US MotoGP: Nicky Hayden close to new Ducati deal

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Nicky Hayden has confirmed he is close to agreeing a contract extension with Ducati’s factory MotoGP squad for 2013.

An official announcement is likely to be made during his home race in Laguna Seca after the American’s new deal was first revealed by MCN on Twitter earlier today.

The Kentucky rider will stay with the Bologna factory for a fifth successive season in 2013 having joined in 2009 following his release from the Repsol Honda squad.

The new contract is for one-year with an option for 2014, Hayden confirmed earlier today on the eve of his home Grand Prix at Laguna Seca in California.

Hayden told MCN: “My deal is not done yet but things are looking really good and really close to staying at Ducati for another year and I’m real happy about it. Hopefully we can get it announced soon.”

Hayden’s new deal completes a turnaround in fortunes for the 2006 world champion, who recently feared his Ducati future was in doubt.

Ducati’s priority has always been to get Valentino Rossi to sign a new two-year deal and management then engaged in lengthy negotiations with British rider Cal Crutchlow.

Hayden’s place on a GP13 Desmosedici appeared in serious doubt but he held positive talks with Audi executives during the recent Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

Audi recently completed its takeover of Ducati in a deal rumoured to be over £700m and Hayden said his challenge for a podium at Mugello certainly helped his cause to secure his future.

He added: “Things have moved quite a bit faster since Mugello. Even on the inside I’ve had a good feeling. If you took just what was being said it seemed like it would never happen. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that feeling and maybe I listened to too many people on the outside. But honestly the discussions I’ve had for the last month, it is not a bigger change as some people thought. I got a really good relationship with all the guys there and I met with all the Audi people in Mugello and had some really good talks and having a pretty good weekend didn’t hurt as far as looking competitive.”

MCN understands Hayden’s new deal came largely due to the influence of Ducati CEO Gabriele del Torchio, who is huge admirer of the 30-year-old.

Hayden said: “I’m not in those Bologna board meetings to know who was giving me the vote of approval but I have had a good relationship with del Torchio and I would say he was one of the guys, based on my feeling and what I’ve seen, that pushed for me pretty hard.”

With Hayden’s deal all but signed, attention will now turn to the future of current team-mate Rossi.

Speculation is rife in Laguna Seca that the Italian will quit Ducati and complete a shock move back to the Yamaha factory squad he left at the end of 2010.

The shock announcement from Ben Spies earlier this week that he will quit Yamaha at the end of 2012 has only increased speculation that Rossi will be back on a YZR-M1 next year.
If Rossi does move to Yamaha then Crutchlow is still likely to be an option to leave the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad and join Hayden.

But Hayden, who has scored just three podium finishes in his Ducati career, said: “I haven’t really asked and I really don’t know. I’m sure if I got on the Internet I could find five different names but I really don’t know. I hope Valentino stays and we can make it all work. But with Ben leaving it makes you…If Ben knew he was staying I can’t believe he would announce he is leaving. But it doesn’t make a big difference to me.”

For nine pages of exclusive news from the Laguna Seca MotoGP round, see the August 1 issue of MCN.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt