American rider Nicky Hayden, 2006 world champion, said Thursday he will retire from MotoGP next year to compete in the World Superbike Championship.
The 34-year-old Honda man, preparing to race in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, has announced his move to Ten Kate Honda from the next year.
The move comes after Hayden spent 13 years in motorcycling’s elite division, a career which also included a spell with Ducati.
From next year, Hayden will team up with Michael van der Mark, riding the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP as he bids to become the first rider to win both the MotoGP and World Superbike titles.
“Well, this will be my last year in MotoGP. I will be moving to World Superbikes next year with Honda and the Ten Kate team,” a teary-eyed Hayden told a press conference. “That’s about all there is to it, not a lot more and nothing too dramatic.”
Hayden said his bike performance has not been what he wanted it to be during the past two seasons, when he finished 16th in 2014 and ninth in 2013 on a Ducati.
“I’ve always thought superbikes might be something I want to try. I have liked the racing there. The opportunity felt like a good fit,” he said.
“I’m obviously 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 there and have some good more fun.”
Hayden won just three grands prix in MotoGP — all in 2005-06 — but he famously took the world title that season after fighting tooth-and-nail with Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha.