The number 69 is synonymous with the late, great Nicky Hayden, and it will now forever remain that way after the 2006 MotoGP™ World Champion’s number was retired from the premier class of Grand Prix racing at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
It was an emotional occasion as FIM President Jorge Viegas and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta headed the ceremony, with Hayden’s father Earl and brother Tommy joining them on stage to share some words about the retirement of the number and the late Champion – as well as the significance of the number 69 to the whole Hayden family, as it has a history stretching back more than two generations.
The room was packed to the brim, with Hayden’s family and his fiancée Jackie Marin joined by friends, former rivals and former teammates to celebrate the achievements and honour the legacy of one of the paddock’s true greats. Hayden won three Grands Prix, took 28 podiums and won the World Championship in 2006 during the course of his time in MotoGP and was often given the moniker ‘the nicest man in Grand Prix racing’. In addition, upon his departure from the paddock at the end of 2015, the ‘Kentucky Kid’ was named a MotoGP Legend before his move to WorldSBK – where he also took the number 69 to the top step of the podium.
Tommy Hayden spoke on behalf of the Hayden family.
“First of all I’d just like to thank everyone for joining us here, everyone who’s showed up to celebrate this special occasion with us. For sure we’d like to thank Carmelo and all of Dorna for this event and for all their support pretty much since Nicky’s accident they’ve gone way out of their way in every way you can imagine. Nicky loved MotoGP and I think he loved it for a reason, because there are a lot of good people there – starting at the top, and we want to thank everyone for everything. Nicky had a lot of success on track but I think we all agree he made just as big an impact off track. In everyone’s lives; those of his friends and family and all of his fans. That’s something that, as a family, we’re most proud of.
“The number 69 is a special number in our family. Before my brothers and sisters were even born, my dad raced with that number and there were other family members even before us my dad helped and supported who always raced with the number 69. My sister raced when she was younger, my brother Roger, myself, always raced with the number 69 throughout our childhood years and growing up racing. Nicky carried the number through his whole career, it’s very special and like I said it has a lot of meaning so to have it retired from MotoGP™, the pinnacle of the sport, as you can imagine…it means a lot to us. So again I would just like to thank everyone for coming out, all your support and for helping us to keep Nicky’s legacy alive.”
“I don’t like these ceremonies, and I wish things like this would never happen,” began FIM President Jorge Viegas. “But once it happens…when Dorna proposed withdrawing this magic number, we didn’t hesitate. Because there are some riders, regardless of the number of titles, they mean something special. All of us suffer from the disease of loving motorcycle racing and some will remain in our hearts forever. Nicky is one of them.”
“It’s a great pleasure to have Nicky’s family here, since we lost him we’ve thought this is something we must do,” said Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. “We were talking about when we made Nicky a Legend in Valencia, and this time, since we lost Nicky in Italy, we were thinking we must do something because he was something special for all of us during his time with us. He touched everything here, his relationship with all of us was fantastic. We talked about that, we talked to the FIM, and for us to have the honour to retire the number 69 is something very important and I’m very proud to do it today. It’s a great honour for the Championship to have someone such as Nicky as part of our history.”
That he is, and forever will be.