Rumors From Mugello: Hayden On Record Pace Testing WSBK Panigale, World Supers Beckon?

Though Ducati have told Nicky Hayden that there is no room for him in their factory MotoGP team, it is no secret that they would like to keep him within the Ducati family. The American retains a huge following in his native country (according to Google Trends, he is the second most searched MotoGP rider, after Valentino Rossi, though Marc Marquez is hot on his heels) and is a favorite with sponsors thanks to his willingness to help the people who help pay his salary. Hayden has been a great ambassador for Ducati in the US during his four and a half year tenure at the Italian factory.

So Ducati are doing all they can to persuade Hayden to move to World Superbikes, and take on the challenge of racing the 1199 Panigale R. To that end, Hayden rode the World Superbike-spec version of the bike at Mugello last week, to assess what he was getting into before making a decision. Hayden was fast: according to reliable reports from the UK site, Hayden was quickly under the unofficial WSBK lap record at the track, posting a time of 1'51.2, faster than Troy Bayliss went at the iconic Italian circuit when he rode the Panigale there earlier this year, according to

Though Hayden was immediately fast, his biggest shock was adapting to the soft and squishy Pirelli WSBK tires. According to, Hayden's initial reaction when coming back into the pits for the first time was to jump off and squeeze the front tire, to see if it was really as soft as it felt. His test was brought to a premature end when he suffered a relatively minor crash. Reports say that the bike was damaged too badly to be repaired at the track. That phrase is usually something of a euphemism: in this case, it means the bike caught fire and burned itself to a crisp.

Hayden is known to be seriously considering the option to remain with Ducati in WSBK, but he is wary of the task he faces there. On the one hand, Hayden told reporters before the summer break, the notion of trying to become the first rider to win both the MotoGP and World Superbike championships was very appealing. On the other hand, his main objective was to be on as competitive a bike as possible. Hayden was cautious of taking on the Panigale, saying that at this stage in career, trying to develop a bike into a winning machine was not the challenge he was after.

Given Hayden's speed on the Panigale, a switch to WSBK could well be one of his best options, as well as his most lucrative. Attempts by American Honda to put the 2006 World Champion on a production racer at LCR Honda have stalled, as so far only half the budget has been found. At Silverstone, rumors emerged that CAME, the Italian manufacturer of security gates and other equipment, were considering backing Hayden at LCR, but recent reports on suggest that CAME are also giving serious consideration to remaining with the IODA Racing team. Remaining with IODA is an attractive option, as the team has scored excellent results with Johann Zarco in Moto2, and with Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding moving up to MotoGP next year, Zarco will be one of the favorites for the title next year.

Hayden is also one of the riders tipped to take one of the two FTR-outfitted Yamaha M1s being leased to the NGM Forward team, which will be using the Dorna software for 2014. While having a Yamaha M1 (or most of one, the lease package includes the engines, swingarm and chassis, with fuel tank and bodywork being built by FTR) underneath him could be Hayden's best chance of being competitive, the question of how good the bike will be with the spec software is still an unknown. The difference in performance levels between the spec software and Yamaha's proprietary software is likely to be significant, which will have an impact on how good the bike will be.

Hayden is also believed to be on the radar of Aprilia, who will be supplying a totally revamped version of the ART bike to Aspar next year. Again, Hayden's combination of competitiveness and marketability is the driving force behind Aprilia's interest: Hayden would be used to market not just Aprilia, but the entire range of Piaggio brands in the US, including Moto Guzzi. The bike itself is expected to be a major improvement, with a new engine, pneumatic valves, a new chassis and perhaps even a seamless gearbox.

The NGM Forward team have told reporters they expect to make an announcement this week. Hayden, on the other hand, told reporters at Silverstone that he did not expect to be making a decision in the short term, though he did say he expected it to be announced before the flyaway races in October. 

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Those customer spec GP bikes won't make the podium let alone win anything. Being the 1st rider to win a MotoGP and WSBK title will mean much more (and pay more) than riding around hoping to crack the top 10 on a customer GP bike.

