Photography by Gold & Goose
Not only will Sunday’s Grand Prix of Valencia mark the the final showdown for the 2013 MotoGP World Championship between Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez, it will also close a rather rough chapter for Nicky Hayden and his five-year tenure at Ducati.
In today’s press conference leading up to the big weekend, Hayden was asked about this final ride for Ducati and the end of a rather difficult run.
“Yeah I would say it’s been difficult,” Hayden said. “Of course we started here five years ago on it at the test and we hoped to achieve a lot more. It’s been a struggle. But we learned a lot and you know it’s how it goes. Some things don’t work out the way you hoped, the way you planned. I mean they’ve really tried hard. I’ve tried hard. And put a lot in to it.
“But especially in the last year I would say we’ve fallen farther behind. So it’s time to move on and do something different. Also for them, to try something different. So, of course, in that respect I’m thinking a little bit about Monday [when he will ride the new “production” Honda in the post-GP test]. But I need to focus on the job this weekend and finish out the best way I can. And look forward to moving on.”
So after the fireworks go off, the new champion is crowned, and Hayden’s time at Ducati comes to an end, a new chapter for the Owensboro, Kentucky, native begins. Well, actually it comes full circle as he is once again reunited with Honda, racing the new production racer – the RCV1000R – for Aspar.
Is he looking forward to it?
“Yeah I’m very curious to have a go on it,” Hayden said. “And like I said, I’ve struggled a lot, especially this year to try to be fast like these guys. You see them and the things they do and they come past and it’s impossible to follow. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to trying something different.
“I know it won’t be an easy challenge. I’m very much looking forward… But, like I said, also I got a race this weekend and a job to do so stay focused here and finish out this before I think too much about it.”
As was relayed in the unveiling of the RCV1000R, Honda’s production racer in testing at Motegi on the same day, with the same rider (Casey Stoner), and the same tires was only .3 of a second slower than factory bike. Did that give him a lot of confidence, a lot of hope in his new steed for 2014?
“Well, of course,” Hayden said. “Honda had said that the bike… they are very happy with it. I mean it’s always hard to compare lap times between one rider, from one exit, til the next day. So I’ll just have to try it on Monday and see. See the level of it. And also for me… I’ve come from some difficult seasons. I know the pace every year gets harder for MotoGP. So I need to understand, try it and see what I can do.
“I’ve seen pictures of the bike. It looks very nice. I got a lot of confidence. I’ve seen Honda when they get serious about making bikes, they make really nice stuff. So for sure I expect a lot from it.”
Going into this weekend with the championship for MotoGP on the line for the first time since 2006. It was then that the world witnessed Hayden’s “Cinderella Story” triumph over Valentino Rossi for the championship.
So Hayden was asked if he had any advice for Lorenzo.
“Well not really,” Hayden said. “I mean, obviously, it’s a lot better to be eight points down. He’s got a bigger margin, so he needs more to happen. I mean that’s what racing’s all about… You never know what could happen. You have to line up.
“Of course on paper you would think Marc [Marquez] is in a really good spot. I would certainly much rather be in his spot than Jorge’s [Lorenzo]. Actually, I’d much rather be in either one of their spots. But…
“He’s a smart rider [Marquez]. They say rookie but as we’ve seen he’s got World Championships, lot of wins, he’s not exactly your typical rookie. So you would think without too much problems, he can get it done. But we’ll never know until the flag flies Sunday.”
These championship showdowns at the final year are what racing’s all about. And with reports of a sold-out crowd for Sunday, the hype has energized the atmosphere in the paddock. Especially since it’s been since 2006 that MotoGP fans have seen the title decided here at the final round at Valencia.
What was Hayden’s thoughts on these down-to-the-wire title deciders?
“You know I think every title should come down to the last race,” he said. “I mean, I’ve won a couple of other titles and always the ones that went to the last race just mean more, you remember them better. It’s nice to win one anyway… three races to go, one, two whatever. But I think it’s always a little bit sweeter when you don’t know until the last lap. That’s what we’re going to have on Sunday.”