Hayden joins American legends with dream win.
MONDAY 11TH JULY 2005
Nicky Hayden joined a long list of American racing legends on Sunday after clinching a faultless first MotoGP victory at his home US Grand Prix ?the Repsol Honda rider leading from start to finish, after bolting from pole and leaving the rest of the 21-rider field trailing in his wake.
With celebrities including Brad Pitt, Matt LeBlanc and Michael Jordan amongst the 57,932 sell-out crowd cheering him on throughout 32 intense laps, Hayden established an early two-second advantage over world champion Valentino Rossi, then withstood late race pressure from compatriot Colin Edwards to take a dream debut win.
The 23-year-old's achievement places him alongside American greats who have won premier class races at the Californian race track: Out of the seven Laguna Seca GPs, Americans have now won six; Eddie Lawson (1988) and Wayne Rainey (1989' 90' 91') John Kocinski (1993) and now Hayden. Nicky's win was also the first at the circuit for Honda.
"This is like a fairy tale," said a stunned Nicky immediately after the podium celebrations. "To come to your home GP and be fastest in nearly all the sessions and get pole and then win is just a dream come true.
"It's been since 2002 (in AMA Superbike) that I won anything - except the dating game TV thing - and to win the GP just feels awesome! My team and my bike, just everything felt good today and it just clicked.
"I just put my head down and just rode my heart out the whole race and kept pushing, pushing. In the middle of the race I saw the time gap come down and I thought 'oh no!' - but I kept focussed.
"These guys (Edwards and Rossi) pushed me hard, but today was my day. Man, every dog has his day and it all clicked for me today - it feels really, really nice," added a beaming Hayden after winning his 38th GP start.
"You spend your whole life rehearsing the speech for a day like this but now it has happened I can't find the words to describe how I feel!
"This win is for everyone in my team ?for Honda in believing in me and for all the great fans around this track today who helped me so much. I'm going to enjoy this moment for sure."
And one of the best post race moments came when Nicky, having completed what should have been his one and only slow down lap, pulled into the pits and picked up his by now near speechless father Earl - whom he then promptly took on a second slow down lap around the racetrack!
"Getting Earl on the back at the end is a real dirt track thing," explained Nicky. "I owe my family everything. My Mum and Dad have given up so much for us all as a family. I remember the roof leaking as a kid when it rained as all the money we had went into racing."
Hayden's desperately needed first victory also ended a Repsol Honda win drought that had lasted ever since Rossi left the team at the end of 2003 and the mixture of joy, and sheer relief, was obvious afterwards.
"A very special day and one we will all remember forever," stated a delighted Makoto Tanaka, team manager of Repsol Honda. "Nicky has been the man to beat all weekend and in the end no one could touch him. We at Honda have always had faith in Nicky and today it all paid off.
"Mr Takeo ***ui, the President and CEO of Honda Motor Company was here to witness the first Honda win in the top class of GP racing at Laguna Seca ever. I am positive that now Nicky has tasted success we will be seeing more," he declared.
"Today I really want to congratulate my team-mate Nicky and all his guys," added Max Biaggi. "He was simply perfect all weekend. Bravo Nicky!"
Hayden, US MotoGP, 2005