Nicky Hayden Switches To WSBK In 2016 - Joins Honda Hoping For Another Title

So at last it's official. "This will be my last year in MotoGP. I will be moving to World Superbikes next year with Honda and the Ten Kate team," Nicky Hayden told the press conference at Motegi. The move had been long expected, as Hayden's options of a competitive ride had petered out. "These last two years haven't been so good, I haven't been able to get the results on an Open Honda to really keep a high level bike in MotoGP," he acknowledged.

That had prompted his decision to finally move to World Superbikes. "I've always thought World Superbikes might be something I'd like to try, I've always liked the racing there," Hayden said. "The opportunity just felt like it would be a good fit. Obviously I'm getting a bit older, but I still enjoy the sport and the game, and thought it would be a fresh challenge and a new opportunity, to go there and try to have a bit more fun. Of course I'll miss MotoGP. I had a great opportunity here. Was part of some great teams and worked with some great people. But nothing lasts forever, and that's life. Have to keep moving. Go to Superbike with Honda and hopefully have some fun."

Hayden is to stay within the Honda family, and join the Ten Kate squad in World Superbikes. He will be with the team for two years, the first year on the aging Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, the second on a rumored updated version of the bike. According to the Dutch magazine MOTO73, that bike will be based on the current SP version, but with an improved engine with an extra 10 to 15 horsepower. Given the results with the underpowered existing bike, 15 more horsepower should transform the Fireblade into a much more competitive package. Rumors also about of a new bike to replace the Fireblade based on Honda's V4 powerplant. But given that such rumors have been doing the rounds since the turn of the century, they should perhaps be regarded with a pinch of salt.

Honda was not Hayden's only option. While we had always expected the move to World Superbikes, Hayden had long been linked with Aprilia, the idea of being on a competitive bike an appealing prospect for both Hayden and Dorna, who are keen to have a fast American in the series to help boost its international profile. But a future at Aprilia was uncertain, the factory having recently announced they would not be fielding a factory team in WSBK, as the MotoGP project was using up more resources than they had planned. After a long courtship, Hayden rejected the deal and decided to stay with Honda instead, continuing his relationship with the manufacturer which has existed for most of his career, interrupted by a five-year stint at Ducati.

Ducati was his first option to head to World Superbikes. After it was announced that Cal Crutchlow would be taking his place in the Factory Ducati team in MotoGP, Hayden was given the offer of a factory ride with the Italian manufacturer in World Superbikes. Hayden rejected that move at the time, as he was in talks with Aspar, who were due to run Open class Aprilias with factory backing for 2014. When that deal fell through, in part with as a result of the departure of Gigi Dall'Igna to Ducati, Hayden found himself on board the Honda RCV1000R. Despite being teased by Honda as being just a few tenths of a second off the pace of the factory bike, the Open class Honda proved to be woefully underpowered. The uprated version for 2015 has been only a little better, having plenty of horsepower, but lacking the factory electronics and seamless gearbox to put that power on the tarmac.

Hayden will get his first taste of the WSBK Honda at a test in November. He faces plenty of challenges: he must adapt to the much softer Pirelli tires used in WSBK, and to a heavier, much softer bike. Hayden still has issues with the wrist he damaged in 2011, though the surgery to remove the row of bones in his right hand has made a huge difference there. The combination of less stiff Pirellis and a more pliant chassis may make it a little easier on his right wrist for the next few years.

