The high profile Spanish-based Aspar squad has confirmed it will ditch Aprilia for 2014 and run Honda’s new production RCV1000R machine for Nicky Hayden and an as yet undisclosed second rider.
Aspar boss Jorge Martinez seemed certain to clinch a new deal with Aprilia for next season, with the Noale factory preparing to unveil a radically new ART 1000cc machine in 2014 that includes a new pneumatic valve engine, revised chassis and seamless shift gearbox.
But the shock departure of Aprilia figurehead Gigi Dall’Igna to rivals Ducati during last week’s Malaysian round at Sepang threw the renewal into major doubt.
It quickly became apparent that Martinez did not believe the Aprilia project would get the same support without Dall’Igna at the helm.
New Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano flew to Kuala Lumpur last weekend for urgent talks with Martinez to try and persuade him to remain with the ART project for a third season in 2014.
But those pleas were unable to convince Martinez and having commenced talks with Honda again over the purchase of two production RCV1000R bikes.
In a team statement released in Phillip Island this evening, Martinez said: “It is great news for the POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team to have the acquired services of Honda and a rider of the profile of Nicky Hayden.
"We are taking a huge step forward in terms of quality, prestige and image. We have grown a lot in a short space of time and we are all very excited about this new project with Honda.
"It is the factory that the Aspar Team first started with back in 1992 and I have great memories of that period. Our objective is to continue being a reference point in the premier-class.
"I think the combination of Honda's MotoGP Production Racer and Nicky Hayden is going to be a very successful one. We are thrilled to be working with a manufacturer with the history that Honda has and a rider like Nicky, a World Champion with huge experience.
"It will be a big change for us after so many years working with Italian factories but we have high hopes for this new project.”
Experienced American Hayden will ride one bike after he had been involved in lengthy negotiations with Aspar for several weeks about an Aprilia deal.
And with MotoGP needing a Japanese rider, MCN understands the second seat will go to former 250GP world champion Hiroshi Aoyama, who has been campaigning an FTR chassis for the Spanish-based Avintia Blusens squad.
Aoyama’s deal throws into question the future of current Aprilia factory WSB rider Eugene Laverty.
He too had been negotiating with Aspar and before his defection to Ducati, Dall’Igna had been championing his cause.
Laverty has also been in talks with the Pramac Ducati squad and that would now appear his only remaining opportunity in the MotoGP paddock, though he still has options open to remain in World Superbikes in 2014.
The deal means HRC has now sold four of the five RCV1000R bikes it put up for sale.
And it has an interesting blend of youth and experience with 2006 world champion Hayden and British rider Scott Redding campaigning the new model, which was recently briefly tested in Japan by double world champion Casey Stoner.