Nicky Hayden: The worker champion

"The worker champion" could be the best way to define Nicky Hayden, the new world champion of the FIM Road Racing World Championship (MotoGP) since last Sunday, when he became the man that put an end to the five-year reign of Valentino Rossi in what also was the end for the 990cc bike era, leaving the way to the 800cc.

2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden celebrates.
Photo by Repsol YPF Media.

"When you dedicate your life to something and the dream comes true it feels so good," began an emotional Hayden, who has been with Repsol Honda ever since his 2003 MotoGP debut. "This is a proud day for me, the team and my family. I want to thank everybody back home and I hope they're partying back there in Owensboro." [Owensboro, Kentucky is the birthplace of the new MotoGP champion].

Far away from the glamour of many of his rivals, the American's choice for a different road to achieve his goal was to work. Hayden, aged 25, passed a lot of time during the season working hard in the development of the RC211V. The 6,146kms of tests the "Kentucky Kid" covered in the pre-season are a clear show of his work ethics. The number means the race distance of fifty-three Grand Prix events.

The world's premier class of bike racing has a new and different champion. Hayden is surely different to Rossi, and has an opposite way to achieve the same target: The World Championship. While Rossi, who since his arrival to the Continental Circus achieved victories and titles, with an all natural talent and charisma. Hayden plays a different role in the MotoGP scenary: Despite having a known talent, it was his patience and hard work what put him in the top of motorcycle racing.

Since his arrival from the Motorcyclist Association Superbikes championship with 17 wins and a title under his belt, Hayden took his time to know MotoGP and understand how things work in the World Championship.

Nicky Hayden.
Photo by Todd Corzett.

His two victories this year (in Laguna Seca and Assen, nothing less) and the regularity that gave him the ten podiums against the five Grand Prixs won by Rossi became the main weapon to beat "The Doctor". The American also scored points in 16 of the 17 races of the season (fourteen times in the top five). His only retirement was in the Portuguese GP, when his teammate Dani Pedrosa hit him taking Hayden out of the race and complicated his chances to achieve the title.

"If you don't give up anything can happen.I feel so blessed and so fortunate that I feel really humbled. This is a great day for me and my family". And is not an accident that the "Kentucky Kid" remember his family in the moment of achieve the title. Hayden is a family man. When he is asked about a place to hangout, his answer is always the same: His "lil Bros. house or Mom's kitchen," he says.

Hayden's family is the main support for the Honda rider since his career started and was fundamental after Portugal's blow. To watch his mother and brothers in the pits after the race was a clear show of this.

Hayden takes the World Championship back to the United States after being five years in Italy with Rossi. The last American champion was Kenny Roberts, Jr. in 2000 season with a Suzuki.

Hayden is now ready to leave behind the #69 he use in his bike and change to the always beautiful number #1 in his Honda 800cc. for 2007. The history between Hayden and the "69" comes from when his father Earl raced in the US. Earl Hayden wanted that his bike could be identified from any position in case of a fall. So his son carried on the tradition that he kept since his entry to MotoGP in 2003 season. "I'm looking forward to getting that number-one plate on my RCV next year", Hayden stated after the third place that secured him the championship in Valencia.

For most of the MotoGP's fans, Hayden's style may not represent the line of a MotoGP world champion, even more after Rossi's years of domination.

Nicky Hayden.
Photo by Repsol YPF Media.

Looking more at the statistics we can find something curious: Rossi who led the most laps during the season, while Hayden appears sixth in this. The Italian led the field on-board his Yamaha for 112 laps against just 29 for the American. Between both are Loris Capirossi (88 laps), Pedrosa (40), Colin Edwards (33) and Marco Melandri (33).

On Sunday Hayden touched the heaven with his very hands and now enjoys the privilege of being the man that defeated the "Almighty" Rossi. However, Hayden doesn't want to sleep on his laurels and is already thinking of his next challenge: to defend his recently won world championship.

"Sunday almost feels old now and I know we've made Valentino mad by taking his title, so I'm looking forward to taking him on next season", stated Hayden. "I want to come back next year and win again on this (800cc) bike. To win one title is great, but to win two of them takes you into another elite group -- so I'm still hungry".

To doesn't aim for the title loses the habit, and Hayden already started to develop the new bike of 800cc in Valencia following clinching the championship. The "Kentucky Kid" is surely hungry still, and knows that his style of "work" is the best way.