Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Hayden was a prodigy in the world of racing. Known as ‘the Kentucky Kid’, the American has been raking in the titles since his formative years in the sport.
He began at the sport at a very young age and his prolific progress meant that he was competing with guys twice his age at the Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association events. He would often be forced to start races at the back end of the grid because he needed a family or crew member to hold his bike upright as his feet would not touch the ground.
At just 17 years of age, while still in school, Hayden had started racing factory Honda RC45 Superbikes. Nicky Hayden was also an avid dirt track racer. In fact, in 1999, he won his first Grand National Championship race, the Hagerstown Half Mile and also took the award for being the ‘Rookie of the Year’. AMA declared Hayden as their athlete of the year for 1999. In 2000, he won the Springfield Short Track and followed it up with four wins in just a handful of races in 2002. In fact, in 2002, the three Hayden brothers took the top three places in the Springfield TT race.
In his first season as an AMA Superbikes racer, he came within 40 points of winning the championships and ended the 2001 season in third place. In 2002, Nicky Hayden had arrived. He won the Daytona 200 on a Honda Superbike and became the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion. He also entered the Laguna Seca round of the World Superbike Championships but a collision with Noriyuki Haga in the second race meant that his debut was over.
As soon as Hayden won the AMA Superbike Championship, he was rumoured to be in line to join Honda’s MotoGP outfit, and arguably the topmost team in the world of MotoGP, Repsol Honda. Hayden was there, and his team mate was, arguably the best motorcycle racer ever, Valentino Rossi. Hayden wasn’t one to care much about reputations and in 2003, his first year there, he finished fifth overall. His performances earned him the ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. After a tame 2004, Hayden turned up the heat in 2005 where he finished third in the MotoGP championship points’ standings, behind Marco Melandri and the champion, Valentino Rossi.
In 2006, Repsol Honda decided that enough was enough and handed Hayden a full 2006 Honda bike for the pre-season testing. Valentino Rossi had had a monopoly of sorts with 5 consecutive championships and from round 3 of 2006, Hayden seemed like the one who would break the run. But just when it seemed that everything was in the bag, things started going wrong. At the last but one round in Estoril, team mate Dani Pedrosa marginally missed his breaking point while following Nicky and the result was not so pretty. Both bikes went off in a low-side accident and Rossi took second spot to take an 8 point lead in the championship race, with just one race to go. So it went down to the wire and it took a string of errors, from the multiple World Champion, which gave Hayden the lead. Rossi started the race badly and was left dangling in mid-field. He tried to climb his way back up but in his over-exuberance, fell off his bike on the fifth lap. That was enough for Hayden as he then backed of the throttle and finished the race comfortably in third place, taking the championship by 5 points. Hayden had produced an extraordinary season of consistent performances and the fact that he just had two wins on the way to the title was a tribute to his riding ability as well as the reliability of the Honda machine.
In 2007, the Repsol Honda team was struggling for performance and Dani Pedrosa had a much better season comparatively. He dropped to 11th place in the standings and before the Donington event, he asked for most of his electronics to be switched off. The move worked as his timings improved drastically. He showed signs of returning to his old self after the changes and although 2007 ended rather meekly, he will be looking to up the tempo in 2008. The second year of his two year contract with Honda, 2008 will see a Nicky Hayden who is looking to get back to his former Championship-winning self. He has had enormous success with the development and testing with Honda and will look to convert that into results on the racetrack. A true championship contender, both Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi will have to keep an eye on their mirrors for the venerable American.
Related news & articles
Monday October 19
It was another eventful day of MotoGP action at the Phillip Island circuit where Casey Stoner demonstrated his familiarity of the track with a stunning display of flawless riding. More
Friday August 21
Casey Stoner may be out of the MotoGP scene temporarily however his absence has meant that a rookie will get the chance to show his wares with the Pramac Racing Team. More
Sunday November 30
Randy Mamola, remarked that Nicky Hayden would have a tough task ahead of him, as he prepares for his first season with Ducati. More
Monday November 10
Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso took out the heavy weaponry for their battle at Sepang and the Italian took away the honours in the end, gaining a podium place as well in the process. More