Ducati has officially confirmed its first signing for the 2013 MotoGP season by announcing a new one-year deal for Nicky Hayden.
Hayden, who turns 31 on Monday, is the 2006 MotoGP champion for Honda. The Kentuckian is currently competing in his tenth MotoGP season and fourth with Ducati.
“I'm very happy that I'll be back with Ducati and back in MotoGP, racing at the highest level for a very important team,” said Hayden. “I love the guys I work with, I love the Ducati fans, and I love the brand.
“This is an important time for Ducati in a number of ways, and I'm excited that I'll continue to be a part of it. I feel like I've got some unfinished business here, and hopefully we can get all the pieces into place and reap the rewards of the hard work we've put in the last couple of years.
“It's nice to be able to make this announcement at Laguna and to share the moment with my fans, friends and family. If I can do a good result on Sunday, it could make for a pretty special birthday weekend.”
Hayden's new deal was confirmed just minutes before the start of Friday practice for the US GP and follows rumours that the American's place was under threat from Ducati interest in Cal Crutchlow.
Crutchlow could still remain a factory Ducati option, should Hayden's team-mate Valentino Rossi not re-sign.
Seven time MotoGP champion Rossi, increasingly linked to a Yamaha return, has said he will make a decision on his 2013 plans during the summer break that follows this weekend's tenth round.
The single-year extension for Hayden (most factory MotoGP contracts are for two years) perhaps reflects the current uncertainty at Ducati, recently acquired by Audi, over Rossi's intentions.
Hayden has taken one podium finish in each of his previous Ducati seasons and has a best result of sixth so far this year.
The #69 is eighth in the world championship, but just eight points behind Rossi, who scooped 20-points with a Ducati best of second place in the wet at Le Mans.