Nicky Hayden, 2006 MotoGP World Champion, Dies at 35

Larry Lawrence | May 22, 2017

Nicky Hayden, 2006 MotoGP World champion, has died at 35.Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden, the last American to be crowned MotoGP World Champion, died today at Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, Italy. After five days in intensive care the hospital announced his death.

The statement said: “The medical college has confirmed the death of the patient Nicholas Patrick Hayden, recovering from Wednesday May 17 in a hospital intensive care unit of Cesena Bufalini as a result of serious multiple injuries occurred on that date.”

According to his doctors, Hayden suffered massive trauma, including a severe brain injury, after being struck by a car while bicycling Wednesday along Italy’s Adriatic coast. The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team shared the news that his fiancée Jackie was by his side, she was joined by his brother Tommy and mother Rose who arrived in Italy from the United States earlier on Thursday.

The news of Hayden’s accident set off a massive reaction on social media. Fans and well-wishers from across the globe sent messages of hope, prayers and support for Hayden using the hashtag #GoNicky.

In spite of the doctor’s best efforts Hayden’s injuries ultimately proved too severe.

He was pronounced dead Monday evening (Italy time), May 22, 2017.

According to a statement from Red Bull Honda: Nicky passed away at 19:09 CEST this evening at Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, Italy. His fiancée Jackie, mother Rose and brother Tommy were at his side.

He was 35.

Nicky’s older brother Tommy Hayden issued a statement:

“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.”

Prior to Hayden’s passing seven-time MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi shared his thoughts on his friend and former rival Thursday in a statement:

“Nicky is one of the best friends I have had in the paddock. We were teammates in his rookie year in 2003, when he was a young guy making his debut in his first European experience. That season ended with the World Championship for me and with his first visit to the podium, at Phillip Island. After a few years we fought for the title down to the last race in Valencia and, unfortunately for me, he won and became MotoGP World Champion. After the race we shook hands and hugged. Later we were again teammates during the difficult years at Ducati, when sometimes we would fight right down to the wire, maybe to get the last place in the top five. Nicky often came to the Ranch, where it was always spectacular to watch him and try to steal some of his secrets when we were battling, because he’s one of the fastest flat trackers in the world and before moving onto asphalt he won some of the biggest American flat track races like the Peoria TT.

“But the best memory I have of him is when he came to shake my hand after the unfortunate race in Valencia in 2015, on the lap of honor. For him it was a goodbye to MotoGP™, and I had just lost the World Championship. His look of support from inside his helmet is one of the few positive memories I have from that day. Forza Nicky, we’re all with you.”

Hayden was raised in a racing family. His father Earl and mother Rose raced as did Nicky’s two brothers and two sisters while growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky. Nicky, his older brother Tommy and younger brother Roger Lee emerged as three of the elite motorcycle racers in America, both in AMA Grand National Flat Track and AMA National Road Racing. All three became national road racing champions.

In 2002 the trio made history by sweeping the podium at the Springfield (IL) TT Dirt Track Grand National, with Nicky winning and Tommy and Roger scoring second and third. It was the first time in AMA Grand National history that three brothers swept the podium.

Also in 2002, Nicky became the youngest rider ever to win the AMA Superbike Championship. From there his MotoGP career began in 2003 with the factory Honda team. He scored podiums in his first season in MotoGP and in 2005 broke through to score his first MotoGP victory, an emotional victory on home soil at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California.

In 2006 Hayden won a riveting MotoGP title over Valentino Rossi, in one of the closest and most exciting championship battles in series history. He was the last American to win the MotoGP title and it made him one of the most popular American motorcycle racers of all time.

Hayden earned 28-career podiums during his 13-year MotoGP career, including three wins and five poles.

For the last two racing seasons he’s raced for Honda in the World Superbike Championship. He won a round of the series in Malaysia last year.

In 2015, at the MotoGP season finale in Valencia, Spain, where Hayden rode his last MotoGP race as a full-time series rider, he was honored by Dorna as a MotoGP Legend.

“It is really is a great honor to receive this,” Hayden said at the time of being honored. “I do not take it lightly, I know there are people in this club with more illustrious careers and who have obviously won more than me, but regardless I got in there! I am very happy. I mean for 13 years it was eat, breathe and sleep MotoGP. It’s been an amazing ride. Of course these last two years have been tough, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, worked with some great teams and rode some great bikes.

“I’d just like to thank everybody who has supported me through it all, my teams and my family, I appreciate it all. Thanks also to Carmelo; I think MotoGP – as much as the last weeks have been a little negative – is in a great place. The sport is bigger and better than ever, the tracks are safer and the young talent keeps getting younger and faster. So the future is very bright.”

Carmelo Ezpeleta , CEO of Dorna Sports, which runs MotoGP, said of Hayden at his Legends induction: “For all of us, it’s a great pleasure to give Nicky this award – this is not just because you’ve been Champion and you’re one of the riders with most starts in the premier class, but also for your behavior over all those years, your sportsmanship and your friendship. It’s a great pleasure to consider you one of our legends. Thank you for all you’ve done for the sport in all those years.”

Veteran GP reporter Michael Scott added: “Nicky was one of a very, very small number of World Champions who was able to retain the warmth of his personality and his genuine humanity and interest in other people, while at the same time being tough enough to beat the best in the world. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.”

In book published in 2007 titled The Haydens: Nicky, Tommy, and Roger, from OWB to MotoGP, author Chris Jonnum chronicled the life of the family of racers.

Jonnum perhaps put it best when he explained what Hayden meant to race fans across the world.

“If you asked just about anyone to name an American motorcycle racer the first name they would think of is Nicky Hayden,” Jonnum said. “I would say that even more than for his racing accomplishments, people loved and admired Nicky for who he was as a person. It was about how genuine he was and how genuine his family is. The first time I met him he made me feel like I was his best friend and I don’t think I’m the only one who had that sensation. When I worked with him at Ducati I saw it on a weekly basis. He had the ability to make people feel special. He was the salt of the earth.”

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