During the pre-event press conference for the U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Nicky Hayden announced that he wouldn’t be back next season with Ducati in MotoGP, saying that the Italian motorcycle manufacturer “chose to go a different way.”
Later that same weekend, Cycle World Technical Editor Kevin Cameron and I asked Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti about this decision.
“Nicky is a great guy and a great ambassador for Ducati,” said Ciabatti. “The fans like him, and this is why we would like to keep him in Ducati, maybe in Superbike, which we offered him as a possibility to consider.
“But after [he spent] five years of fighting with our bike, I think it is difficult to find additional motivation to stay with the same people. Sometimes, it is good to have fresh air—for the rider and for the team—to try something different, something new.
“In the past, Ducati had some good results with Nicky, but we were never able to achieve any race wins. There is a cycle in the sporting life of athletes, and I think we all, including him, need to look at a different opportunity.”
Will Hayden continue to be involved in development of the current machine? “Yes,” said Ciabatti. “We really value his input and effort. This bike can be improved. If we understand the direction to go, then we can close the gap from the top. Here, in Laguna Seca, we are a few tenths off our reference group. At the past races, we were far away.”
Ciabatti says Ducati has the money and resources necessary to produce a better motorcycle. What it doesn’t have is time. “Races are coming one after another—Indy, Brno and Silverstone—with almost no time to prep. We are going to bring new stuff in September, which, we hope, is another step in the right direction to finish the season with a GP13 that is closer to the best bikes in this class.”