After being somewhat unceremoniously dropped from the Ducati MotoGP program when he was informed prior to the Laguna Seca USGP that he wasn’t in their future plans, the prevailing opinion regarding Nicky Hayden’s future in MotoGP had the American moving to Aprilia, riding one of the firm’s upgraded ART machines for Team Aspar as part of the new “non-MSMA” MotoGP category. But unexpected events in the last few days have changed what was Hayden’s almost certain future with the Aspar Aprilia. This has centered around Ducati’s offer to Aprilia’s top engineer, Gigi Dall’Igna, which inadvertently froze the imminent deal between the Noale factory and Hayden. The story is worthy of a novel…
It all started with an offer from Ducati a while ago to the lead racing man of the Piaggio Group – Aprilia’s parent company – to assume the lead role at Ducati’s Reparto Corse (the company’s racing arm responsible for MotoGP racing and development). After numerous unsuccessful attempts at righting the badly listing ship known as the Desmosedici GP13, the top management at the Bologna company – remember, now owned by Audi – decided that the shortest and safest way to get out of the deep crisis they are in would be to hire Dall’Igna. The problem is that Ducati’s first offer was rejected by the venerated Italian engineer. Not due to economic reasons, but because it did not include giving him all the tools he thought were needed to reorganize the racing division; in short, Audi managment didn’t authorize him to get rid of a good part of its engineers. So Dall’Igna decided to stay in Aprilia and upgrade their MotoGP project.
Here is where Hayden appears, because the American former MotoGP World Champion was the perfect rider for Dall’Igna’s new project. A few meetings and a visit to the Aprilia racing department in Noale before the last San Marino GP convinced Hayden to join them. It would happen through Team Aspar, a Spanish team very much linked with the Noale company. Reportedly everything was in place ten days ago, and all sources answered with “the only thing that’s missing are the signatures…it is but a matter of hours.”
But then all hell broke loose. Ducati management returned to Dall’Igna, but this time with a blank check on the table and the OK to clean house as he so desired: an offer that has him thinking very seriously about the future. A good number of sources say that next week Dall’Igna will probably accept Ducati’s offer. Obviously, his current company has surely counter-offered with more power, more income and more resources. But as far as we know, it’s very likely Dall’Igna will change his actual black Aprilia cloth to Ducati’s red.
This situation has in turn altered Hayden’s plans. Without Dall’Igna commanding Aprilia’s racing department, the project doesn’t have the same guarantees. And now sources are confirming that Honda is jumping into the fray by offering Hayden one of the future Production Racers. The idea is that it would be run by Team Aspar, and the conversations are being held directly with HRC. American Honda also has a big interest in backing Hayden (the American subsidiary of Honda was rumored to be largely responsible for convincing HRC to move him into the factory Repsol squad back in 2003), and more than likely it would contribute economically to help back the project. At the same time, Dall’Igna is asking Hayden and Team Aspar to wait, because he would like very much to drag both to Ducati if he finally makes the move. But Hayden obviously doesn´t like this idea, as he has likely had enough of the Desmosedici’s faults after a fruitless four years, and he wouldn’t be on the factory team. The solution to this puzzle probably will happen in the next few days. Stay tuned.