YEAR BY YEAR
5th in MotoGP World Championship (Yamaha)
7th in MotoGP World Championship (Yamaha)
12th in MotoGP World Championship (Yamaha)
MotoGP Rookie of the Year (Yamaha)
5th in Superbike World Championship (Yamaha)
Supersport World Champion (Yamaha)
3rd in British Superbike Championship (Honda)
9th in British Superbike Championship (Suzuki)
British Supersport Champion (Honda)
3rd in British Supersport Championship (Honda)
10th in British Supersport Championship (Honda)
2nd in Yamaha R6 Cup
4th in Junior Superstock Championship
Aprilia RS 125 Challenge winner
Aprilia RS 125 Challenge
UK Junior Challenge winner
With the 2012 season, Nicky Hayden completes a decade in the MotoGP world championship, and four years with the Ducati Team. During that time, he has established himself not only as a top rider and a world champion, but one of the most popular racers in the series—both with the fans, and among those who earn a living in the paddock.
Nicky was born into a motorcycle-crazy family in rural Owensboro, Kentucky, on July 30, 1981. Both of his parents—father Thomas Earl (whose #69 Nicky has used for his entire career) and mother Rose Marie Kamuff—had raced bikes; although Earl likes to say he had “lots of nerve and not much talent,” he posted some good results in mid-level events, while Rose ruled the so-called “Powder Puff” women’s class for half a decade.
The Haydens had five children—three sons and two daughters—of which Nicky was the middle sibling (Tommy and Jennifer are older, Roger and Kathleen are younger). Almost as soon as they were able to walk, Earl had them all riding bikes, and he even built a track on his property so that they’d have a place to practice the clan’s chosen pastime. So extensively was the dirt oval used that Earl named it “Sunset Downs,” for the fact that the kids often didn’t leave it until the sun went down. Though the girls eventually moved on to other interests, Nicky and his brothers are all successful professional racers (Tommy and Roger have earned championships in AMA Pro Road Racing). All still regularly take to Earl’s track on play bikes to keep their skills sharp between races.
Nicky was only 4 years old when he first began racing dirt track at a local venue called Paducah International Raceway. Through the area’s humid summers, he and his family would compete around the American Midwest nearly every weekend, then periodically hit the odd indoor event during the colder months.
Although over time his passion transitioned more toward road racing, Nicky and his brothers have always remained interested in dirt track, a world in which they all obtained great results. A highlight was the historic Springfield TT in 2002, where having all qualified on the front row, the three brothers swept the podium in the race! Nicky, Tommy and Roger Lee finished the race in that order, something that had never happened before in a professional AMA Flat Track race. At that time Nicky was already one of the most talented riders in the AMA Superbike championship and was in contention for the title, which he won just a few months later.
Nicky began to ride mini-bike road races at 11 years old. He became a professional at 16, racing a borrowed Kawasaki, and the following year, in 1998, he completed his first full racing season, finishing fourth overall with HyperCycle Suzuki in both the AMA 750 Supersport and 600 Supersport categories. In 1999, at 18 years of age, he signed for Erion Honda and became the youngest ever AMA 600 Supersport Champion, fighting for the title against his brother Tommy. In the same year he also participated in 12 of the 18 Grand National dirt track rounds, taking the Rookie of the Year title in that series. In 2000, now with Honda’s factory team, he progressed to the AMA Superbike category to finish second overall, just five points behind Mat Mladin. In 2001 he closed the season in third place, and in 2002, in addition to winning the prestigious Daytona 200 race, he became the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion, at 21 years and two weeks old.
The 2003 season signalled a dramatic change of direction for Hayden. Pursued by both Honda and Yamaha for a ride in MotoGP, the young American chose to stay with the House of the golden wing and became part of the factory team alongside world champion Valentino Rossi. Catapulted into a completely new environment, so different from what he was used to, Hayden was immediately respected for his open nature and ready smile, as well as for his aggressive and spectacular racing style. In his debut year, he achieved two podium finishes, at the Australian and Motegi GP races, and he concluded the season in fifth position as Rookie of the Year.
The 2004 campaign was more difficult for Hayden, who posted up-and-down results, and the season was complicated further when he fractured his collarbone during a Supermoto outing. He finished the year in eighth place despite having earned podiums at Rio and the Sachsenring.
The 2005 season was much more positive. A crash in the first race was followed by a series of ever better results, culminating in his debut MotoGP win, at his home race of Laguna Seca. A further five podiums, in Germany, Qatar, Australia, Turkey and Valencia, saw Nicky close the season in third position.
The 2006 campaign brought Hayden true glory. He started the season strongly, with seven podiums in the first eight races, including the win at Assen, which took him straight to the top of the riders classification. This lead was strengthened by a second win at Laguna Seca, which put him 34 points ahead of Daniel Pedrosa and 51 ahead of Valentino Rossi. However, after the summer break, Hayden’s fortunes changed and he slowly lost ground before a collision with his teammate resulted in a fall at the Estoril GP. The unfortunate episode meant that Valentino Rossi had an 8 point lead going into the last round of the season, but nevertheless, Hayden arrived in Valencia ready to play all his cards. On 29 October 2006, having reached the third step of the podium after Rossi’s fall in the closing stages of the race, the Kentucky Kid became World Champion.
In 2007, the GP category moved from 990cc machines to an 800cc platform, and Hayden was not immediately comfortable with the new bike. Despite great efforts to develop the RC212V, he was never able to truly fight to defend his title. The work completed during the year allowed him to reach the podium in Germany, Holland and the Czech Republic, but he was only able to finish the season in eighth position.
The 2008 season was another year of mixed fortunes for Hayden, especially at the start of the season when, despite several top-five finishes, he failed to reach the podium. An injury to his foot, caused during practice for a Supermoto race in the X-Games in Los Angeles, complicated things and forced him to miss the Czech Republic and San Marino GP races after the summer break. However, always ready to fight harder when the going gets tough, the American was back on form at the second of his home rounds, at Indianapolis where, in difficult meteorological conditions and in less-than perfect health, he finished second behind Valentino Rossi. Another podium at Phillip Island and a series of strong results toward the end of the season allowed him to climb the leaderboard to finish the year in sixth position.
For the 2009 season, Hayden switched to Ducati, racing alongside Casey Stoner, a fellow native English speaker, former dirt track racer, and MotoGP title-earner. While familiarizing himself with his new bike and team, the American turned in a podium finish at his home race in Indianapolis and ended the season positively.
Nicky’s second season with Ducati went much better, and he started 2010 with fourth-place finishes in four of the first five rounds. Apart from crashes at three races (both Italian rounds and the Valencia finale) and a twelfth-place result in Motegi, Hayden never finished lower than eighth, and a podium result at Aragon’s debut Grand Prix helped him to a seventh-place showing in the final season standings.
Last season saw Nicky signed on for two more years with Ducati, where he reunited with Valentino Rossi, his first MotoGP teammate from 2003. The two riders started the season aboard the GP11, aboard which Hayden achieved a podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez. Eventually, the team switched to the prototype GP11.1 in an effort to improve its competitiveness for 2012, and Nicky ultimately finished just behind his teammate in the final points standings, in eighth position.
For 2012, the championship has moved back to a 1,000cc format, and Hayden and Rossi are both armed with Ducati’s significantly updated Desmosedici GP12.