After 13 years in the MotoGP World Championship series, Owensboro’s Nicky Hayden recently announced that this will be his last season racing MotoGP.
This week, MotoGP will be giving Nicky an unbelievably nice going-away present: Nicky will be crowned a MotoGP “Legend” in a ceremony Friday in Valencia, Spain during the final round of the 2015 MotoGP racing season.
The honor is MotoGP’s version of the Hall of Fame, and it truly is an elite group of the world’s all-time best. Nicky will be the 22nd person to ever be named a Legend, and only the sixth American. It also makes an excellent last chapter of an illustrious MotoGP career that includes 28 podiums (3 wins), seven fastest laps, five pole positions, and the 2006 World Championship Title.
“This is quite a unique honor,” Nicky told Owensboro Living this week during a quick trip home. “It’s something I never thought much about or ever thought would be possible. But it really is an honor and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
After weighing his options for next year, Hayden decided to leave MotoGP at the end of this season for World Superbike, where he will ride for the Ten Kate Honda team. Testing for World Superbike begins next week in Spain. Continuing to race for Honda was a key factor in that decision. “Things just fell into place for me with them,” he said.
Hayden sounds excited for next year. “I look forward to the opportunity. I’ve always been a fan of Superbike. Those are the bikes I grew up riding.” (Editor’s note: Nicky is the 2002 American Motorcylist Association Superbike Champion, before moving to MotoGP. Read more of his backstory here.)
Compared to MotoGP, motorcycles in the Superbike division are production bikes, meaning they start out with the same engine and chassis as a bike at a dealership. “The crowds in World Superbike are smaller and there might be less prestige, but it’s still very popular in Europe and other parts of the world,” Hayden said. The series shares a lot of the same tracks at MotoGP, which is a good thing for Hayden, but there are a few different tracks too – enough to keep things exciting. The 2016 schedule hasn’t been finalized, but it starts in Australia, then Thailand, and then Europe. The series also races once in America, on one of Hayden’s favorite tracks: Laguna Seca, California.
Even more good news: Honda is introducing a new bike in 2017, which could also play out nicely for Hayden.
“Nobody has won both MotoGP and World Superbike titles, so my goal is to be the first to win both,“ Nicky said, staying true to his trademark competitive nature.
It’s clear to see that Nicky still has a lot of racing left in him. If that attitude is any indication, it will still be a long time before he hangs up his racing boots for good – which may be never.
I’m getting a bit older but I still enjoy the sport and the game. It’ll be a fresh challenge and a new opportunity to go and have some more fun. Of course I’ll miss MotoGP. I’ve had a great opportunity here and been part of some great teams and worked with some great people, but nothing lasts forever and we gotta keep moving, go to World Superbike with Honda and hopefully have some fun.
– excerpt from press conference announcing his departure to the media