If I was Hayden I'd give The M1 customer package a go. Yes it has spec software but the 24 litre fuel allowance should help a lot on that regard, not having to run the bike so lean will make mapping far easier, plus they get more engines and pneumatic valves. The Marelli hardware is still top notch, if they can come up with a reasonable baseline setting that ought to be a very quick bike.

I can't argue with RDawg. Nicky has been on the least-competitive factory bike for five years, but moving to a non-MSMA team next year would be an even bigger step backwards. Nicky doesn't have much time left, and finishing his days as a WSBK contender - even on a less-than-perfect Panigale - would be much better for him, his fans, his chosen manufacturer and for the sport than fading out in racing irrelevance.

As others have mentioned a non factory motogp bike will not be compeditive next year because of the spec ECU. I think that any compeditive ride in WSKB would be his best bet.

After watching Nick closely his whole career, I can say with certainty that Nick is a completely different rider when he his dicing for a win than he is when dicing for 7th place. He seems to find an extra few 10ths and he is much more agressive when the podium or a win is in sight. His style also seems more suited to a bike with more flex in it such as a superbike.

I for one want to see that version of Nicky ride again!

Getting Nicky in SBK would be huge. Finally, an American to root for in a class known for excellent racing. Just like when Ben was there. Speaking of Ben, I wish he would go back there too. Now, if we can only get Fox Sports 1 to carry the races. Ya Boyyyyyyyyyyy!

I would love to see Hayden ride in the Superbike World Championship, but if I were him I would not be so keen on Ducati. Not just because of the problems so far with the Panigale, but because the bitter taste he must have by now (but who knows, I may be wrong there).
I would love to see him have a serious shot at the title on the Aprilia RSV4. I'm pretty sure he can have that seat if he wants to.

On the other hand, who knows what Aprilia will come up with in MotoGP with that heavily modified new generation of their ART machine... Very interesting at least, but of course it will be a bike under development again (especially with the stupid spec ECU/spec software rules coming into disturbing play). Developing another bike does not seem to be Hayden's target. But that also means all his options in MotoGP are not good enough, because only the full factory Hondas and Yamahas will be guaranteed winners.

Still, I think he will enjoy and push himself a lot more on a bike that may miss some horsepower, but handles really well, than on his current Ducati.

Just a thought: what about 2006..? That RC211V he was riding was a project bike (different engine and chassis) that none of the other Honda riders wanted during pre-season testing, including Pedrosa. Hayden was appointed that task and the factory changed that bike many, many times during the season. In spite of all the extra work he scored consistent podium finished and took the title. It was a class act in my opinion.

Great anyway that he has plenty of interesting options for 2014. He may be having a lot more fun next year!

Any way you cut it, Nicky is going to have to develop a bike whether it be championship-caliber or from scratch. None of the bikes that he is rumored to be interested in are competitive. If I were Nicky, I'd stick w/ Ducati compete for the WSBK championship as well as a get a fat check. If he's not careful, he might be out of a ride or worse a ride in AMA...

They seem to be pretty competitive in WSBK, sitting at 2, 4, 8 and 10 in the championship standings. 4 Bikes in the top 10 is a pretty good statistic to lure someone that wants to win.

I think Hayden is waiting to see what LCR can do before signing with Ducati! This is his future he is deciding here after all and a lot more money can come from Ducati or Honda after he stops racing! Hayden can still market his brand and a bike manufacture off the track. There's no future with NGM or Yamaha for him. Hayden more or less said that he doesn't want to be like Edwards... riding around mid/last pack for points. An Aprilia deal would be too risky for Hayden.

Hadn't thought about how his earning potential AFTER his ride ends might affect who he chooses to ride with, but I think that's a very valid point.

For selfish reasons I'd like to see him stay in MotoGP because he's a likeable personality and we can access MotoGP races online but can't easily watch WSBK here in Canada.

if he's saying he doesn't want to spend his twilight years developing and unproven bike well... might as well cross of any non MSMA ride, Aprilia, and the Penigale. I hope you're right, and it makes sense, why else hold out longer? More seats will fill up! He must be waiting for American Honda

So since I don't follow WSBK very closely . . . just how fast is that lap time exactly? I did a quick Google search to see what kind of lap times WSBK run at Mugello but came up shy as it appears they don't actually race at Mugello. So any further explanation, or a better perspective of what that lap time means would be greatly appreciated! I mean on the surface of it, it sounds like Nicky immediately made the bike MORE than competitive. But with nothing to compare the numbers to it hard to tell. Any perspective on this David? Thanks

Nicky lapping as fast or slightly faster than Bayliss at Mugello doesn't really say much as Mugello is not on the WSBK calendar.

