Nicky Hayden will not be offered a new factory Ducati contract for 2014.
The universally popular American was told by Ducati during last weekend’s German MotoGP round at the Sachsenring’s of the Bologna factory’s plan not to offer him a new deal to keep on a Desmosedici for a sixth season.
Ducati though don’t want to lose the experienced 31-year-old and will offer him alternative options, including a potential opening on a factory Panigale in World Superbikes.
It was on the eve of last weekend’s Sachsering race that the 2006 world champion hinted that his future might lie outside of the MotoGP paddock.
At that stage Ducati had not communicated its position on his future, but he admitted: “I would love to stay in MotoGP on the right bike and the right team but at the moment it doesn’t look so good.”
Hayden too denied that had spoken to Ducati directly about a switch to World Superbikes, though he had been approached about a move to WSB recently from other interested parties.
Part of discussions with Ducati management last week though included the prospect of a Panigale ride and Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti told MCN: “We’d like to keep Nicky within Ducati and we have a few options we have discussed with him, including World Superbikes.
Now we need to wait and see. We are fully committed to Nicky and Andrea (Dovizioso) until the end of the season but we see for Nicky a different position within the Ducati rider line-up. We have started this conversation here (in Germany) and we will see. It is a complicated time in the year but we try and be very honest with the riders and tell them what we think is the possibility for next year so they know.”
Confirmation that Hayden will not be offered an extension to his factory deal will only send speculation rocketing about Cal Crutchlow’s potential switch to Ducati on a big money deal for 2014.
The British rider is the number one target for Ducati after a string of impressive performances for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.
In an ideal world, the 27-year-old wants to remain at Tech 3 for one more season before securing a move to the Yamaha factory team in 2015.
Yamaha though is refusing to agree to that request having already expressed a strong interest in keeping Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.
Crutchlow could land himself a bumper pay deal at Ducati but the obvious major concern is the continuing struggle to make its beastly Desmosedici competitive.
At the previous two races, Dovizioso has spent his time riding flat-out with Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia CRT machine and Ducati is making no impression at all in slashing the huge gulf in performance to Honda and Yamaha.
With Hayden effectively ruled out of keeping his ride next to former 125GP world champion, the big question is who will Ducati turn to should Crutchlow reject a lucrative offer to quit Yamaha.
Factory management are already facing a dilemma with its satellite Pramac operation.
Nobody can be 100% sure of the potential of Ben Spies when he returns from a long-standing right shoulder at the Indianapolis round next month.
Spies has a contract for 2014 but he will have only raced twice since suffering a serious shoulder injury in Sepang almost 10 months ago.
He could be an option for the factory team if he returns and recaptures the form of 2011 when he won his one and only premier class race in Assen.
Ducati is unlikely to promote Andrea Iannone and have an all-Italian factory line-up and it can’t finalise its satellite plans until being 100% confident Texan Spies is over his injury woes.
Ciabatti added:“Obviously we are hoping that Ben will be back 100% in Indy. He has not been able to show his potential and if he comes back as strong as we expect him to be then that is only good news. He has a contract for next year and we wish to continue with him and achieve the results that we expected with him."
Francesco Guidotti, boss of the Ignite Ducati squad, said any decision on 2014 would rest with Spies.
He told MCN: “If he is fully fit and there is no problem then we would be more than happy to work with him in the future but the decision is in Ben’s hands and he must decide what he can do. It is his body and his health but I am really confident he will come back and ride properly and be with us in 2014.”