Nicky Hayden was one of the most positive, smiling, good person in the MotoGP paddock.
Today we want to honor the rider, the champion, and the man.
I’ve never seen such an expression of joy and appreciation in any other rider who won the championship. He didn’t even try to hold it and this is what I liked about him, this is what we all liked about him.
He grew up in a family of racers, constantly being around motorcycles. His three brothers, were all three racers but Nicky was the one who made it to the wolrd’s top class. In 2003, he came straight to MotoGP after being the youngest rider ever to win the Daytona 200 and the AMA Superbike Championship. He began racing for Honda Repsol having Valentino Rossi as a teammate. The same year he got on the podium for the first time in Japan and finished 5th in the Championship earning the award of Rookie of the Year.
“The best memory I have of him is when he came to shake my hand after the unfortunate race in Valencia in 2015, on the lap of honor. For him, it was a goodbye to MotoGP, and I had just lost the World Championship. His look of support from inside his helmet is one of the few positive memories I have from that day.” – Valentino Rossi –
Three are the victories in MotoGP, two of them in Laguna Seca where “it’s incredible how he does the Corkscrew” as Valentino Rossi said. It was here Nicky’s first win in 2005. He dominated the complete weekend taking the pole position on Saturday and the victory on Sunday. The Kentucky Kid, with a perfect start, took the lead right from the first corner and dominated the race being unreachable even for Colin Edwards. A performance that he repeated the next year. During the lap of honor, I think I’ve never seen such a joy in someone’s face. Most riders tend to be more settled but Nicky wasn’t, he had no filters to retain his joy.
Against all odds
The next year, he made a flawless and constant season winning two races. The first in Assen, where he entered the last corner on the last lap together with Colin Edwards. Both missed the braking point and were too fast in the last corner. Colin, who was on the inside, decided to try to follow the corner but because he was carrying too much speed he lost the control and crashed. Nicky had no other chance to keep the bike straight, ride over the sand, and crossing the finish line. Due to Yamaha’s technical problems in some races, Rossi lost many points and Hayden kept the leadership, at least until Estoril.
The collision in Estoril
I think I’ve seen him angry just once. It was during the Portuguese GP when Pedrosa tried a risky passing maneuver from the inside on Hayden, lost the front, and took him out. That episode made Nicky really mad, he knew that to win against Rossi he couldn’t make any mistake. He made a perfect season and at the end, he lost the leadership for the miscalculation of his teammate. At the eve of the last race, Rossi scored even a pole position and this made Nicky desperate at first. But on Sunday at Jerez, when the visors were closed and the lights were off Rossi’s setup for Saturday didn’t work on Sunday and started to fall back. Nicky, who was determined like never before gave all he had to get on the podium. He finished third winning the championship against all odds.
There is one moment that sticks in my mind. During the lap of honor in Valencia, Rossi approached him, hold his arm, reached his hand, and looked at him for a long moment like he meant: “You earned it man, you earned it”.
By motoracereports, CC BY 3.0, licesence