As reported in this week’s MCN, 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden will return to his superbike roots in 2016 with the American joining the Ten Kate Honda team inWorld Superbikes.
Hayden won the American Superbike Championship onboard a Honda SP1 before making a move to MotoGP – winning the championship in 2006 for the factory Repsol Honda team. Now nine years later he is returning to his Superbike routes with Honda to race the CBR1000RR.
Despite its age the current Fireblade continues to be competitive, winning races in 2014 and securing podiums in 2015. Although not at the level of the full factory Kawasakis and Ducatis in the series, the team remain confident they can close the gap in 2016 with a heavily revised bike expected in 2017.
Speaking at the Motegi MotoGP press conference, Hayden said: “Well, my next stop is Superbike with Honda! I’m very excited, obviously, to stick with Honda; it’s where I’ve had the most success in my career. World Superbikes is a championship that I followed closely as a kid when a lot of American riders were fighting at the front. It just seems like the right time and the right team to go with.
“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, but also I’m very motivated to start and learn what I can. I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me through my MotoGP career. We had a good run but now it’s time to move on and try something different.”
He’ll be joined in the at team by Dutch protégée Michael van der Mark – and could theoretically also line up alongside the double winner at this year’s Suzuka 8 Hr.
Team boss Ronald Ten Kate is clearly thrilled with his new signing and also took the opportunity to quash the recent paddock rumors that the team were looking at swapping to another manufacturer. He said: “It’s well known that, at Ten Kate, we always have been and always will be Honda. There is only be one person in the world who could possibly be more Honda than us, and that’s Nicky Hayden! That’s why I’m absolutely delighted that he’ll be joining us for next season. He was AMA Superbike champion with Honda and we’re really looking forward to bringing him back to his superbike roots. By working together and using all our combined resources, I hope that in the future we can make him the first world champion in MotoGP and World Superbike. We are also looking forward to combining Nicky’s experience with young Michael, who has shown really good pace and huge potential on the CBR in his first season. I think you can safely say that I’m more than happy with the line-up we have for 2016!”
Hayden will get his first test on the Ten Kate Honda in November.