After a dream start to the Valencia weekend, Nicky Hayden's nine year Honda career - stretching back to AMA racing - concluded with a fifth place finish at Valencia on Sunday.

The 2006 MotoGP world champion, who will race for Ducati Marlboro next season, topped the first three practice sessions at Valencia, qualified on the front row and was determined to go out in style in the race - but suffered a high-speed fall during morning warm-up.

The damage to his favoured machine forced him to change to his other bike for the race and, after holding third position in the early stages, Hayden was soon fighting a defensive battle. The #69 slipped to fifth by lap six, a position he then held to the flag.

Hayden finished his sixth and final season as a Honda MotoGP rider in sixth position, two places and 28 points higher than last year.

"We started out the weekend like a bit of a fairytale - fastest in the first three sessions, so we were off to a good start, I think the conditions were better for us then," said Nicky, who - like all the Repsol riders - raced in a special retro livery on Sunday.

"Yesterday afternoon we were third and on the front row, then this morning we had a big off which probably didn't help things. I just lost the front at turn nine, maybe conditions were a bit too cool for that front tyre. I had to swap bikes for the race and my crew had to change a lot of stuff: callipers, swingarm and so on.

"My other bike didn't feel so smooth. It wasn't too bad but I definitely liked my first bike better, but that was my fault. In the race I didn't quite get the start I wanted and those guys were just quicker in the beginning, my rhythm wasn't quick enough.

"It obviously would've been better to finish my last race with Honda a bit stronger. I rode hard this weekend, now I'm looking forward to doing something different. I have to finish off by saying thanks to my team, to Honda, to Michelin and to everybody here. They made me a world champ, I'm grateful to them all," he concluded.

"Nicky had quite a heavy crash this morning, but in the race he pushed as hard as he could. He did a good job this weekend," said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. "He was fastest in three practice sessions, qualified on the front row of the grid and I know he very much wanted to finish on the podium. My thanks to Nicky for a wonderful six seasons with Repsol Honda, my thanks also to the team and to Michelin."

Hayden's Bridgestone shod team-mate Dani Pedrosa finished second in the race and third in the world championship.

Hayden will make his Ducati debut during testing on Monday, when the American's replacement - Andrea Dovizioso - will ride a Repsol Honda for the first time.

Dovi was the highest ranked Michelin rider in Sunday's race, finishing two-seconds ahead of Hayden in fourth.



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