Hayden's departure from MotoGP leaves the series without an American rider for the first time in 40 years. He leaves big boots to fill, as Hayden has always had a huge following, and more significantly, he is the last American rider to win a MotoGP title. The MotoAmerica series is still in the early stages of rebuilding after years of decline in the hands of DMG, but there are hopeful signs that it can produce new talent. Cameron Beaubier, Joe Roberts, Jake Gagne, JD Beach and Hayden Gillim have all been touted as future world championship contenders, but none of them have yet made the jump across the ocean. Ironically, the US' best chance of a championship could come in the shape of the man likely to be Hayden's teammate at Ten Kate. PJ Jacobsen is reported to be close to a deal with Ten Kate for 2016 to race in the World Supersport championship. The American will finish as runner up to champion Kenan Sofuoglu this year, and along with Jules Cluzel, was the only rider to take the fight to the Turkish multiple champion. With increased support from Honda next season - either as part of Ten Kate, or with Ten Kate backing inside the CORE Motorsports team - Jacobsen has a good shot at a title.

The challenge for Hayden is greater, especially given that the 2016 Honda CBR1000RR will still be lacking performance. But his goal will remain the same, to become the first rider to win both a MotoGP title and a World Superbike title. Max Biaggi and John Kocinski both won WSBK titles after becoming champions on a 250, but nobody has won titles in the premier classes of both series.

Back to top


Thank goodness he's got a ride. He's a real gritty guy and easy to cheer for. Hope it goes really well for him in WSBK. I think he'll prove to be an asset to that series.

well lets wait and see, lets hope he brings some good engineneers with him. he deserves a good 2016 and beyond.

the 2 years wasn't that good' and the wrist problem keeps him still worried.

i wil hold my fingers crossed .. after rea, haslam and guintoli .....

... too bad the Honda's a dog. And even if they get a new one for 2017, it'll probably take most of that season to squeeze the last few tenths out of it to make it a winner.

Then what?

It's been on the podium 4 times this year and won the IOM Senior TT. I guess it must be a pure blood pedigreed hound then...

... but Mr. Rea went from 4 wins last year to 14 so far this year & a Championship!

If it barks...

A wsbk spec machine is a vastly different bike than a RR spec bike which is used on the IOM and are not comparable even though they are based on the same roadbike.

... the 08 fireblade when it came out was instantly competitive.

Assuming Honda will take quite some time to get up to speed, when the fireblade was competitive pretty much straight away from the 03 model onwards (whilst still new) is a bit of a reach.

The current bike is still way more competitive than any 7-8 year old design deserves to be, the fact that it is running anywhere near the front at all for the past 5 years is pretty amazing.

Maybe he can pull the old RC51 out of the shed. I think it just as fast as the current bike. And much cooler.

He should have done that two years ago. I suspect he's missed his chance to become the first double WC in MotoGP and WSBK. He's certainly been wasting his time poodling around on the Teaser 1000.
It seems like Honda have been promising this CBR update for a couple of decades, so good luck for 2017.

I'd love to see the RC and 998 have another go, vintage Edwards vs. Bayliss, but the current bike is not that horrible. 4 podiums and a win at the Senior TT it can't be all that bad.

Not happy to see it on the Honda.

Promising a new bike in '17 - it seems like the news that a new bike is a year or 2 out is what they've been saying for a while now - the current bike was last given a full update in '08.

Without even see how he does at the test in November, I'm thinking he will have a season similar to Guintoli's '15, but would love it if he can keep up with VdM.

Nicky shows a hell of a lot more loyalty to Honda than they do to him, at least outside the US.

Good thing is Nicky is only 34 at this point and he'll have some time in WSBK to get on a good ride. Biaggi started with Suzuki then went to Ducati (if I remember correctly) before he got to Aprilia and a championship, and that was at 39 years old in 2010. So Nicky has some time. he can get used to the WSBK tires etc. over the next two years then go to a competitive bike thereafter.

Honda gave him 6 years in the factory Repsol team with only 3 wins to show for it.

That's way more loyalty than they've shown any other factory HRC rider in the history of the MotoGP class.

Sure, they focused on Pedrosa for the 2007 season onwards, but that's because Dani was competitive straight away in his rookie season; Nicky had already been with the team for 4, going on 5 seasons at that point without getting the results that factory Honda expect.

