The fact that we lost Luis Salom I haven’t accepted yet and there is another amazing person and rider who passed away. Nicky Hayden was one of the first heroes of mine when I started to follow motorbike racing. I started to support him already in 2003. It’s 14 years! And so it’s more than a half of my life so far.
Here I would like to write something about all these years briefly. I also would like to write it from my point of view, to write how I liked him, how I supported him and so on.
For the first time I noticed Nicky in 2003, as I’ve already mentioned. It was his MotoGP debut that year and so it was the year when I started to follow racing more often. And it somehow happened that I liked him. He was the young and talented boy. In that time he was one of the youngest there. Immediately he became my teenage idol.
It was the era of Valentino Rossi when I started to follow the motorbike racing more. But that boy did very well since the beginning when he appeared in the World Championship. And he was even Rossi’s team mate. In that case he couldn’t have a better “teacher” and bigger idol. For the next year Rossi went to Yamaha.
Nicky became one of my biggest favourite riders. There was a group of some riders who I supported a lot and Nicky was one of them. I was 13 years old. I was going through bad time in my life and race weekends always helped me and cheered me up. And Nicky was always one of the reasons as well.
He won a race in 2005 for the first time. It was at his beloved track Laguna Seca (and even he and Colin Edwards had double there). I didn’t watch it as I was too young and my mother didn’t let me to watch TV that late at night (although the race was always during summer holidays; and even in that time we usually were on holidays at our grandparents’ so it was impossible to watch races). But I remember that when I woke up and read the news I was very happy.
And then it came. Year 2006. This is the MotoGP year I remember the most. I still have all the moments in my mind. I remember it like it happened last week. Nicky won in Laguna Seca once again (and I didn’t watch it again) but he won also some other race and he took some other podium results. Rossi had a big rival in him. I still remember the unfortunate crash in Portugal when his team mate Dani Pedrosa crashed and took Nicky with him down. I think that in that time their relationship wasn’t very good. Toni Elías (my other big idol) won that race by 0.002 and so he took 5 points from Rossi (Rossi finished 2nd). It looked like Nicky’s title chances were away because it was just one race from the end of the season. However, Valencia 2006 was a race I will never forget. Valentino crashed. He continued then but he was back at the field. Nicky was P3, Dani was racing behind him and defended the positions. P3 would had been enough for Nicky. Dani said it already before the race that if it would be possible he would like to help Nicky and so redressed his mistake from Portugal. And it came off. I will never forget how I was crying and hugging with my sister. We were so happy and proud of Nicky.
In the Championship standing Nicky beat Valentino Rossi by 5 points. Yes, I am sure, that these are the 2 thousandths from Portugal. From what I know, Nicky went to Toni to thank him.
After this race I did write my first ever article. It was about that race and it was very biased at the end (I was writing something like our Nicky did it). I wrote it with a pencil to my small notepad. I never published it and nobody read it. But I am sure that the notepad is hidden somewhere in my room.
The other year wasn’t as successful as the previous one. But Nicky and Dani became my favourite team mates. And thanks to them I started to like Honda and actually the whole Repsol Honda team.
In 2009 Nicky went to Ducati. He was Casey Stoner’s team mate. The World Champions from 2006 and 2007 in one team. However, Nicky didn’t continue in his mega results. But there were still some good results.
When Stoner left Ducati it was Valentino Rossi who came there in 2011. His and Nicky’s paths crossed again. They were team mates again. But in that time they both were very experienced World Champions. However, until now we now that it’s not easy to ride Ducati and these two had some troubles with it too. It wasn’t nightmare season but it also wasn’t the best season. On top of that Stoner (who left Ducati and came to Honda) won a title.
After two years at Ducati Rossi left them but Nicky stayed there. However, in the races he was at the end of Top 10. Some other favourite riders of mine came to MotoGP (in that time I was already addicted to it and so followed lots of different series and had many idols). But Nicky was always one of those I always followed.