A more reliable evaluation of Nick's abilities on the current iteration of the Panigale would be on a WSBK track, preferably one that Ducati doesn't test on all the time, and maybe one that isn't a counterclockwise track (we all know Nick is more comfortable turning left).

Put him outside of his comfort zone on a track where Ducati hasn't tested day in day out for the last few of decades and see where he really stands against the rest of the WSBK paddock.

Wonder if Nicky is looking at WSBK from not a Ducati perspective but from Honda. Isn't Honda coming out with a new bike for next year? I think it may actually come out 2015 since Rea kinda wants to leave due to under performing machinery. Anyway, as of right now I would think riding in WSBK for a factory team is just as good as riding for a Honda in Motogp except with the Ducati he will be more competitive ( Carlos was on pole in PI ) than on a satellite Honda. Who doesn't want to be a motogp rider. Plus the chance of being the FIRST rider to win both championships should be enticing.
I dunno

Previously on WSBK.........
You won the WSBK title & moved on to MotoGP glory (or not as realitity hit home)

More recently.....
You move on from MotoGP, to take the WSBK crown!

There are worse rides available to Nicky, if he doesn't choose the Panigale option.

Just a few random thoughts drawn together for your amusement!

Kind regards,

Hayden should move to WSBK where competitive equipment is more readily available. Actually, Spies and Hopkins should go with him, and we can watch an epic Trans-Atlantic showdown in WSBK.

Let the Spaniards and Italians swat at one another with handbags in fuel-limited MotoGP.

well, as much as i would like to see nicky on a more complete bike in motogp, i think it would be kool to see him go to WSBK. i think racing in that series would be more fun for hayden, and the ducati offer seems pretty solid with the cash probably being provided , lets face it, money is a factor an why not go for the cash an have a go at the title in WSBK and eat some moonlight BBQ while we are at it.

is in a transition period with the implementation of the new rules and may very well turn into a soup du jour, with the latest and greatest winning for a while. Let it settle for a couple of years. He has a few more years in GP if he wants, really sounds like he does and still win in wsbk ala Max and Carlos. Move on from the last five years and not look back!
LCR and Aprilia may be able to pay a living salary :) and offer a future in wsbk and beyond his international riding days. Ever wonder about an Italian v-twin on the dirt? He most likely has to give Honda time to find money or not, so as to not burn bridges there or to just leverage another opportunity. I would think Aprilia would be most interesting as he would be team leader on a storied brand who does want to move up to compete at the highest level, while doing it logically. They have the people and desire. The announced new weapon with more fuel may just be a sharp instrument! They know how to make a bike handle now and with some more oomph, top of the second group is a real target. His recent posting of a training map centered around Aprilia's hometown might just be a clue.

Just my thoughts. Enjoy this sight and the insightful discussions so much, especially David's!

I think Nicky Hayden's tenure in MotoGP has been done in by Ducati. If you look at his time in the team it is very obvious that with the exception of Stoner, Hayden was always there are there about his other teammates including Valentino Rossi and now Andrea Dovizioso. In fact, Dovizioso walked into the team with utterances that seemed as if Ducati had given him the lead role in the team and that it was upto him to develop the bike. In the season so far we did not see any such thing happening and Dovizioso is struggling as much as Hayden. Five years at Ducati seem to have meant that curtains are being drawn on his MotoGP career, and all because he has been the consummate gentleman.

For this reason I believe that Hayden should not go to the Ducati Superbike team. It is secondary whether the Panigale will perform or not. He will be going to the WSBK series at a time it is being dumbed down and that means that even if wins there it will not be considered a great thing. He has still things to prove in MotoGP and that is where he should be. When someone like Valentino Rossi who has nothing to prove still hangs around MotoGP I see no reason why Nicky Hayden should be forced out. Just my thoughts.

