Thursday, February 3, 2011

Nicky Hayden

Nicholas "Nicky" Patrick Hayden (born July 30, 1981 in Owensboro, Kentucky) also known as The Kentucky Kid is an American professional motorcycle racer who won the MotoGP World Championship in 2006.As a youth, racing others twice his age in CMRA, Hayden would often start the race from the back of the starting grid while a family or crew member held his bike upright because he could not touch the ground. Later, at age 17, he was racing factory Honda RC45 superbikes while still in high school. In 1999, he won the AMA Supersport championship on board a privateer Honda. In 2001, his first full season as an AMA superbike racer, he came within 40 points of winning the championship, finishing behind only champion Mat Mladin and runner-up Eric Bostrom. The 2002 season, however, would see Hayden answering the bell: he won the Daytona 200 on a Honda Superbike en route to becoming the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion, defeating reigning treble champion Mat Mladin, among others. He also entered the World Superbike round at Laguna Seca, making a solid 4th in the first race before colliding with Noriyuki Haga in race two.

Hayden is one of a long line of American road racers to come from the American dirt-track scene. In 1999, Hayden won his first Grand National Championship race (Hagerstown Half Mile) and took Rookie of the Year honors. He was also declared the AMA's athlete of the Year. In 2000, Nicky Hayden won the Springfield Short Track. In 2002, despite racing in just a handful of dirt-track events, Hayden was able to win four races: Springfield Short Track (twice), Springfield TT Steeplechase, and Peoria TT Steeplechase. At the Springfield TT race, the three Hayden brothers took the first three places (Nicky 1st, Tommy 2nd, and Roger Lee 3rd). The win at the 2002 Peoria TT came after beating thirteen-time Peoria winner, Chris Carr, despite starting from the penalty line. Hayden only lacks a win at a mile track to join Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts Sr., Bubba Shobert, and Doug Chandler in the prestigious "Grand Slam Club."Immediately after winning his AMA Superbike championship, Hayden was tapped to join not only Honda's MotoGP racing efforts, but what was arguably the premier team in MotoGP racing: Repsol Honda. Hayden also became teammate to the defending series champion Valentino Rossi. Hayden was seemingly unfazed, and in his first year of MotoGP racing (2003), he finished fifth in the championship points standings while riding Honda's RC211V, an achievement that won him the Rookie-of-the-Year award. In 2005, Hayden finished third in the MotoGP championship points standings behind Marco Melandri and series winner Valentino Rossi. In 2004, however, Hayden had a difficult year and was widely critiqued, luckily he answered critics with his first win in 2005.

Video from Nicky Hayden

For 2006, Hayden was charged with spearheading Repsol Honda's championship aspirations, and was the only rider to be handed the full 2006 Honda bike during pre-season testing. He led the championship from the third race and looked set to break Valentino Rossi's championship-winning streak. Capturing the championship was not without peril: in the second to last round at Estoril in Portugal, teammate Dani Pedrosa lost the front-end while trying to pass Hayden. The resulting lowside accident took out both bikes. This left Hayden eight points behind Rossi in the championship with one race left to go. In the last race of the season on October 29, 2006 Rossi crashed on lap 5 trying to make up for a poor start. Hayden won the 2006 title that day by finishing 3rd (9.3s) behind race winner Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi. Nicky Hayden later commented on the difficulty of having to test parts for the 2007 season whilst simultaneously battling for the 2006 Championship. On September 22, 2006, Hayden signed a two-year agreement that allowed for him to race for and develop with the factory Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) team for the 2007 and 2008 MotoGP seasons. He has already begun testing the new 800 cc Honda RC212V. His MotoGP racing number changed from 69 to 1 for the 2007 season.