If anyone has any right to complain about getting shafted by HRC in recent history, it is Andrea Dovizzioso.

That said, I wish him all the best in WSBK. Maybe the superbikes will suit his riding style better.

"That's way more loyalty than they've shown any other factory HRC rider in the history of the MotoGP class."

Except for Pedrosa, who, granted has more wins but has never seriously challenged for a championship in almost 10 years. Frequently hurt and only fights once or twice a year. They gave Nicky a test bike in 2006 with a dodgy clutch to help develop the 800 in the year he won the championship. Nicky won 2006 despite that Honda, not because of it. His reward for a championship was getting to ride a bike made expressly for his tiny teammate.

Meanwhile Pedrosa watches 3 of his teammates come into the team and win championships.

When Rossi left Honda for Yamaha Burgess wanted to stay with Honda and work with Nicky. Honda didn't want that. They wanted Barros or someone like that.

So do I understand Nicky's loyalty to Honda? Nope. They haven't shown any in return.

Pedrosa was a serious contender in 2012, one of the chief reason his challenge died was due to mechanical issue on the starting grid when he qualified on pole, was expected to win, had to start from the back and got taken out.

Dani doesn't just have "more wins"...

He had 30% of Nicky's total number of wins within his first 3 races...

Dani beat Nicky on the same bike in his very first race.

There's a reason Dani has a HRC ride, and was declared #1 rider in short order once he joined the team and it's not because Nicky was shafted.


What's long been rumored has now come. I could voice the same concern for the woefully outmatched Fireblade but it's been covered. Let me just say maybe Honda realizes that Yamaha's return next season will result in their pants being pulled down and throw some extra weight behind Ten Kate's effort. If this year's any indication, the R1 is gonna be a good one.

Also, remember what David said in an article some time ago about overcoming long odds. Marquez winning on a Suter when Kalex was thought to be the cats' pajamas (?). Wish I could find the article again, was a cracker! There were a few other he listed which I can't quite recall but you get the drift. Maybe Nicky will mesh with the Honda & he'll come out and surprise everyone.

PJ Jacobsen in WSS wasn't the news I wanted about my fellow countryman. Was hoping for a Moto2 gig after his weekend at the Indy GP. Maybe his only offers were something Caterham-like and it scared him off. Good decision if so. He's proven that he's gonna be fast no matter the machine.

Re: MotoAmerica
A few weeks ago, when rumors swirled of Nicky's chances of signing with Aprilia, Honda in WSBK I also caught sight of mentions of him coming home & racing MotoA. At first I dismissed these as preposterous.... then I got to thinking You wanna talk about an announcement of tidal wave proportions....that would've been it. Now bear with me:

A) American riders need to be vetted, but Europe doesn't care to take the chance. What better way than to line up against a former world champ, only 1 season removed from MotoGP?
B) MotoAmerica, IMO, has an exposure problem. As it stands now, there's no concrete TV deal for 2016. (in fact, AMA Supermoto has a TV for 2016). How'd you like to be the MotoA guy walking into TV negotiations with that atom bomb up your sleeve? "Yes sir, we've got Nicky Hayden racing with us this year". You'd solve the TV and spectators in the stands problem in short order I suspect.

Many other thoughts on MotoAmerica but I've gone and been too verbose again.

If MotoAmerica is serious about rebuilding motorcycle sports in the US and, ultimately managing to create talent for the European-centric World stage then the very first thing they must do is ensure regular and good quality television coverage - even if that means filming it themselves.

Few WSBK or MotoGP teams will take a chance on a rider, however good he appears on paper to be, if there is no public forum in which they can show their skill. Without creating public excitement in the series, I doubt it will grow sufficiently to become a feeder series for international motorcycle racing.

If they are struggling to get a TV company to commit, I would strongly suggest they turn to (free) online race coverage. This could build a following and get people talking. This in turn can and will filter through to the consciousness of team owners outside of the US.

