‘I’M PROOF THAT DREAMS DO COME TRUE'
We look at Nicky’s glittering career, from his first wobbles on a bike to the 2006 Motogp title
Nicky was riding a Yamaha PW50 at three and racing flat track at five. Hayden’s parents raced and so did their kids, Tommy, Jenny, Nicky, Roger and Kathleen. Even at an early age Nicky used 69 as his number – the same as his dad, Earl. “I crashed a lot so I needed a number I could read upside-down,” Earl joked.
Nicky signed for the full-factory Repsol Honda outfit alongside Valentino Rossi and finished seventh in his first race. He qualified 22nd at Suzuka, but scythed through the field. “That first race was a shock – you expect to be at the front, but you’re so impressed how fast these guys are,” he said. Nicky finished fifth overall in his first season and was Rookie of the Year.
Racing was in Nicky’s blood – just like his brothers. The Hayden boys had a huge impact on the US racing scene, still racing flat track at the same time as tarmac. In 2002, the three of them had a podium sweep at the Springfield TT AMA flat track race race. Unheard of, before or since. Nicky’s love of flat track racing never left him.
HITTING THE BIG TIME
It was Nicky’s AMA Superbike title that propelled him to international stardom. It was a season of glory – he won the Daytona 200 and scooped the outright title at the age of 21 and 11 days – the youngest AMA Superbike champion. He scored 17 AMA Superbike wins and 30 podiums that year.
FIRST MOTOGP WIN
The first win was a while coming. The first podium came at Motegi in 2003, but it took him another two years to win, at Laguna Seca. Nicky said: “There were people questioning whether I should be here, but I hope I’ve shown I should be.” Eleven years before, he had hitchhiked to the circuit to watch the race. “To think back, it’s amazing I have won the same race.”