Nicky Hayden, the former MotoGP world champion, has died five days after he was involved in a cycling accident.
The 35-year-old American was hit by a car during a training exercise in Italy last week and suffered severe head and chest injuries. On Monday, the Maurizio Bufalini Hospital, where he had been placed into a medically induced coma, confirmed that he had died.
“The medical team has verified the death of the patient Nicholas Patrick Hayden, who has been undergoing care since last Wednesday 17 May in the intensive care unit of the Bufalini Hospital in Cesena following a very serious polytrauma which occurred the same day,” the statement said.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Hayden was given a breathalyser test and was not found to have been over the limit at the time of the accident. Italian police have opened an inquiry into the accident, and the conclusions are expected in July.
Hayden entered MotoGP, motorcycling’s elite competition, in 2003 and won the world championship in 2006, narrowly beating his friend and rival Valentino Rossi, who had won the title five times in a row. Hayden, who was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, transferred to World Superbikes in 2016. He was competing for the Red Bull Honda team this season and was 13th in the riders’ standings.
“As well as being a true champion on the track, Nicky was a fan favourite off it due to his kind nature, relaxed demeanour, and the huge smile he invariably carried everywhere, said Red Bull Honda in a team statement. “The ‘Kentucky Kid’ will be sorely missed by all that ever had the pleasure of meeting him or the privilege to see him race a motorcycle around a track, be it dirt or asphalt.”
On Monday, members of the motor racing community paid tribute to Hayden, who was an immensely popular figure. The reigning MotoGP world champion, Marc Márquez, was one of the first to post about Hayden’s death on Twitter. “I’m shattered after the news. We will never forget you!,” he wrote. On Instagram, another Spanish MotoGP rider, Aleix Espargaró, said: “Can’t believe [it] … The most easy and good guy i ever meet on a paddock in my life! Love u Nicky!” The former Formula One driver Mark Webber described Hayden, the last American to win a MotoGP world championship, as a “beautiful person, genuine and real”.
Members of Hayden’s family, including his mother and fiancee, flew to Italy last week to be by his bedside.
“On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way,” said his brother, Tommy, in a statement. “Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming world champion. We are all so proud of that.”