Shocked American rider Nicky Hayden has had his plans to race an Aprilia in next year’s MotoGP world championship turned upside down and he may now make a surprise switch to Honda.
The uncertainty has been created by the sudden defection of acclaimed Aprilia race boss Gigi Dall’Igna to Ducati who are desperate to arrest their sad decline.
Ducati only announced the poaching of Dall’Igna yesterday.
Hayden was close to inking his Aprilia deal following a visit to their factory last month and a positive meeting with Dall’Igna.
But for the second time in two months, Ducati have destabilized Hayden’s plans and the 2006 world champion and the Spanish-based Aspar must now reconsider their plans.
With Aprilia’s future in MotoGP in doubt, Aspar and Hayden have re-opened talks with Honda at Sepang in advance of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The deal would be for a supply of Honda’s new production racer based on a de-tuned version of their RC213V prototype.
“I was very close to a deal (with Aprilia) so I was very shocked to see Gigi leave,” Hayden said.
“Ducati are not doing me any favors, not only have they sacked me they have taken the guy who was going to my new engineer.
“I knew it was possibility but when I was in Aprilia (last month) Gigi said that was not the case so I was certainly surprised about it.
“I haven’t signed anything with Aprilia and things are definitely changing.
“I need to understand what Aprilia is going to do without Gigi, if they will make the commitment to the program and put the money and resources behind it.”
Dall’Igna has been central to Aprilia’s race success in World Superbikes and he was to supervise development of an upgraded Aprilia for the Aspar team next year.
But the level of Aprilia’s racing commitment must now be in doubt and the situation has sent Aspar scurrying to asses bike supply for next year from Honda and Ducati.
Hayden is departing Ducati in unhappy circumstances and had rejected an offer to race their Panigale model in World Superbikes next year.
The only upside to the possibility that he would again be forced to ride a Ducati next year would be that it would be the work of Dall’Igna, who was the big attraction for his Aprilia deal.
“Gigi has achieved a lot and that’s why I was impressed with him, it is why the Aprilia option was looking so good,” Hayden said.
“Now everything changed in the last week and the Honda is again an option and in the long run it could be better.”
The new Honda production racer has been undergoing tests in Japan ridden by double world champion Casey Stoner with positive reports.
Ducati’s dismal situation continued in the opening free practice sessions at Sepang today with Hayden eighth fastest and 1.8s off the pace set by Honda rider Dani Pedrosa.Malaysian GP, MotoGP, Nicky Hayden, Sepang