Nicky Hayden – A MotoGP Legend
The only American in all of 2015 Grand Prix motorcycle racing – Nicky Hayden – ended his final MotoGP season with the same positive attitude that surfaced when he joined the World Championship in 2003. It ended with a celebration, also, considering Hayden was inducted into the MotoGP Legends Hall of Fame – the 22nd rider to achieve this feat.
The rider of Kentucky’s charismatic attitude had helped earned him thousands of fans around the globe. But this fan base wasn’t just built on smiles; it was also built due to Hayden’s unique riding style that displayed his roots as an American flat-track racer.
After winning the 2002 AMA SuperBike Championship, Hayden joined MotoGP in 2003 with the Repsol Honda team. He finished fifth that first year, showing promise aboard the factory Honda donning his usual #69. But it would be the 2006 Championship when Hayden proved himself; that year, he broke Valentino Rossi’s consecutive run of five titles (2001-2005).
Hayden earned the title by a mere five points ahead of Rossi; this type of tight season would not occur again until 2015 when Jorge Lorenzo beat Rossi to the title by – you guessed it – five points.
Hayden’s seasons were not so successful following the 2006 title; he remained with Honda through 2008, and joined the Ducati Team, where he remained from 2009-2013, earning a best overall finish of seventh in 2010.
In 2014, Hayden switched back to Honda, racing for its satellite efforts. He finished 16th overall that year, and 20th overall in 2015. At 34-years old, Hayden signed with Ten Kate Honda for the 2016 World Superbike Championship, where, just like in MotoGP, he’ll be the only American on the grid (as of this writing).
Before Hayden’s final MotoGP race during the season finale at Valencia, the “Kentucky Kid” was inducted in the MotoGP World Championship Hall of Fame. He became the 22nd MotoGP Legend during a ceremony in Valencia hosted by Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. Throughout his 13-year MotoGP career, Hayden won three races, earned 28 podiums, posted seven fastest laps and claimed five pole positions.
Hayden is now included in a long lists of MotoGP Legends that includes: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan, Geoff Duke, Wayne Gardner, Mike Hailwood, Daijiro Kato, Eddie Lawson, Anton Mang, Angel Nieto, Wayne Rainey, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Kenny Roberts, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz, Barry Sheene, Marco Simoncelli, Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner, John Surtees and Carlo Ubbiali.
Nicky Hayden says: “It is really is a great honor to receive this. I do not take it lightly, I know there are people in this club with more illustrious careers and who have obviously won more than me, but regardless I got in there! I am very happy. I mean for 13 years it was eat, breathe and sleep MotoGP. It’s been an amazing ride. Of course these last two years have been tough, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, worked with some great teams and rode some great bikes.
“I’d just like to thank everybody who has supported me through it all, my teams and my family, I appreciate it all. Thanks also to Carmelo; I think MotoGP – as much as the last weeks have been a little negative – is in a great place. The sport is bigger and better than ever, the tracks are safer and the young talent keeps getting younger and faster. So the future is very bright.”
Carmelo Ezpeleta (CEO of Dorna Sports) says: “For all of us, it’s a great pleasure to give Nicky this award – this is not just because you’ve been Champion and you’re one of the riders with most starts in the premier class, but also for your behaviour over all those years, your sportsmanship and your friendship. It’s a great pleasure to consider you one of our legends. Thank you for all you’ve done for the sport in all those years.”
Following his final race at Valencia, Hayden signed off by saying: “It’s been a great ride to be a part of the MotoGP tour for the last thirteen years and to win a world title. For me as kid growing up at the end of a gravel road in Kentucky proves that with the right attitude and support you can turn your dreams into reality. Thanks for the memories!”