Tributes flow for former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden
AMERICAN motorcycle racer Nicky Hayden has died five days after he was hit by a car while training on his bicycle. He was 35.
Last week, Maurizio Bufalini Hospital announced the 2006 MotoGP champion had severe cerebral damage and multiple traumatic injuries.
"It is with great sadness that Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team has to announce that Nicky Hayden has succumbed to injuries suffered during an incident while riding his bicycle last Wednesday," Honda said in a statement.
"Nicky passed away this evening at Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, Italy. His fiancee Jackie, mother Rose and brother Tommy were at his side.
"Throughout his career Nicky's professionalism and fighting spirit was greatly valued and carried him to numerous successes, including his childhood dream of being crowned MotoGP World Champion with Honda in 2006.
"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.
Former world champion and Ducati teammate Casey Stoner tweeted: "Thankful for the time that I was privileged to know you! #RIPNickyHayden #Legend Pray for his family during this time. We'll miss you mate!
"Nothing says more about Nicky's character than the overwhelming response expressed by fellow racers and his legions of fans over the past few days. Jackie and his family are truly grateful for the countless prayers and well wishes for Nicky.
"The racing world says goodbye to one of its dearest sons. Rest in peace Nicholas 'Nicky' Patrick Hayden."
The black Peugeot car that hit Hayden had its front windshield smashed.
Judicial authorities have opened an investigation into the incident and questioned the 30-year-old driver of the Peugeot.
Hayden, who was in Italy following a race at nearby Imola, was transported to the Bufalini facility following the incident on the Rimini coast on Wednesday.
Hayden, nicknamed "The Kentucky Kid", raced for Honda in MotoGP from 2003 to 2015, before moving to the Superbike World Championship for the 2016 season.
Hayden won just three grands prix in MotoGP - all in 2005-06 - but he famously took the world title that season after fighting tooth-and-nail with Valentino Rossi's Yamaha.
His death comes exactly a month after veteran Italian professional cyclist Michele Scarponi was killed after being hit by a van while out on a training ride on roads near his home.
Hayden's brother Tommy added: "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.
"Apart from these 'public' memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly."
Honda teammate Stefan Bradl said he was "deeply touched and saddened".
"It was an honour to share the garage with you. My thoughts are with his family. We will never forget you #69 RIP."
Dani Pedrosa, Hayden's teammate in 2006 when he won the world title, posted a photo on twitter of the American along with the words "Always in my heart, champ. RIP Nicky. #69."
After switching to the World Superbike championship last year, Hayden finished fifth in the 2016 standings.
Hayden was 13th in Superbike this season, riding for the Red Bull Honda team. Hayden was born in Owensboro, Kentucky.