... the power bump actually is. If Ten Kate can achieve an actual 15hp bump, Nicky could have a shot of being competitive at some tracks. I think an updated ZX-10, new R1 and dialed-in 1199 could be too much for him to overcome though. I hope Honda fully grasp how important an opportunity having Hayden move to WSB is for them.

American coverage is via BeIn Sports - which I've never caught as its beyond my current cable package. Going to have to look for options.

For me, it was $20/month to add the package w/ BeIN Sports on DiSH.

They do show the races in their entirety and commercial free, with SSP in between, plus airing superpole on Saturday as well. But a WSBK Season Pass is only 69.90 Euros ($78.97 USD) so I went with that.

I don't the quality of the feed (video) is as good as MotoGP's feeds, but maybe things will improve next season since they seemed to throw this year's season pas together very quick once Dorna became the owners.

That's weird. I get BeInSport on DirecTV and haven't had sight or sound of the WorldSS races all this year. Do they run a different programming for the Dish? On DirecTV they generally show WSBK an hour or two after the race, altho' Magny Cours was broadcast about 16 hours later.
Any excuse to dump Rupert's wrinkled old ass is a good one - I'll check out the Dish - or take the direct feed from World SBK next year

Let me clear up a few things about Bein coverage

I purchased the sports upgrade from Dish at the beginning of the season but cancelled yesterday. The reason being, starting with Jerez they quit broadcasting live. The last 2 races have been shown on a delayed basis.

Superpole has never been shown consistently. Some weekends it's broadcasted, others it's not.

Also, they've only shown WSS 2 times this year, Phillip Island & Assen (IIRC).

. . . . . either up my cable package to include BeIn Sports, or just start picking up the direct feed from World Superbike. Been following Nicky since the late 90's, and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss his races now.

I'm just a little disappointed he went to the Honda. He was offered a ride on the Aprilia, and it's way more competitive than the fireblade. Honda promised Jonny Rea how many times that a new blade was on the way, and left him holding the bag. Screw Honda!

maybe read the article: Aprilia are not going to be a factory effort, but Honda is committed and likely fielding an all new bike in 2017.

Presumably, Hayden will have input onto what goes into that 2017 bike, from his time spent with the team in 2016.

The Aprilia was a dead end, the Honda was not.

"but Honda is committed and likely fielding an all new bike in 2017."

Um, no. The article states:

" the first year on the aging Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, the second on a rumored updated version of the bike. According to the Dutch magazine MOTO73, that bike will be based on the current SP version, but with an improved engine with an extra 10 to 15 horsepower."

So an engine update for the current bike in 2017. That doesn't equate to being committed. Honda hasn't fielded a factory effort since Colin Edwards in WSBK. It's been Ten Kate ever since. Which is a great team and they do more with the CBR than most anyone. Still can't put lipstick on a pig.

i bet he has a lot more fun! New tracks to run, new bike to learn. That should bring the smile back, and that's all that matters in year one. Year two, down to business

Looks like I'll now be a subscriber to both MotoGP and WSBK

As an American, it has pained me to see NH69 get offered crappier and crappier bikes to ride. I know he had a bad title defense season, but I don't get the impression that Honda supported him properly compared to their rush to get Pedrosa to the forefront. Nicky has been paying the price for it ever since. I don't really understand the loyalty to Honda and I worry about him riding a bike that WSBK vets couldn't win a championship with. I'm just tired of watching a former champion get held back by inferior equipment.

My big hope here is that Honda has big plans to step up their WSBK effort. AFAIK the R1 has been wiping the floor with everyone, everywhere it has raced, and I doubt that Honda wants to get their asses kicked in TWO world championships at once, by the same rival manufacturer. At the same time, changes in a racing program take a long time - the problems of the RC213v, as David has pointed out, have been a long time coming. I would love to know what Honda is doing behind the scenes in WSBK, where their results have been lackluster for years. Rea winning the WSBK crown on the Kawi, in his 1st season on the bike no less, after a number of seasons on a Honda, really is shining a painful light on how bad the Fireblade sucks and how long it has sucked.

