want to increase interest in motogp by screwing up wsbk, hopefully not as bad as dmg has done to ama.