INDIANAPOLIS, IN, SEPT 11: Nicky Hayden finally admitted what everyone has known for months; he’s leaving the Repsol Honda team for Marlboro Ducati.
The admission came during Thursday's pre-race press conference for the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Asked about his future, he first joked, “I mean it’s looking like World Superbike with Aprilia.” When the laughter subsided, he turned serious.
“No, I mean it’s no secret,” Hayden, who arrived for the press conference on crutches, his broken right heel still not healed, said. “Everybody knows where my next stop’s going to be, but officially we’re waiting on doing it the right way until the releases come out, because there’s teams and stuff. So, I’m looking forward to it.”
The announcement could come this weekend or possibly during Ducati North America's dealer show in Indianapolis on the Tuesday following the race. Hayden will replace the underperforming Marco Melandri as Casey Stoner's teammate.
"I mean, I know it’s going to be a big change for me and hopefully” an announcement will be coming soon," he said. “But still there’s five races to go this season. that’s a lot of racing.
“I’ve had a long history at Honda. Sure, things here lately have kind of went, kind of turned ugly just with everything going on, all the drama. But still, we’ve had a lot of good races, won championships in the AMA. And obviously the (2006) World Championship was the big one. And you know, sure, every day wasn’t just a big holiday. But we had some good days and I’m really grateful for the opportunity they gave me, but I think it’s time to move on, try something different. But we’ll worry about that later and for now just focus on this weekend and trying to go out on a good way together.”
That could be difficult. Hayden isn't at close to full strength after breaking his heel at the X-Games six weeks ago. He tried to ride in the San Marino Grand Prix two weeks ago, but withdrew from the race on Sunday morning. Because the 2.621-mile, 16-turn IMS layout is predmoninantly left-handed, he thought that would give him some relief.
Hayden also denied that he’d leave the team before the end of the season.
“I don’t have any intention not to do the rest of the season,” he said. “That seems crazy.” He then added, “No, I fully plan on doing the whole season. Unless they lock the door over there on me, I plan on going in there and getting on the bike. It could happen. Honestly, there’s probably people in that box that if I didn’t show up probably would never notice, but I plan on going.”