Former MotoGP title winner Nicky Hayden has admitted it will be an emotional experience when he takes part in his final event for Honda this weekend in Valencia.
The Repsol Honda rider will bring the curtain down on a nine-year run with the Japanese marque in the season finale – with the last six of those years having been spent in the MotoGP paddock.
Having endured two difficult seasons since taking the 2006 title, Hayden will move onto pastures new in 2009 when he joins Ducati and he admitted it would be an emotional experience when he hits the track on his RC212V for the final time at the venue where he secured his championship crown.
"I really love Valencia and I love the atmosphere, it's always special to race in front of a Spanish crowd," he said. "I don't want to sound soft but it will be an emotional weekend.
"This team has been family the last six years – I was 21 years old when I showed up in Europe from Kentucky! We've had a good run together. I'm really grateful for the opportunity Honda gave me. Not a lot of people can say they rode factory Hondas for nine years. From the RC51 on, I've ridden some of the baddest bikes ever and worked with some great engineers. We'll be hoping we can go out strong.
"Valencia has got a special place in my heart for obvious reasons. I like the way they built the track inside a natural bowl. I like big, fast, flowing tracks too, but I like how Valencia is all right there, you really feel the energy. It's the last race of the year, so everyone goes all out. On the map it looks like a go-kart track but it doesn't feel like that riding it. You need a bike that gets round corners better than it goes in a straight line and you've got to be aggressive."
Hayden is set to make his Ducati debut in testing following the weekend when he hits the track on the new GP9.