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RIP Nicky Hayden – Remembering the ‘Kentucky Kid’

Nicky Hayden

The motor-racing world has been rocked by the shocking news of former Moto GP champion Nicky Hayden’s tragic death.

The 35-year-old had been in intensive for five days after suffering “serious cerebral damage” following a collision with a car in Italy.

Hayden competed in 218 Moto GP races, recording three wins and 28 podiums, but he’ll be most remembered for securing the 2006 world title after a sensational battle with seven-time champion Valentino Rossi.

The ‘Kentucky Kid’ was a hot property as a 21-year-old entering Moto GP and was given one of the most sought after rides in the sport as Rossi’s teammate at Repsol Honda.

And he displayed his budding potential by finishing fifth in his first year in 2003, an achievement that won him Rookie of the Year.

It took until 2005 for his maiden race win in the class at his home circuit at Laguna Seca as Hayden fended off compatriot Colin Edwards to show signs of becoming a genuine title contender.

His time came a year later when Hayden spearheaded Repsol’s championship aspirations following Rossi’s switch to Yamaha.

The American gained a 51-point lead ahead of Rossi after wins at Assen and Laguna Seca, but Hayden went into the final round in Valencia eight points adrift following a tremendous comeback from ‘The Doctor’.

But Hayden wasn’t to be denied as he wrote himself in the record books by sealing the championship with a third place finish, profiting from Rossi’s early crash to clinch the crown by five points.

That was as good as it got, although Hayden had nine more competitive years in Moto GP with Repsol, Ducati and Aspar Honda.

He then made the switch to World Superbikes for the 2016 season and steered his Ten Kate Honda to a race victory in round six at Sepang.

And he was afforded a swansong at Phillip Island last October as a replacement for the injured Dani Pedrosa.

Despite only finishing 17th, Hayden’s legacy was already written with that resilient 2006 campaign in which he triumphed over Rossi in his prime.

Motor-racing has lost one of its greats, but Nicky Hayden’s memory will live on forever.

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