Short version: Honda better step up their game and put Nicky on a real contender of a bike - then you'll see a real contender for the WSBK title!

.. I admire his loyalty, determination, etc. but he just isn't a tier 1 rider in MotoGP and his rides reflect that, and that's being generous.

If he didn't have a US passport, he'd have been replaced in MotoGP long ago I suspect.

Even his title winning season in 2006 he rarely took a win (only 2), Dani was competitive against him as a noob, and he was battling Rossi who was struggling with a very recalcitrant M1 that year. And Rossi almost still won it.

If Nicky was a Spaniard, he'd have lost his MotoGP ride a long time ago.

I mean, does anyone really believe he'd go toe to toe with Pedrosa, Lorenzo or Rossi on equal equipment? He HAS been on equal kit to Dani and Rossi in the past and other than Dani's rookie season in MotoGP was comprehensively beaten.

Top tier teams aren't looking for someone to run behind the 4 aliens. They're looking for the next alien. Even a mid-lower tier team is better off looking for a relatively unknown but talented rider from Moto2 or Moto3, even if it's a gamble.

Nicky had 6 years with a factory HRC ride (Repsol Honda 2003 - 2008) in order to prove his talent, and only 3 wins to show for it.

I say that as an un-biased (nationality wise regarding the above riders) Australian...

I'm stoked for Nick. He'll be with a good team and he'll have success with that old nail. He'd probably have more success with a Kawasaki or Aprilia, but he's still a pretty good rider and it won't take that long to learn the Pirelli's. He probably still gets paid well and he obviously likes being in a World Championship series. Besides, where else is there for him to go?

Honda has known since the 2004 cbr1000rr that they needed to go a better direction! Being a Honda-guy with 7 CBR1000RRs, i can say that the problem with the bike is the TOP-end only! The chassis is just fine... it's the engine department that needs work! 15 horsepower isn't going to be enough for the bike to be competitive for the public or for the race-teams to use as a platform! Honda needs to stop playing games already... take the bike from the shelf and give it to us already! Hayden needs the new bike in his first year not the 2nd year of his contract. Seems like he's set-up to FAIL already. Ten Kate will need time to develop the bike etc etc. Hayden is motivated and skilled but the bike is going to let him down in 2016! So in 2017 with a new bike he will have to relearn the CBR1000 whateva it is from scratch. I almost feel sorry for him if he wasn't still getting paid great money to Live the Dream! Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki, and maybe Aprilia are going to be at the sharp end while Honda... Suzuki will be playing catch-up still like the last 10+years. The New CBR needs the motor of the BMW, the electronics of the Yamaha and the chassis of the current cbr1000rr-SP straight from the Honda factory if Hayden wants to beat JR65 for the title. When/ if Hayden wins the WSBK title, i hope he goes back to the US and into the MotoAmerica series to challenge Josh hayes... the best rider not to leave the United States series!

...So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Nicky Hayden loves to race motorcycles. His choice was WSBK or retire. Easy decision for him. Aprilia was a possibility, and the Honda option looks better. His first year the expectations are moderate given the bike. He will have a good measuring stick with VanDer(bench)mark and that will be plenty a challenge for him. After he settles in to WSBK an all new (finally!) Honda CBR1000rr arrives and is likely to be an excellent machine. He can help develop it. And stay in the Honda family after his Italian stint, which makes for a beautiful retirement plan...he and Honda America are having a homecoming. Good plan!

Hayden does not get discouraged. He would work hard and stay focused regardless of what series he is in. I expect him to be invigorated and thriving as long as he is without injury that would preclude the toughest of racers from continuing. WSBK is a good series! I see him as a good Superbike rider. We also have that little matter of a really strong set of bikes and riders at the front, and I look forward to seeing what he, and the next gen Honda, can do.

