Nicky Hayden is relishing the opportunity of his first competitive comeback in the Suzuka 8 Hours in 13 years as he hunts victory with MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda.
The team has claimed victory at the prestigious endurance event in three of the past six years (2010, 2013 and 2014) and aims to regain its crown after losing out to Yamaha last year.
Hayden is partnering up with World Superbike team-mate Michael van der Mark, with the Dutch rider making his fourth consecutive appearance at Suzuka, as the pair join up with Japanese veteran Takumi Takahashi.
The 2006 MotoGP World Champion's previous Suzuka 8 Hour outing came in 2003 and despite the significant time away as well as learning to adapt to the Bridgestone tyres with limited testing opportunities Hayden is confident of his chances with the support of van der Mark and Takahashi.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge: I've always followed the 8 Hour and it would be amazing to add one of those trophies to the trophy case,” Hayden said. “I know it's going to be a big job but I look forward to the opportunity.
“I'm very honoured to take part in the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race and being invited by the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO team. They've had some good success in the last years but I realise how much of a challenge it'll be.
“It's a long race with a bike that you have to share with your team-mates, so the set-up surely is a compromise. We did a two-day test at Suzuka last week, but unfortunately it wasn't as productive as we would have liked with the limited time available. The weather surely didn't help and the track was very crowded.”