Nicky Hayden has refuted whispers he turned to World Superbikes as a fond farewell before retiring from racing and aims to use 2016 as a foundation year for a stronger campaign next season with rumoured new Honda machinery.
The former MotoGP world champion opted to step away from Grand Prix racing at the end of last year after 13 consecutive campaigns and is now preparing for a rookie season in World Superbikes with Honda Racing.
Despite the 34-year-old needing to get to grips with an unfamiliar electronics, tyres and bike set-up – which the American would have also had to do had he stayed in MotoGP with the introduction of the standard ECU and Michelin – Hayden has no ambitions on taking it easy and has plotted out a two-year strategy with lofty aspirations.
“I want to do good, I'm not here to have a retirement or senior tour,” Hayden said. “I want to be as competitive as possible but it is hard to say until I get on track and see where we really stack up. I'm happy to be here, I have a good opportunity and glad to keep racing so I will try to have some fun.
“My fans in America are really behind this change and I hope my goal for the end of the year is to have a smile on my face and be set up for next year with the new bike. I have a two-year deal and I realise I have a lot to learn this year but hopefully it can be to build for next year.”
Hayden replaces Sylvain Guintoli in the Ten Kate Racing-run Honda squad alongside Dutch youngster Michael van der Mark.