After putting in 13 years at a place of work, it’s nice to be honored for your service. So it was a proud moment for American Nicky Hayden who was inducted into the MotoGP World Championship Hall of Fame this afternoon in Valencia, Spain.
“It is really a great honor to receive this,” Hayden said. “I do not take it lightly, I know there are people in this club with more illustrious careers – who have obviously won more than me, and did more than me, but regardless I got in there. I am very happy. I mean for 13 years I ate, breathed and slept MotoGP. It’s been an amazing ride. Of course these last two years have been tough, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, worked with some great teams and rode some great bikes.
“I’d just like to thank everybody who has supported me through it all, my teams and my family, I appreciate it all. Thanks also to Carmelo [Ezpeleta]. I think MotoGP – as much as the last weeks have been a little negative – is in a great place. The sport is bigger and better than ever, the tracks are safer and the young talent keeps getting younger and faster. So the future is very bright.”
Dorna’s CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta expressed his gratitude for what Hayden had done for the sport and praised his efforts in the championship.
“For all of us, it’s a great pleasure to give you [Hayden] this award,” Ezpeleta said. “This is not just because you were World Champion in 2006, but for all the starts you’ve had. You’re one of the fourth riders with most starts – after Rossi, Capirossi and Barros – in the premier class. But also for your behavior over all those years; your friendship and your sportsmanship. It’s a great pleasure to give you this award and consider you one of our legends. Thank you for all you’ve done for the sport in all those years.”
Thirteen years is a long time in a race series, so now that that time has wound down and he will leave the paddock after Sunday to head off to World Superbike, is the gravity of it present on his mind?
“Well, I don’t think about it too much,” he said. “Just come here and try to do my job. Would be nice to get a good result, it’s not going to be easy, the field this year is incredibly tough. I’m sure Sunday I’ll have a few reflections, but for now I just want to focus on the race and do what I always do.”
As Hayden was once in a similar position back when he won the title at Valencia in 2006, he was asked if he had any advice for this year’s title contenders – Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
“No, I mean they’re both pros,” he said. “They know what they’re doing. I think it just proves that anything can happen on race day. That’s why we love racing. You don’t know what’s going to happen. And it’s why we line up because it’s so unpredictable.
“Both guys… Jorge has a lot of pressure on him because he needs to go out and get the maximum points to make it harder on Vale [Rossi]. And Vale have a big job, it’s not easy to pass around here. So it’s very clear what both guys need to do. I don’t think they need me to coach them and tell them what to do. I’m very curious to see what happens. Let’s enjoy a great Sunday. There are two championships up for grabs and looking forward to seeing what happens.