INDIANAPOLIS, IN, SEPT 15: Nicky Hayden is going to Ducati.
The Italian marque made it official with an announcement that came just after Honda bid Hayden a fond farewell.
Hayden will join 2007 World Champion Casey Stoner on the Ducati Marlboro team for 2009. The length of the contract wasn't specified in the press release.
The question now is how Hayden will take to the Desmosedici GP08 which has been described as the best bike in the paddock and the worst bike in the paddock.
Stoner, despite having an off year, has won four GP's this season. But teammate Marco Melandri has been a huge disappointment with a best finish of fifth in the Chinese Grand Prix. The Alice Team riders have been a mixed bag. Sylvain Guintoli hasn't shown much, but Toni Elias has two podiums in his last three races. Elias is expected to move back to the Gresini Honda team in 2009.
What should be encouraging for Hayden is that he shares a dirt track background with Stoner. Both ride aggressively and don't mind a motorcycle that moves around under them. Hayden prefers it, which is why he pushed for the pneumatic-valve engined RC212V this year. That bike, which he began riding at Donington Park, has a much harsher power delivery than the more docile conventional valve engine preferred by his teammate Dani Pedrosa. But even Pedrosa recently came around. The Indy GP marked his debut on the machine with the pneumatic valve engine.
The Ducati press release follows:
NICKY HAYDEN TO JOIN CASEY STONER AT DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM
Ducati Corse hereby announces that Nicky Hayden will join its factory MotoGP team for 2009. The 27-year-old from Owensboro, Kentucky, will line up alongside Casey Stoner and will make his debut on the Desmosedici GP9 on the 27th October in a test immediately following the Valencia Grand Prix.
Hayden arrives at Ducati after six years in MotoGP with Honda, the highlight coming in 2006 when he was crowned World Champion. His aggressive riding style and amenable character have made him an extremely popular rider - both on the track and off it.
"We are really happy to have Nicky join us," declared Claudio Domenicali, Ducati Corse CEO and Ducati Motor Holding Product Director. "We are certain that his never-say-die attitude, riding style and character will be great additions to our team in 2009. I would like to thank HRC for allowing Nicky to start testing our bike immediately after the Valencia Grand Prix. I would also like to thank Marco Melandri for his professionalism during a difficult year, which was below all our expectations. Unfortunately his feeling with the Desmosedici was never good enough to allow him to ride as well as he can. We wish him all the best for the future."