MotoGP: Our tribute to Nicky

MotoGP: Our tribute to Nicky

MotoGP legend, Nicky Hayden, fondly known as the Kentucky Kid, sadly lost his life following a training incident in Rimini, Italy.

Danielle Overend

Events like what have occurred over the last few days highlights  an incredible example of what our heroes are up to when they are competing in Motorsports, at any level, and that although they very much seem invincible, they truly aren’t.

Our heroes go out throughout the year, pushing the limits to go as fast as they can on two wheels. As well as wanting to be the best and the quickest, they are doing this not only for their need for speed, but for our entertainment factor.

Riders appear invincible

We watch in awe, stunned how they come off at high speeds, suffer collisions, tumble at high speeds, and most of the time walk away relatively unhurt. You wonder what exactly it is they are made of, and how it is possible that they survive such impacts; it highlights the advances in technology that are in place to protect the riders.

Nicky Hayden passes away following RTA in Rimini, Italy

In order to be the best, the riders do what they can to remain at the top of their game, and one thing they can do off the track is remain at their utmost fittest. For many riders, they choose to cycle, and that is what Nicholas Patrick Hayden (Nicky Hayden) was out doing in between World Superbike rounds, when he suffered his heart-breaking fate.

Cycling along the Rimini coast in Italy on his own on Wednesday 17th May when he was involved in an incident with a car which saw the 36 year old seriously hurt. Having being treated at the scene, he was transferred to a hospital nearby in Rimini, where he was stabilised before being again transferred to Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena.

He was placed in intensive care where he was put into an induced coma as his condition remained extremely critical; Nicky was said to have “suffered a serious polytrauma with subsequent serious cerebral damage”. All anyone could do was wait in hope that he could keep on with his fighting spirit that we witnessed through his championship endeavours.

Nicky was joined by his fiancé, Jackie, his mother, Rose, and his brother, Tommy who remained with him. Sadly, it was reported on Monday 22nd May that Nicky unfortunately succumbed to his injuries that he suffered from the incident, and he passed away at 19:09 CEST.

Nicky longed to become MotoGP world champion

The ‘Kentucky Kid’ who wore the number ‘69’ worked long and hard to fulfil his childhood dream of becoming the MotoGP world champion; an achievement he earned in 2006. He was loved by many across the whole world, his nature made him a favourite among racing fans everywhere, on and off the track.

Nicky made his return to the MotoGP in 2016, as the Red Bull Honda World Superbike rider was chosen to replace injured riders at several rounds including, Jack Miller for the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team at Aragon, and Dani Pedrosa for the Repsol Honda team in Philipp Island.

The American was more than welcomed back, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy being present in that paddock with many riders, and teams, who have since joined the world in sending tributes to Nicky and his family.

Throughout the weekend the riders urged their fellow sportsman to keep fighting, using every opportunity they could to send messages of support. But the inevitable happened, and sadly Nicky lost his life.

Statement released by Nicky’s brother, Tommy Hayden

Since his passing, Nicky’s brother, Tommy released a statement on behalf of his family:

On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.

Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.

Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.

It is also important for us to thank all the hospital staff for their incredible support – they have been very kind. With the further support of the authorities in the coming days we hope to have Nicky home soon.

Harsh realities highlight extraordinary actions

Going back to the point made earlier, incidents like what has happened with a true gentleman and sportsman, Nicky highlights the harsh reality that they are not invincible, and they are risking their lives. But Nicky would certainly want to be remembered for riding a motorcycle, and competing in the sport that we all love; and for all his fantastic achievements.

The career of the Kentucky Kid

Born on the 30th July 1981,  Nicky started out on dirt tracks, before moving onto road racing as many do, Nicky first won the AMA Supersport Championship with a privateer Honda team in 1999 at the age of 18. He went on to claim the AMA Superbike title three years later, in turn becoming the youngest rider to do so, and the next year he joined the MotoGP World Championship.

It took just three years for the ‘Kentucky Kid’ to achieve his highly sought after dream, the MotoGP championship when he managed to finish above friend and fellow competitor, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) in the final round in Valencia with Repsol Honda.

Nicky then made the choice to move to the Ducati Team partnering Casey Stoner in 2009, and after initially struggling to adapt to the Italian machinery, he was able to make significant improvements that saw him finish the 2010 season in seventh. He returned to Honda in 2014 when he joined the Drive M7 Aspar Team however he was hindered by a wrist injury that seen him have to forfeit some rounds while he underwent surgery to fix it.

The American rider was added to the MotoGP ‘Hall of Fame’ in 2015, his 13th season within the MotoGP class which proved to be another difficult season for him. He then moved to the World Superbike series for 2016 where he remained until his passing five rounds into the 2017 season.

Final chequered flag for Nicky Hayden #69

What turned out to be the final race of Nicky’s career saw Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team rider finish 12th collecting four championship points; he did not complete the first race of the meeting. A race that was interrupted by an oil spill, soon restarted and he engaged in battle with a group of riders for seventh before he lost positions ended up and remaining in 12th until what would be, his final chequered flag.

We would like to send our sincerest condolences to Nicky, his fiancé, family, friends, team, and fans worldwide. Rest in Peace Nicky Hayden #69.