North American pilot died at the age of 35
Nicky Hayden, “The Kentucky Kid”, lived on the edge, claiming to be the ultimate North American motorcycle racing big name, with the title of MotoGP champion won in 2006 but, ironically, it was by bicycle that he lost his life at the age of 35.
Hayden, the most successful heir of a family with a broad motorcycle tradition – both his father Earl, as well as his brothers Roger and Tommy run in different competitions in the United States – he did not withstand the serious injuries he suffered when he was run over on May 17, while riding a bike in Rimini (Italy), the next stop of the World Superbike Championship.
From the American, who reached the top of his career with the world title in the premier class of motorcycling in 2006, we are reminded of his cool stance, sportsmanship, gestures of generosity, like the one he had for Valentino Rossi in his great farewell prize: instead of giving in to the emotion, he approached the Italian, who had just lost the world title, and comforted him.
The kid, who was born on July 30, 1981, in Owensboro, Kentucky, debuted at the MotoGP World Championship in 2003 at the helm of a Honda, and with the ‘weight’ of being one of the safer promises of the last batch Of North American motorcycling, then heavily represented by Kenny Roberts Jr., 500cc world champion in 2000, Colin Edwards and John Hopkins.
Extroverted and friendly, “The Kentucky Kid” was meant to be a pilot: he started motorcycling at the age of three, and a year later he was already racing, following his idols of the time religiously on television. At age 11, he played his first speed test with a minibike, and at 16, he was already a pro.
Hayden made it to the premier class, after claiming the youngest American Superbike Championship winner, to be Rossi’s teammate and to hug the 69, the same one his father used to use – the justification, according to Earl, was that the number was the only one that could be read in the same way, seen from above or below.
In the first year in MotoGP, he finished the championship in fifth, a feat that earned him the ‘rookie’ award of the year, but in the following year he had a difficult time and was the target of much criticism.
The first of three wins came in 2005 at home at the Laguna Seca circuit, and the only title a year later, ahead of Rossi, the five-time title champion. From there, nothing was the same: although his bike was equipped with the number 1, Hayden no longer discovered the formula of success, being successively out of the ‘top 5’ of the World Championship (sixth place in 2008 was his best result ).
After a 12-year career in MotoGP, from 2003 to 2008 at Honda, between 2009 and 2013 at Ducati, and in the two final seasons in a Honda, Hayden, with problems in one hand, moved to the World Superbike in 2016 and he stayed there.
On May 22, 2017, the American, who had been hospitalized for five days with severe brain damage and with a reserved prognosis, stopped fighting.