Former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden died today, five days after crashing in a cycling accident in Italy, Hayden was 35. The American suffered “serious cerebral damage” after colliding with a car on the Rimini coastline on Wednesday, 17 May.The 2006 MotoGP championship winner was taken to the intensive care unit of Cesena’s Maurizio Bufalini Hospital, where he passed. “We would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle,” his brother Tommy said.
A hospital statement issued on Thursday night said Hayden had suffered “a serious polytrauma”, which is a medical term to describe the condition of a person who has multiple traumatic injuries. Hayden, who was affectionately called the Kentucky Kid, had raced for Red Bull Honda in the World Superbike Championship in Italy on 14 May. His older brother Tommy, who was also a motorcycle racer, said the family had many “great and happy memories” of Hayden. “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,” he said. “We are all so proud of that. We will all miss him terribly.”
“The ‘Kentucky Kid’ will be sorely missed by all that ever had the pleasure of meeting him or the privilege to see him race a motorcycle around a track, be it dirt or asphalt,” a statement read.
The Kentucky-born racer first competed in MotoGP in 2003 and finished third in the standings two years later. He ended the great Valentino Rossi’s five-year winning streak in 2006 following a heart throbbing final race in Valencia. Hayden had been eight points adrift of Rossi heading into the decider, but saw the Italian slide out on lap five and eventually finish in 13th place. Hayden’s third-place finish allowed him to take the title by five points. He is the last American to claim the premier class of motorcycle road racing.
At the time, BBC commentator Steve Parrish described the season as “the most entertaining I have ever seen”.
Hayden, along with brothers Tommy and Roger, turned professional after years of training on the track at ‘Earl’s Lane’ – the name for their home in Owensboro, nestled on the rustic scenery of the Ohio river. It was no mean task that all three became pro riders. Their father Earl was a dirt track racer for more than 20 years and mum Rose and sisters Jenny and Kathleen also competed. “I was bred into it. Bikes are more than just a job for us. It’s a way of life,” Hayden was quoted as saying in 2013. “When I won the title I went to my pit box before the awards ceremony, and there was the banner that said, ‘Nicky Hayden, World Champion,’ and I just lost it.
With a unique Appalachian twang and a big smile, Hayden was popular everywhere for his friendly, self-deprecating charm as much as his skills on the track. Former team-mate and racing legend Rossi called Hayden “one of my best friends in racing” earlier this week. “He never changed, from the first moment I met him as a 17-year-old kid to world champion,” said former BBC commentator Steve Parrish.