2006 MotoGP champion dies from injuries sustained in training accident
2006 MotoGP champion and Motul FIM Superbike World Championship competitor Nicky Hayden died on Monday, May 22, due to injuries resulting from a road accident with a car when he was training on his bicycle on the Rimini coastline in Italy near the Misano circuit five days earlier. He was 35 years old.
“The Kentucky Kid” was known for his talent on the race track and a distinct and likable persona that endeared him to fans and fellow racers. His ever-present smile and willingness to interact in person and online cemented him as a fan favorite.
Hayden excelled at two-wheel racing in all forms, competing in AMA Pro Flat Track racing before becoming a dominant road course competitor. He famously edged Valentino Rossi for the 2006 MotoGP world championship, breaking Rossi’s five-year reign on the title. He switched to Motul FIM Superbike World Championship in 2016, taking his most recent win in Malaysia that season and remaining an active competitor for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike team until the time of his accident.
Hayden had a special relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit was the only U.S. stop in the international MotoGP series during the height of the American rider’s career. He achieved superstar status by scoring his first career MotoGP win when the track hosted the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and repeating the feat during his championship season in 2006.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has been the site of additional milestones in the career of Hayden and brothers Roger and Tommy, who are also professional riders. At 16 years old, Hayden scored his first AMA 750 Supersport win there in 1998. When Hayden switched to the World Superbike Challenge in 2016, fans clamored to see their hero return to the Monterey Peninsula at the 2016 Motul FIM World Superbike Championship GEICO U.S. Round. Unfortunately, another homecoming celebration at this year’s event on July 7-9 was cut short by the tragic accident.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Nicky Hayden,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “He was an outstanding racer and, more than that, an incredible human being. The memories he created on the track are unforgettable, and he had such a special connection to his fans. Nicky was more than a rider. He was a friend. Words just don’t describe the loss. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and fans.”
Everyone at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) joins the racing community in extending their sympathies to Hayden’s fiancé Jackie Marin, parents Earl and Rose, siblings Tommy, Jenny, Nicky, Roger, and Kathleen, and to his extended family, friends, and fans.