Hayden and Honda to Part Ways

Henny Ray Abrams | September 15, 2008
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, SEPT 15: Honda Motor Company confirmed what Nicky Hayden had said on the eve of the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix; that this is his last season with the Repsol Honda team.

The day after Hayden had his best race and first podium of the season, Honda issued a warmly written press release starting that the Kentucky Kid, who gave them their most recent MotoGP World Championship in 2006, will end his career with the company after a decade following the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix.

The fond send-off was testament to the professionalism and civility that Hayden has shown throughout the past two difficult seasons. Since the arrival of teammate Dani Pedrosa in 2006, it’s been clear that the Spaniard was the number one priority. Hayden voiced his displeasure from time to time, always with justification but never with the stridency or incivility that would have alienated him to the company or his fans.

It was fitting that the announcement came after the Indy GP, where he took the lead on the second lap and led until before passed by winner Valentino Rossi on lap 14. Still, he finished second in the worst conditions of any race he’d ever ridden and also beat Pedrosa, who was racing with Bridgestone tires for the first time after forcing the move from Michelin following the previous San Marino GP.

Hayden will soon be announced as Casey Stoner’s teammate Ducati.

The 27-year-old was signed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his sportsmanship. During Stoner’s incredible run to the 2007 World Championship, Hayden was the rider who consistently pointed out that Stoner’s success wasn’t just because of the’s powerful Desmosedici GP07, rather that Stoner was riding the wheels off of it. He said the same this year, despite Stoner’s run of bad luck early in the season.

Hayden is expected to be replaced by Italian Andrea Dovizioso, who rode the JiR Team Scot MotoGP Honda to fifth in Sunday’s Indy GP.

The full text of the release follows:

Nicky Hayden will ride his final race for the Repsol Honda Team at Valencia, Spain, on October 26. The American star and Honda have enjoyed a decade of racing action together, climbing motorcycling’s highest peak when they conquered the MotoGP World Championship in 2006.

Hayden has ridden Hondas since he was a teenager, first as a privateer, when at the age of 18 he won the 1999 US Supersport title aboard a CBR600. The following year he joined forces with American Honda and in 2002 won the US Superbike crown on an RC51. That success propelled The Kentucky Kid onto the world scene with the Repsol Honda Team in 2003.

In his first year with the marque’s factory MotoGP squad Hayden won the MotoGP Rookie of the Year award, then built towards that 2006 title triumph, when he snatched motorcycling’s most prestigious title aboard his RC211V during an epic season finale at Valencia.

Hayden has won three MotoGP races for Honda, his all-action style a perfect match for the factory’s super-powerful 990cc RCV. Of course, Hayden, like so many of the USA’s greatest roadrace stars, grew up racing dirt track, and he has also scored success for Honda on the dirt oval, winning four Grand Nationals on a CRF450 flat tracker.

HRC, Honda and Repsol would like to say a big thank you for the success and the style that Hayden has brought to the team.

HRC president Masumi Hamane says: “We wish to thank Nicky for all he has achieved for Honda both as a rider and a man. Nicky and Honda have shared much success and a few disappointing days but in each case Nicky has always behaved cheerfully and has led the team in a positive way. His warm-hearted character has been much loved by all who have worked with him. Together we have won two AMA titles and the most important title of all, the MotoGP World Championship. Nicky raced the 990cc RC211V with great success but since the technical regulations reduced MotoGP engine capacity to 800cc, both Nicky and HRC have tried our best but we have been unable to find the best balance between rider and machine necessary for Nicky to show his full potential, so we have decided to part company at the end of the season. We want to thank Nicky who always tried positively under tough conditions. We respect him for his brave challenging spirit. We wish Nicky good luck for the future with his new challenge. Nicky is a good guy loved by all, but also he is a tough competitor and I am sure he will be tough to beat next season.”

Repsol director general Jaume Giró says: “I wish Nicky all the best, in both his sporting life and his personal life, as he begins this new adventure outside Repsol Honda. Repsol will never forget his magnificent 2006 season when the won the MotoGP World Championship at Valencia, in front of a Spanish crowd, clearly showing the attributes he has brought to the team throughout the six years he has been with us: determination, conviction and a will to overcome any setbacks. And he is always a warm and friendly character, for which everyone at Repsol thanks him.

Finally, I would like to emphasise the fact that Nicky Hayden has made a special contribution in helping Repsol move into the United States of America and to be recognised in such a large and complicated market. Without a doubt his image that has been associated with our company has helped the marketing of our products in America. For all these reasons, Nicky will always occupy a special place in the history of Repsol Sports Sponsorship.”

Nicky Hayden says: “I’ve been with Honda a long time. I owe a big thanks to everybody who’s ever worked with me at Honda, from my AMA days to my rookie year in MotoGP, right up to now. I’ve worked with a lot of great people at HRC, Honda and Repsol too. It was always my big dream as a kid to race for this team. It’s something I’ve enjoyed a lot. I want to thank everybody there, all the guys from tyre technicians to crew chiefs and all the way up. Sure, it hasn’t just been one big holiday, along the way there’s been some tough days but a lot of good days too. Winning the World Championship was by far the highlight of my career so far, plus I won a couple championships in America with Honda, the Supersport championship, the Superbike title and the Daytona 200. And I won some dirt track with Honda too: I won Springfield short track twice, the Peoria TT, in all four Grand National dirt tracks. Winning MotoGP rookie of the year in 2003 was quite an achievement against Bayliss, Edwards and Melandri, that was something I was pretty proud of. And of course my two MotoGP wins at Laguna were awesome experiences. I’d just like to thank everyone, and the best way to thank them is to put up some results these last few races. That’s the plan.”

Repsol Honda team manager Kazuhiko Yamano, speaking on behalf of the HRC’s hands-on racing personnel, says: “On behalf of HRC employees past and present, both engineering and software staff, I wish to thank Nicky for all he has done for Honda and our racing teams. The success he has brought to Honda is well recorded but has also made a valuable contribution to our race development projects. Nicky has been an excellent ambassador for Honda, his genuine polite and friendly personality has made him a favourite with racing people, the media and race fans wherever he goes. Nicky is a racer, a tough man on track and always a gentleman with whom it has been a pleasure to work. He always gives 100 per cent to everything he does. He won two AMA national roadrace titles for Honda before joining the Repsol Honda MotoGP team to race the 990cc RC211V. Nicky and the RCV were the perfect rider/machine combination and together they won the 2006 MotoGP World Championship. We all wish Nicky good luck and success with his new challenge he will be a fierce rival for our team in 2009.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.