In 2014 I visited MotoGP personally for the first time. It was during Brno GP but that year I was there only for the Thursday’s paddock event. Nicky was in Aspar team that year. But unfortunately in the time of Brno GP he was injured so he didn’t take part. It was a shame because I really wanted to meet him. However I got a chance to meet my other big idol Leon Camier who replaced Nicky there.
In 2015 he stayed in Aspar and he was also in Brno. And so was I and in that year I was there from Thursday until the end of the race weekend. And that time me and my friends were lucky. Nicky appeared in paddock. He was quite busy so he did just a few signatures but he was smiling to everybody and waving to the people who were shouting his name. Just from the short moment I recognized how nice man he was. He was exactly like I imagined him from TV. Now I am very grateful at least for that short moment.
In 2016 he left MotoGP and went to the World Superbike Championship. He didn’t have the best time in MotoGP, some people even already wrote him off. But he came to Honda Ten Kate (the team where some of my other idols were racing before, e.g. James Toseland or Jonathan Rea). Suddenly Nicky was there. No, don’t tell me that it’s not a destiny. Everytime when I choose a team to suppport, my favourite riders go there then. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. So, Nicky’s team mate was Michael van der Mark. One of the biggest talents in motorbike racing. It was quite a dream team. And what did Nicky achieved in his first season? He won a race in Malaysia. He took some other podium finishes and in the final standings in the Championship he was 5th (Michael even 4th). Nicky was back.
And then it happened. Michael announced he went to Yamaha for 2017. In MotoGP my idol Stefan Bradl was without any racing bike. Stefan did make a deal with Honda team in Superbikes. He and Nicky in one team. My dream team. My complete dream team. I was looking forward to it the whole winter. For 6th February they announced the presentation of the team, riders, colours as they got a new title sponsor in Red Bull. I watched the video from it on repeat. I remember how it made me happy. In winter I had some mental problems and I was also ill and this was something like a medicine for me. I am not able to describe it by words (and now, when I am writing about it, I am smiling again and feel the happiness like in that February). I also saved some pictures of these two to my computer. These two boys in one garage, something amazing. Stefan got an amazing team mate, an amazing teacher. And it was necessary as Honda had new Fireblade and nobody knew how it would be. And Nicky was very experienced rider and already in his 2nd year in WSBK.
And it emerged that new Fireblade would need some time. Since the beginning of the season there were lots of troubles with it. Boys did score points in races but they weren’t very happy. I follow the videos on WSBK website very closely (as I pay for the video pass) and the interviews with Nicky were always the best ones. His face said it all everytime. He just said how it was, he said what they had to improve, with what he was happy, with what he wasn’t.. But he also took things how they were.
Unfortunately, my dream team was there just for a few months. After the race in Imola Nicky stayed in Italy. He came for some cycling ride. And he collided with a car. When I read all the kinds of his injuries I was afraid that it would have the worst end. But there is always hope and people just somehow don’t want to admit the worst can happen. But on Monday 22nd May shortly after 6 pm this hope went out.
I am very grateful that this my dream team came true even though it was just for a few months. I sympathize with my beloved team, with Stefan. It will be terrible to watch Honda team, on one side of the garage there will be Stefan but the other side will be empty. They will never sit next to each other anymore.
I also sympathize with Nicky’s family. They are so big family. Nicky has also 4 siblings, his brothers Tommy and Roger are riders too. Actually Tommy isn’t racing anymore but Roger is. He is in the American Championship and Toni Elías is his team mate. Coincidence? However, I’ve been always following all three brothers. For me all this family means the right sense of word “family”. I read something about them time ago, I also read some articles about Nicky’s beginnings and so on. Also the documentary about him is still somewhere in my computer. Maybe I could watch it once again. But not now, later. Now it is all still too emotional for me.
As a motorbike racing lover I am very glad I could find such an amazing rider, big Champion, great person. I will always remember him like I met him in Brno GP 2015. Like the very nice and always smiling man.
Rest in peace Nicky. I will never forget. Thank you for all those moments I could enjoy thanks to you (even though most of them were just through TV screen).
I also add some pictures to remember (I don’t put here the famous ones when he took the World title as everybody knows them). I did put these pictures also to my Czech version of this post to my Czech written blog.