What was expected at Indianapolis appears to have been delayed a week to Misano. MotoGP's silly season, blocked for so long by Jorge Lorenzo, is starting to move again, with a spate of riders slotting into place for next season. The biggest (official) news so far is that Ducati have decided to exercise the option they have on American rider Nicky Hayden, extending his contract for another year through the 2010 season. Hayden's contract is a reward for the solid progress the Kentucky Kid has made throughout the season, gradually overcoming the difficult start the American made at the start of the year. That progress reached a provisional peak last week, when Hayden finished in 3rd place at Indianapolis, his first podium in a year, and his first on the Ducati.
Hayden has also been a huge marketing success for the Italian motorcycle manufacturer. The likable American helped sell out the limited edition Ducati 848s with Hayden's 2009 Laguna Seca livery almost immediately after release, and Hayden's face adorns the walls of Ducati dealerships around the world, but especially in the US, a key market for Ducati.
But there's another reason for the Ducati announcement. Spanish media sources are reporting that Dani Pedrosa has renewed his contract with the Repsol Honda team (see separate story), taking the last of the Fantastic Four off the market, and leaving Ducati with just the "humans" to select from. Hayden has repeated proven himself to be among the best of the rest, and with a string of solid results in recent races, he will help Ducati score valuable points in the manufacturers standings, a championship that has always been important to the Borgo Panigale factory.
With Hayden confirmed at Ducati, all of the factory seats are now filled except for Honda. Andrea Dovizioso has told the press that he is very close to signing a new deal with the squad for next season, and with Hayden now back at Ducati, Pedrosa has nowhere left to go but Repsol Honda.