MotoGP has honoured the late Nicky Hayden by retiring his number from the sport.
The number of the former MotoGP champion – also known as ‘The Kentucky Kid’ – was retired in a ceremony during the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin. Hayden, who died at the age of 35 after a cycling accident in 2017, rode with the number 69 for his whole career.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of MotoGP organiser Dorna, explained the decision for number 69 to ride no more: “We thought it’s something we must do. Nicky was someone special to all of us.”
Hayden’s brother Tommy paid tribute to the 2006 world-beater on behalf of his family: “The number 69 is special in our family: my dad raced with it, and we always raced with it – Nicky carried the number through his whole career, so it has a lot of meaning. To have it retired from MotoGP, the pinnacle of the sport, it means a lot to us. It keeps Nicky’s legacy alive.”
Hayden started racing in the Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association (CMRA) before moving to the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship, winning the title in 2002. He was then approached by Repsol Honda to race in MotoGP, winning Rookie of the Year in 2003. His first race win came in 2005 at Laguna Seca, and he finished third overall in the championship, before he claimed the world title the following season.
This isn’t the first time a racer’s number has been retired in tribute, following the 74 of Daijiro Kato, who died in 2003, and 39 of Luis Salom in 2016. It has also occurred in Formula 1, with the FIA retiring Jules Bianchi’s 17 after his death in 2015.
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