Former world champion Nicky Hayden will stay in MotoGP next season after signing to ride the new Honda Production Racer for the Aspar team.
The popular American has been carefully evaluating options in both MotoGP and World Superbike after the announcement that his five-year factory Ducati career will end at Valencia. Cal Crutchlow is taking over Hayden's Desmosedici seat for 2014.
Aspar with Aprilia looked certain - until Aprilia technical director Gig Dall'Igna 'shocked' Hayden by leaving to become the new general manager of Ducati Corse.
That threw the level of factory support for the Aprilia project in doubt, with Honda - for whom Hayden won the 2006 MotoGP title - stepping up as a safer alternative.
The deal was finally confirmed on Thursday at the Australian MotoGP.
Speaking just before the official announcement, Hayden said: "I'm pretty happy with what I've got. It's a production bike and of course I'd prefer the factory Honda but we've got to understand how competitive this bike can be. I love the team and from what I've heard from Honda about it."
Honda's new privateer machine is based on the title leading RC213V, but without the seamless shift gearbox and pneumatic valves. Like all non-factory entries (to be called 'open' class) it must also use the full standard ECU package, but with four litres of extra race fuel and the option of twelve instead of five engines changes during the year.
The 'open' class are also expected to continue with a softer specification of rear tyre.
The potential of the new Honda Production machine, recently tested by Hayden's former team-mate and double champion Casey Stoner, has now tempted Aspar to sever its Aprilia ties.
In the official Hayden-Honda announcement, team principal Jorge 'Martinez' Aspar said: "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.”
The Aspar, Hayden and Honda partnership is believed to be for two years.