Go get em 69!

Intrigued by your claim of an all new CBR1000RR finally arriving in 2017. From the article quoted above it seems to be more of an update to the existing machine than any kind of genuine new bike. Have you heard something else?

I hope I am wrong but nothing in Honda's history since the 1990s suggests to me they will put much effort in to WSBK racing or a class front running road machine.

It is a guess on my part that Honda has a new liter bike for 2017. 2016 has updated electronics and more grunt from the old 2008 bike. They haven't gone 10 years without a new CBR ever. Do you think they will put it off to 2018? I will betcha a beer they have a new one on the drafting board already, and that the electronics will be amazing. No insider info here, and I have been wrong a time or three.

Hey, so is Moto4 the 85cc 2 stroke/150cc 4 stroke class? I have something to run in it!

Motoshrink, that's the class I'm pushing for... and I would add it is for riders whom have retired (or never raced internationally, I can't decide.)

The reason I queried the new Honda was the reading of comments about Honda's 2017 contender (although I note it's not yet even 2016 and things may change) it reads like carefully worded responses that marketeers use to hide nothing new - ie/ based on the current SP but with maybe 15bhp more.

As for Honda never having gone a decade without renewing their bike, neither had they gone 9 year till 2016 or 8 till 2015 or 7 till 2014 or 6 till 2013 or... oh, you get the idea!

I hope a new V4 is coming personally. Honda badly needs an exciting and memorable bike rather than their usual motorcycles as white goods fare they have released in the last few years.

I think Hayden will do fine, I've always had the impression that he would do well on a superbike.
I am glad that he made the move to wsbk and did not consider moto america.
Let's be honest, he won the ama sbk championship when that series was in way better shape than it is now, so there is no glory and there's nothing for him to prove there.

My fingers are crossed that he'll at least be competitive in the series, and I only say "at least" because of the bike. As has been fully explained previously, the old CBR is lagging behind the Aprilia and Kawasaki in the development area, but the fact that VDM has shown success on it gives me hope that Nicky will do well. In my opinion, Nicky is at least as good, as the current front runners in the WSBK series, and of those front runners, I think only Johnny Rea would be a decent GP racer, so to me, Nicky "should" be right there at the sharp end, IF he's on competitive machinery.

We all know what Honda is capable of, so why they continue to BS around with unleashing a more potent literbike is baffling. Even their 100cc streetbike is at the bottom of the pile as it has ZERO electronic rider aids and (I think) the least amount of horsepower. Hell, at least the Suzuki has a ride mode switch! Only time will tell, but if Honda doesn't do something amazing for him in 2017, I'm afraid he'll be stuck in the same rut in WSBK as he was in GP...riding a non competitive bike that doesn't allow him to fully display his talent so he gets overlooked by the better teams because of it. And I'd also LOVE to see the Mighty RC51 going up against the Ducati again. I've had my RC for the past 12 years and can't bring myself to part with it. And I second the hope that the 2017 bike is a V4. It would be awesome to see Honda shake up the Japanese 1000cc class by completely changing direction with their superbike!

... the Fireblade had the most mid-range of any litre sports bike for the street.

It regularly runs in the 9s in 1/4 mile tests, besting all the other jap litre bikes in the 1/4. Because it launches better and has a more usable torque curve.

It still wins/is competitive at the TT / other road-racing events.

Yes it is missing some top end power, and yes, the 2015 BMW now has the mid-range to match it, but to claim the current fireblade is a dog (for a street bike) is a bit rich, unless your riding is purely freeway.

But yes, a replacement is well over-due.

Even if they just throw another 15 hp at the current bike, it would be a lot more competitive.

Honda have stated that they don't want to put out rider aids until they are happy they work reliably. The current bike doesn't need them (I own one).

Give me another 15 hp, a quickshifter and I'll be happy.