Photography by Gold & Goose
Today MotoGP fans witnessed a fantastic final race of the 2013 season at Valencia that opened a new chapter of the series – the Marc Marquez era. But while that chapter opened, for Nicky Hayden, a chapter closed – the Ducati years. If you had to come up with a one-word description of his five years with the Italian manufacturer it would be… rough.
In the spirit of keeping things brief, Hayden had a summary for his last race for Ducati.
“I would say pretty average like a lot of them,” Hayden said.
Clutch problems for the second race weekend in a row meant that once again he didn’t get to a good start.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great start again,” said Hayden. “I don’t know why the clutch is acting different in the race than in the practices. We don’t know why. If it’s cause it’s hotter in the sessions… but in the race I got a bad start. At least this week I was able to make up a couple of positions in turn one.”
Hayden was able to pass the other Ducatis, but he had a moment trying to catch up to Bradley Smith coming out of the last corner that had him hitting his windscreen and busting it. From there, it was just a lonely race to eight place.
Now that his time at Ducati has come to an end and his time at Aspar begins with tomorrow’s test, did he have some bittersweet feelings leaving the team he’s worked with for five years?
“Yeah, for sure,” Hayden said. “I mean we know in this paddock your team becomes like your family because you see them more than your family. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve worked with a really great group of guys that I will definitely miss. That’ll be tough - well not really tough - I mean, we know it happens. But for sure I had a great group. I definitely had some good memories and some good friends there.”
Of those good memories Hayden singled out his first podium for the team during his first year with Ducati at Indy.
“I’d say the first podium I did at Indy, 2009, was pretty special because when I started on Ducati I struggled so much,” Hayden reminisced. “Filippo [Preziosi] helped me a lot. We worked really hard. If you would have told me after the first two races I was able to do a podium that year, I wouldn’t have believed it. But with a lot of hard work we were able to be competitive and then get on the podium there at home. I would say was my best days. So unfortunately there wasn’t enough of those along the way and Ducati wanted to go a different way. I’m not retiring either. So once I leave here they’ll be the enemy and I look forward to seeing them around.”
Hayden was also asked about his take on the Valentino Rossi-Jeremy Burgess split up that was the big topic over the weekend.
“It’s a shame because breakups… they never really end well,” said Hayden. “It’s unfortunate how maybe it probably didn’t go as smooth as everybody hoped. I mean JB’s [Jeremy Burgess] won a lot in this championship. But Valentino [Rossi], he’s the rider. If he believes it’s the right move, he’s got to do what he thinks right to help him. It’s unfortunate they couldn’t go on forever.
“Also I know a bit because me and Juan only did five years together, but even that’s going to be strange tomorrow going separate ways.”
What was Hayden’s thoughts on the big showdown for the title between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo?
“I’m not sure what to say… I mean rookie [Marquez] winning. He’s done an amazing job,” he said. “Even Jorge [Lorenzo]… to say he lost it, he put up a really big fight.
“Marc is really strong at the moment. I think he’s great for the championship. He’s a winner that smiles and he is really fast. He’s good for MotoGP. The whole weekend I think was. Two titles, one of them going down to the last corner. It was great to see Valencia sold out again. And feel the energy, feel the vibe.
“For me my last ride on Ducati was a little bit emotional. Just because five years with this team, you grow really close to these guys. And we didn’t have the results we always had hoped for. We wish we could have accomplished more, but we marched on like good soldiers and did the best job we could and I’m going to miss working with those guys. We’ll look forward to tomorrow.”