It could be Nick's best and last chance to get on a factory GP bike. Not next year, but quite possibly in 2015 if Aprilia becomes a "factory option" entry. And the new ART bike sounds quite interesting.

Salary is always a factor, but it sounds like it's not the most important one. Nick apparently has done pretty well financially and I think he feels like he's still got something to prove in MotoGP. And, finally, as someone already mentioned, most of his options that have been reported involve significant development. Not sure he'll have much choice in that matter.

All that said, I wouldn't be disappointed to see him on a competitive WSBK, either.

I still remember Nicky saying "Better him than Casey" referring to Rossi joining Ducati just as the 2011 new year ticked over. It's plain to see how that worked out for him.

I would like to see him compete at the top end again, and that's only a WSBK gig away from being a reality more than likely. His MotoGP days are done and dusted, unless he likes battling with Colin Edwards for 15th.

Good luck to him.

Normally I hate Kickstarter campaigns, but I would totally donate if American Honda started one to keep Nicky on a competitive bike! Why haven't they thought of this yet!?

Hayden hasn't been the Number-1 Rider for a team in a very long time since AMA. He wasn't even the #1 Rider after he won the MotoGP title with Repsol. Sad... but true. Hayden is looking at his situation from a rider's stand-point first and foremost. But the Factories: Ducati/Honda/Aprilia view Hayden as a major production-bike/accessories seller. Does Hayden even have any developmental skills to help make the 1199 or p-racer more competitive? What if Hayden took Laverty's ride in WSB? Then went back to MotoGP after Aprilia enters MPG as a Factory Team!? This is Hayden's time to be like Rossi... having the factory build a bike around his style... moving mountains for him to win then sell even more bikes, some with his logo/name on them too. Dorna/Carmelo may be throwing money at Hayden too for WSB. The media attention that Hayden will bring to the series will be tremendous for WSB (international/US markets) and Ducati even if the 1199 doesn't become a regular winner. Nicky will be paid well, very well... this is his time to be a true SuperStar Celebrity Racer like Rossi-the Legend or just be a mid-pack racer on non-winning machinery in MotoGP. Seems to be a No-Brainer decision to me...

There has been speculation that Dorna prefers him to stay in MotoGP because of his popularity, which crosses many borders. I believe that David even reported rumors that Dorna was willing to help with some kind of package for Nick in the premier class. Now, I'm sure they'd be reasonably happy to have him in WSBK, but that might just be a consolation prize.

I agree that finally having a top-level WSBK effort behind him would be a very good ride. But, as I've mentioned, I'm not so sure that the new Aprilia ART bike isn't his best option for 2014, which, with a good showing, would give him an inside line on the factory ride should there be one in 2015. A factory WBSK might be the second option.

And contrary to popular opinion, the Forward M1 and the production Honda might be the third and fourth options, respectively. Why? Because Yamaha and Honda will never let those customer bikes get too competitive, at least until the "factory option" bikes die in 2017. Aprilia, on the other hand, seem to have read the tea leaves right; they'll be positioned perfectly in the next couple of years if they stay in the game. And they have no incentive to dumb down the ART bike. Quite the contrary, if the reports of the new bike with all the latest tech are true.

By 2015, the Aprilia could be a real contender.

I hate to imagine what would happen if Hayden was any more aggressive than on that corner at Indy! :)

I think both he and Dovi are trying at the absolute limit of that Ducati GP machine - the point being it is the bike, and the fuel limits which produce processional racing, rather than Nicky's lack of effort I feel.

Definitely think he could do well in WSB though, and the series could possibly benefit with a 'big name' coming into the sport now that Biagga has gone and rumours of Melandri leaving.

Does he stay in MotoGP, where the (larger amount of) money is, hoping that whatever bike he's on nets him a few top 10s? Or does he head to WSBK where he will have a much better chance of winning races and possibly the championship?

He's had 11 years in MotoGP on Factory machinery, making Factory money + the endorsements. If it were me, as much as I love MotoGP, I'd want to get back to winning. And odds are he won't win a race on a non-MSMA bike while there are still full prototypes out there.