MotoGP: Hayden announces move to World Superbikes
Valentino Rossi hopes that Nicky Hayden will be fighting for wins in World Superbikes when the American bike hero makes the switch in 2016.
Hayden will bring down the curtain on his 13 year MotoGP career at Valencia in November before joining the Ten Kate Honda WSBK team next year.
Rossi was Hayden’s first teammate at the factory Repsol Honda team in 2003 when Hayden joined as the reigning AMA Superbike champion.
A homegrown dirt tracker, Hayden will bid to become the first rider to win both the premier class MotoGP and WSBK championships.
“It is a great shame for MotoGP to lose Nicky because he is a great rider but also a great guy. It’s always good fun to share time with Nicky,” Rossi said.
“I have a lot of great memories and maybe I was the first to see Nicky when he arrived in Japan, for his first test with Honda.”
The best moment of Hayden’s career came in 2006 when he snatched the MotoGP World Championship from Rossi at a last race decider in Valencia.
“I’m part of the best moment in his career because he beat me at the last race and became world champion,” Rossi said.
"For sure we will miss him a lot, but I hope he can enjoy Superbike and I hope that the Honda is strong, because I hope to see him on the podium and fight for the victory.”
Hayden, 34, confirmed his move at Motegi on Thursday in advance Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Hayden will try to emulate fellow American stars Fred Merkel, Doug Polen, Scott Russell, John Kocinski, Colin Edwards and Ben Spies in winning the WSBK title.
"I’ve always liked the racing in World Superbikes and I think it’ll be a good fit. A fresh challenge and good opportunity," Hayden said.
"Of course I’ll miss MotoGP, but nothing lasts forever. Life keeps moving.
"Winning at Laguna Seca (US GP) was very nice but the world championship was by far the best moment for me, it’s a pretty special feeling."
A hugely popular figure in the paddock, with fans and riders alike, Hayden spent six years at Honda before being reunited with Rossi at the factory Ducati team in 2011.
For the past two years, Hayden has raced for the Aspar Honda in the Open class, which gave him no opportunity to contend for podiums.
With limited opportunities apart from a possible test role for KTM in MotoGP, Hayden has grabbed the opportunity to be a competitive force in WSBK with the championship winning Ten Kate team.
Hayden made his MotoGP debut at the Japanese GP at Suzuka, the first race of 2003, and has since made 212 starts with three wins and 26 podiums.
He missed five races for the Aspar Honda team in 2014 after undergoing corrective surgery on his right wrist.