Nicky Hayden MotoGP World Champion

Press release and images courtesy of Honda Pro Racing

The `Kentucky Kid' is now the 2006 MotoGP World Champion. Nicky Hayden has taken on the best riders in the world and triumphed in what has been a gruelling 17-race season spanning the globe - the toughest task in motorcycle racing.

But here at Valencia, Spain the 26-year-old has achieved his life ambition and taken the greatest prize in two-wheel racing.

At the end of an emotional day Nicky said. "When you dedicate your life to something and the dream comes true it feels so good. This is a proud day for me, the team and my family. I want to thank everybody back home and I hope they're partying back there in Owensboro. When I went down at the beginning of the Estoril race I thought the dream was over but I just didn't give up. Anything can happen in racing and you just keep fighting until the end. I just believe good things happen to good people and this is a great day for me. I swear on the warm-up lap this morning I was riding round in front of a full house here and I had tears in my eyes because I knew this was the chance of a lifetime and I had to go for it. I've felt all year that this was my year - even at Estoril when Elias beat Rossi I believed it. I knew that, win or lose, I was going to sleep well tonight because I was gonna give it my all today."

Satoru Horiike, Managing Director of HRC, was quick to praise Nicky he said. "First of all I wish to congratulate Nicky and thank him for bringing the title back to Honda. He rode a good clever race today. I also have to thank Dani because he also did a good job for us today. During the season we had to put in a great effort and had to cope with some problems with the clutch but finally Nicky made it."

Nicky's two wins and 10 podiums, combined with his 16/17 points scoring finishes have made him the first American rider since Kenny Roberts JR in 2000 to lift the biggest prize in bikesport.

Nicky's consistency has been his greatest strength this year. Even when the Repsol Team has struggled to adapt his development Honda RC211V to a certain track, his sheer grit and refusal to yield to circumstance has ensured he has scored points when a lesser rider might have crumbled. Nicky's competitive urge and the huge amount of experience he has gained over four seasons of premier class racing have finally come together to give the bike-crazy Hayden family it's first World Champion.

For a kid who started riding when he was three and was telling his dad Earl he wanted to be a World Champion when he was five - this first World crown is the culmination of years of hard graft learning the craft of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Nicky's dirt-riding skills gave him a head start over most of his rivals when he graduated to riding the big 990cc four-strokes and it was no surprise then that he secured the Rookie Of The Year title in 2003.

But further success then seemed a long time coming. His 2004 season was blighted by injury and it wasn't until he won his `home' race at Laguna Seca in mid-2005 that belief started to course through his veins. Nicky finished 2005 with four consecutive podium finishes and this was a pattern he would continue in 2006.

Hayden scored four top three finishes in Spain, Qatar, Turkey and China, then dropped to a fifth in France before regaining momentum with wins the Netherlands and again at Laguna Seca. But then success tailed off with a ninth in the Czech Republic, fourth in Malaysia and two fifth places in Australia and Japan.

He had to dig deep to get his title-winning season back on course with just two rounds to go and with only a 12-point lead over his nearest rival Rossi. But when he needed a big performance, he found it when it mattered most...

To dethrone a multiple MotoGP title winner in Rossi is a towering achievement and to do it while developing a second generation RCV machine for Honda puts Hayden's 2006 performance among the best yet seen in the four-stroke era. This was one of the closest title contests in years with an ebb and flow to it that has gripped race fans for seven tense months.

Nicky is no stranger to winning, but now he has a World title to add to a string of American Championships. It's taken this former US flat-tracker four years to fulfil a dream, and this success is without doubt the sweetest yet tasted for Nicky.The approachable, amiable and supremely able rider formerly known as

Mr Dirt' for his success on the cinders can now formally call himself

Mr MotoGP 2006'.