As expected, the Aspar team today announced they would be switching from Aprilia to Honda for the 2014 season in MotoGP. The team has signed a two-year deal with Honda to race the RCV1000R production racer, and will field 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden on one of the bikes.
The reasons behind dropping Aprilia and their highly successful ART machine are simple: after the departure of chief engineer Gigi Dall'Igna, the future of Aprilia's MotoGP program is in severe doubt. American Honda had lobbied hard to have Hayden back on a Honda, and his signing came with the blessing and support of HRC. Having a top level rider on the production racer - and one with many years of experience on a factory bike - should help to develop the bike, providing valuable input for HRC. American Honda's financial contribution in getting Hayden on the bike was also a key factor.
Who will be the second rider alongside Hayden is as yet unknown, but the strong paddock rumor at the moment is that it will be Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama has a strong relationship with Honda, after winning the final 250cc world championship for them in what was a vital coup against their rivals Aprilia. Having a Japanese rider on the grid is important to both Honda and especially Dorna, and with Takaaki Nakagami set to stay in Moto2 for another season, Aoyama has strong backing from Dorna. Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez' name is still being bandied about, but he looks like being an outsider for the seat. Hernandez could end up at Blusens, taking the place of Aoyama at the Spanish team.
Below is the press release from Aspar announcing the tie up with Honda and Hayden:
POWER ELECTRONICS ASPAR TEAM BEGIN NEW ADVENTURE WITH HONDA
Spanish team to enter MotoGP World Championship next season with Honda's 'MotoGP Production Racer' and former World Champion Nicky Hayden on board
Ever since the dawn of the CRT era in MotoGP the POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team has been a leading light and a point of reference in the new category. After dominating last year the 2013 season has followed much the same path and with three races remaining the CRT 'title' is within touching distance. With the regulations set to change again for 2014 and the CRTs due to give way to a new breed of production racers designed to bring the grid even closer together, the POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team is keen to move with the times and can now confirm a new alliance with Honda. The team will run the Japanese factory's new 'MotoGP Production Racer' in 2014, with former World Champion Nicky Hayden as its main rider.
The new machine, which is based on the Honda RC213V prototype, has already been tested in Japan by the Hamamatsu factory test riders and is showing a competitive level of performance. The team will take delivery in time for the official MotoGP post-season test at Valencia in November, marking a return to the factory that the team first started with in 1992. It also marks a return of sorts for Hayden, who won the MotoGP World Championship with Honda back in 2006. The objective for the team run by Jorge Martínez ‘Aspar’ is clear: to continue being a point of reference in the premier class of motorcycle racing.
Jorge Martínez ‘Aspar’: “It is great news for the POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team to have the acquired services of Honda and a rider of the profile of Nicky Hayden. We are taking a huge step forward in terms of quality, prestige and image. We have grown a lot in a short space of time and we are all very excited about this new project with Honda. It is the factory that the ASPAR Team first started with back in 1992 and I have great memories of that period. Our objective is to continue being a reference point in the premier-class. I think the combination of Honda's MotoGP Production Racer and Nicky Hayden is going to be a very successful one. We are thrilled to be working with a manufacturer with the history that Honda has and a rider like Nicky, a World Champion with huge experience. It will be a big change for us after so many years working with Italian factories but we have high hopes for this new project. We are up for the challenge and we will give maximum effort to making sure the POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar Team continues achieving top results.”