2007 started and finished badly for him, with Nicky struggling with performance, and team-mate Dani Pedrosa having showed what the Honda was able to do. A crash at Le Mans dropped him to eleventh in the standings at this stage. However, during testing before Donington, he requested that most of the electronics be switched off and his times improved. His subsequent performance in a wet Donington and a dry Assen showed a slight return to form, challenging for fifth with his trademark sliding and tail-out non-standard lines. However, he ultimately kept crashing, with a pole and 3 podiums but no victories proved to be the worse defence of a championship ever recorded. The 2007 season also saw the release of an authorized biography on Nicky and his brothers--The Haydens: Nicky, Tommy, & Roger, from OWB to MotoGP--timed to coincide with his return to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. In 2008, Nicky ran his old number 69 since Casey Stoner earned the right to run the number 1 plate after winning the MotoGP title in 2007. Donington Park marked the race debut of Honda's pneumatic-valve engine, which only Hayden is using initially. In the next round at Assen Hayden ran 3rd from the start and was set to finish there until he ran out of fuel at the final corner, due to an electrical system problem which prevented accurate fuel monitoring. Colin Edwards captured Nicky's 3rd place podium moments before Hayden coasted over the line with no power, to finish 4th place. A heel injury sustained in a motocross crash put him out of two rounds.

Relations within the team had already deteriorated, and there was further friction when Pedrosa switched tyre suppliers midseason (from the struggling Michelin to the dominant Bridgestone) without Hayden being consulted. Nicky stated "I've never been put in the conditions to choose. Once they told me that I would have just wasted my time had I even only thought about asking for Bridgestone tyres...I'm not surprised they've given them to him. Besides, at Misano I didn't even have the same fork Dani had... No way would I think they'd let me try the new tyres." This incident lent weight to the rumours that Hayden and Honda would part ways for the next season. The rumour was confirmed on September 12, 2008, when Hayden stated during a Dorna press conference, "It's no secret. Everybody knows where my next stop is going to be...But officially we're waiting to do it the right way, until the releases come out, because there's teams and stuff..." By the middle of 2008 it was strongly suspected by fans, media, and the MotoGP paddock already, and later supported by Hayden's own admission during a press conference that he would be leaving Honda, that Hayden would be joining the Ducati Marlboro Team to ride alongside Casey Stoner for the 2009 MotoGP season. This was confirmed on 15 September 2008 thus ending his ten year relationship with Honda.

During preseason testing, Hayden was plagued with problems and routinely finished mid-pack or lower. His major complaint was that the GP09 was "pumping" during corner exits leading to problems with grip. These problems continued throughout preseason testing. During qualifying at the season opener Qatar GP, Hayden suffered back and chest injuries in a major crash. Battered and bruised, Hayden finished 12th in the rain-delayed race just behind former team mate Pedrosa. Despite the setbacks, Hayden seemed optimistic about the results saying "I'm leaving here in a really positive mood and looking forward to Motegi." However, only further disappointment lay in wait for Hayden at Motegi. The Ducati rider had never ridden the bike in the rain and qualified 12th. Then, during the opening lap of the race Hayden was taken out by rookie Yuki Takahashi who plowed through Hayden from the rear. As a result Hayden did not finish the race and slipped further down the standings. The Jerez GP saw Hayden qualify 16th and finish 15th. On August 30, 2009, Hayden finished 3rd at Indianapolis. Hayden finished the 2009 MotoGP championship in 13th place (out of 18), his worst result in 7 years of racing MotoGP. His championship campaign was marked by remarkable misfortune, being speared off the track on three different occasions, resulting in no point scoring races. Yuki Takahashi, Alex De Angelis and Jorge Lorenzo crashed into him at Motegi, Misano and Phillip Island respectively. On 3 September 2009, it was confirmed that Hayden has signed a one year extension of contract with Ducati for the 2010 MotoGP season, ending speculation of a move away from the team. He will partner Casey Stoner once again at the team. During the off-season, Hayden had surgery on his right arm, having been suffering from compartmental syndrome or more commonly known as arm-pump. Early in the 2010 season, Hayden noted that there is pressure from the American audience for one of the three frontrunning American riders (himself and the Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Colin Edwards and Ben Spies) to win a race.

Nicky Hayden and his race costume performance

Nicky Hayden performance at Moto GP race

Nicky Hayden expression when he won the race

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