Remembering the Kentucky Kid: Nicky Hayden 1981-2017

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Source: Getty Images

Nicky Hayden, MotoGP World Champion in 2006 has tragically died at 35.

Riding motorcycles was a lifelong passion for Nicky Hayden, having been raised in a family of petrol heads with a love for motorbikes. Born in Owensboro, Kentucky in 1981, Nicky was riding a bike by the age of three.

At age five he was racing against his older brothers Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden on a track at the Hayden family home. Hayden progressed quickly and was soon into Minibike racing and from there he continued racing until he was ready to move into the AMA at 16 years old.

In 1997 he ran a satellite bike in the AMA 750 and 600 Supersport classes. A switch to satellite Suzuki machinery in 1998 saw him win his first races in both categories, which was enough for Honda to give him a factory contract for top satellite team Erion in 1999. He became the youngest AMA 600 title winner in history and was promoted to the AMA Superbike Championship in 2000.

In 2000 he finished second and in 2001 he finished third. Then in 2002 Hayden became the youngest ever AMA Superbike champion. He also went on to win the Daytona 200 followed by his World Superbike debut at Laguna Seca.

His success in America led Honda to give him a ride at the works Repsol team in 2003 alongside the legendary Valentino Rossi. He performed incredibly well, with a few podiums, and earned the rookie of the year award.

Hayden endured a tough 2004 season with a collarbone injury hampering him. However in 2005 he was back on top form and took his first MotoGP victory at his home round in Laguna Seca, beating the Yamaha’s of Colin Edwards and his former teammate Rossi.

In 2006, Hayden made history and won the world championship with just two wins coming at a classic Assen race and at his home track of Laguna Seca. His consistency throughout the season was enough to pip Valentino Rossi to the championship at the final round in Valencia and ended The Doctor’s five year reign. Hayden’s celebrations as he crossed the line and flew his flag around on his victory lap will be remembered forever.

Source: MotoGP MediaHayden swapped Honda for Ducati in 2009, but unfortunately struggled to get to grips with a bike made for Casey Stoner. Luckily, 2010 was a better season and saw him run closer to the front with a great podium at Aragon on his way to redemption in a hard fought season.

In 2011 Hayden was reunited with his former teammate and championship rival Rossi at Ducati and finished eighth in the points with another podium at Jerez.

In 2012, after missing a few races through an injury sustained during qualifying at Indianapolis, he finished ninth in the championship. Hayden and Rossi struggled to get results from the Ducati that year.

In 2014 Hayden was reunited with Honda machinery at the Aspar team, his best result unfortunately was an eighth place at Qatar, which turned out to be the best finish for Hayden in the next two seasons. Despite his lack of pace, he was never lacking in style or popularity.

At the end of the 2015 season, Nicky Hayden graciously bowed out from MotoGP to join the World Superbike Championship. At the final race of the season in Valencia, he was inducted into the MotoGP Legends Hall of Fame, joining the greats from MotoGP history.

He finished his MotoGP career with 3 victories, 28 podiums, 5 poles, 7 fastest laps, and 1 World Championship title.

Hayden joined World Superbikes full time in 2016 riding for Honda. He scored a victory in a wet Malaysia race, finishing fifth overall in the championship. He also made a couple of appearances in MotoGP in 2016, first at Aragon to replace the injured Jack Miller at Marc VDS and then at Phillip Island to replace the injured Dani Pedrosa at the works Repsol Honda team.

Hayden and Honda had high hopes this year with the new Fireblade, but unfortunately fate took a cruel turn. After a life racing motorcycle’s passionately and racing over 200 MPH it was ultimately a car versus cycling accident that claimed his life just days after the Imola World Superbike round.

Everyone at Essaar would like to offer their deepest condolences to Hayden’s family, friends. and fans all over the world. Godspeed to the Kentucky Kid. A flag for him will always fly in our hearts.

One of Nicky’s final tweets… 

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