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News18 » Auto
5-min read

Video - Remembering Nicky Hayden, the Nicest Man in Grand Prix Racing

Nicky Hayden was a true Champion on and off track, and will be deeply missed by his millions of fans around the world.

Arjit Garg | News18.comArjit_Garg

Updated:May 23, 2017, 12:16 PM IST
Video - Remembering Nicky Hayden, the Nicest Man in Grand Prix Racing
Former MotoGP champion and WSBK rider, Nicky Hayden succumb to injuries sustained in a cycling accident. (Image: MotoGP)

MotoGP, by the virtue of it, is an extremely dangerous form of Motorsports. There are other precarious form of Motorsports too, like the four-wheeler equivalent of MotoGP – the highly popular Formula One championship, but then, it can’t match the sheer vulnerability level of a MotoGP rider.

To put things into perspective, the last known death in the Formula One circuit was that of immensely successful Ayrton Senna, who died during a race at Imola Circuit on May, 1st 1994. In MotoGP, though, Marco Simoncelli, died racing at the Malaysian GP on October, 23rd 2011.

However, it’s the grief of loosing one of your heroes outside the circuit that overshadows such incidents on track. Former MotoGP champion and WSBK rider, Nicky Hayden, one of such heroes, succumbed to injuries sustained in a cycling accident with a car in Rome, leaving the racing fraternity in a state of shock.

The horrifying incident reminded us of the Skiing incident that put legendary F1 champion Michael Schumacher to Coma. Fondly called the “Kentucky Kid”, the 35 year old American survived 12 long years in MotoGP, racing at speeds exceeding 300 kmph, only to die in a Cycle crash, such is the tragedy.

Nicky started racing early on the dirt tracks of America and rose to the pinnacle of Motorcycle racing in no time. He was one of the few riders who was loved for his amusing nature and infectious smile. This very nature earned him the moniker - ‘The nicest man in Grand Prix racing’, and was the only racer to credit his title win on the bad luck of other riders. Such was his humble nature!

Nicky Hayden shares podium with Valentino Rossi in Australia, 2003. (Image: MotoGP) Nicky Hayden shares podium with Valentino Rossi in Australia, 2003. (Image: MotoGP)

Here’s a brief look at his career in Motorsports-

Nicky Hayden started racing at a young age on the dirt tracks of native USA, before moving on to the tarmac. He was crowned the AMA Supersport Champion in 1999, followed by AMA Superbike crown in 2002 – endearing him the crown of youngest rider to achieve the feat. Then came his big break, his moment of fame as he moved to the MotoGP World Championship for the 2003 season racing for the Honda Team.

First year into the season and he picked two podiums as a rookie – one at Motegi and other at Phillip Island. The 2004 season gave earned him a couple of more podiums before Hayden took his first pole and Grand Prix victory at Laguna Seca in 2005. And a year later in 2006, he became the MotoGP World Champion as he beat ‘The Doctor’ Valentino Rossi to secure the title on his Honda MotoGP Bike.

The following years were not too successful as the 2006 one as he raced for teams like Ducati in 2009 to 2013 and later Aspar for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. 2015 was the last full season for which Nicky Hayden raced and was inducted to the MotoGP World Championship Hall of Fame at the season finale in Valencia.

The ‘Kentucky Kid’ then moved to WorldSBK, took a number of podiums and also won in the class in his rookie year, joining an exclusive club of riders who won both in MotoGP and WorldSBK. Nicky made a guest appearance at the Aragon and Phillip Island MotoGP races as a replacement rider, becoming the first MotoGP Legend to return to Grand Prix racing.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview given by Nicky Hayden in 2016 to MotoGP-

On being asked the secret to speed, Nicky Hayden said - “Wow. I don’t really know if there’s just one secret to riding these bikes at a high level. Of course it takes some talent but it takes some mentality to have to want to push and go to the edge. As I’ve learned, as I get older in life, it’s not just about the rider and what you do on the track. It’s about having the right team behind you, the right equipment, and being able to have the engineers help you and give those people the feedback to help you do your job. So there’s a lot more that goes into it behind the scenes than some people see.”

And on being asked about the rider and the bike becoming one, NH69 had to say this - “I think it’s very true. It’s like dancing. You have to work together, dance together, and if you’re fighting the bike constantly and going against it, you’re not going to go fast. When you’re really going fast, you’re moving with the bike and it’s all one motion. I would say when you’re going fast on a motorcycle, you’re in a zone. Because when you’re doing speeds of 220MPH, a lot of it has to be habit, be natural, be instinct, be reflexes, because you can’t think about it. At that speed, if you have to think about what you need to do, it’s too late. You’ve already missed your brake point, your throttle point, where you need to shift, and I think that’s where starting young helps riders because when you start young, you create those things like people say, riding a bike: it just comes natural, it comes easy.”

Nicky Hayden was a true Champion on and off track, and will be deeply missed by his millions of fans around the world. Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, team and colleagues as we bid farewell to the “Kentucky Kid”!

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| Edited by: Arjit Garg
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