2015 Valencia MotoGP Friday Round Up: Goodbye To Two Legends, Tire Trouble and Money Woes

We are creatures of habit in the paddock. After having had our biorhythms put out of whack by a wild and weird Thursday, having bikes on the track on Friday brought us all back into line, and restored a sense of normality to MotoGP. This was a race weekend once again, and the arguments and backbiting have been put aside for a moment.

Though the return of racing motorcycles going fast around a circuit brought some joy back to the paddock, the day was also tinged with sadness. Two events punctuated the day, celebrating two mighty monuments of the paddock, who depart for pastures new. At lunchtime, Nicky Hayden was inducted as a MotoGP Legend, with a ceremony and a brief press conference. In the evening, Bridgestone held an official soiree to take their leave of the paddock, as they ended their role of official tire supplier.

A Farewell to Arms

Hayden was given a warm reception, a full press conference room calling in to pay their respects to a rider who has gone through a tough couple of years. He went over all of the old ground and answered questions he has faced a million times with the same dignity he has shown throughout his time in MotoGP. Best moment? The championship in 2006, of course, when he captured the dream he had been chasing since he was old enough to know what he wanted to do with his life, become a world champion. The two wins at Laguna Seca, and victory at Assen, when Colin Edwards threw the race away in the final chicane.

Asked about the low point in his career, Hayden was his usual gracious self, saying that was something he would prefer not to dwell on. It typifies the man, always trying to look past the negative and see the positive, choosing not to speak ill of others or lay the blame of his own misfortune at the door of others. But there was one moment that he kept turning over in his mind, he said, and that was the one corner which stands between himself and the Grand Slam, victory in all disciplines of dirt track, as well as an AMA roadracing championship. "I came close to winning a Mile at Del Mar, where Scott Parker beat me," Hayden mused. "I passed him going into three, but that's the one race that still keeps me up. If I think about if I could have one last lap over again, I know exactly what I would do."

Hayden had praise for the teammates he had shared a garage with: for Casey Stoner, who had the most raw speed he had ever seen. For Valentino Rossi, who was both talented and determined, and an example most of all for his comeback to competitiveness after tough times at Ducati. Chasing a championship at 36 years of age was truly remarkable, Hayden commented.

Southern Gentleman

Nicky Hayden will be truly missed in MotoGP. He was a true gentleman of the sport, always well-spoken, always polite, as honest as discretion would allow. Though he would never give journalist the dirt that we all too often seem to crave, he would always leave you with a quip, or a quote, or a witticism. Though you rarely came away with a great scoop after talking to Hayden, you never felt like you were leaving empty handed. Hayden was a great representative for his country, but above all for his family.

Does Hayden deserve to be granted MotoGP Legend status? If he was to be judged on his win tally alone, he would not make it. But he is a MotoGP champion, and he has left a lasting impression on the sport. He was the last bastion of American racing in Grand Prix, and now that standard bearer is gone. He deserves to be remembered, whether you regard him as a legend or not.

After a bitter-sweet press conference at lunchtime, there was another fond farewell in the evening. Bridgestone invited the media to a brief presentation combined with an award ceremony for their photography challenge, won by the estimable Bonnie Lane. Warm words were once again spoken, a long line of paddock big hitters singing the praises of the Japanese tires. From entry into the class in 2002, to their first win with Makoto Tamada in 2004, to their successful partnership with Ducati, the Italian factory choosing to drop Michelins in favor of the Japanese tires. That was a gamble which paid off, not just for Loris Capirossi and the men who rode with him, such as Sete Gibernau and Troy Bayliss, but especially for Casey Stoner, who dominated the 2007 season as a young man. That precipitated the eventual mass desertion to Bridgestone, and then the instigation of the single tire rule.

In the afternoon, the riders had sung the praises of the Bridgestones. "The front tire is fantastic, you can bring the bike to the limit in every corner for all the race," Rossi told reporters. His words were echoed everywhere we went, and again in the evening by Loris Capirossi, and the bosses of Yamaha, Honda and Ducati.

Rise to dominance

Bridgestone's achievement is remarkable as sole tire supplier. They had effectively won the tire wars when new rules were introduced in 2007, limiting the number of tires for each rider, and demanding that all of the tires had to be present in the paddock by Thursday. That effectively neutered Michelin's advantage, which had been to bring a lot of tires to the track, and then manufacture special tires on Friday night to suit the conditions and temperature expected on Sunday. That worked when Michelin could bring drive their tires overnight from the Michelin factory in Clermont Ferrand in France to the European rounds, though it was less successful at the overseas rounds.

Bridgestone's manufacturing facility was in Japan, meaning they could not tailor tires to a specific situation. Instead, they concentrated on tires which worked in a much wider temperature operating window, and when Michelin could no longer manufacture special tires, Bridgestone started to dominate. Valentino Rossi defected to the tires in 2008, the rest of the paddock signaling their intention for the 2009 season. With MotoGP threatening to become a de facto spec tire class, Dorna and the FIM seized the opportunity to turn it into a de jure spec tire, earning money for the series through the sponsorship deal, and ensuring that everyone had access to precisely the same tires.

Bridgestone faced a few hiccups in 2009 and 2010, when so many riders ended up badly injured due to cold tire highsides. But a change to the tires to improve warm up performance made a huge difference, drastically cutting the number of crashes while maintaining outright lap times. The riders continue to complain about the spec tires, but their complaints no longer center around safety. The current generation of Bridgestone tires offer superlative performance, incredible durability, and very fast warm up. Riders regularly put 40 laps or more on the tires, and race records are being set in the last few laps of the race. They leave massive shoes to fill.

Never perfect

As outstanding as those Bridgestone tires are, there were still a fair few complaints about them on Friday. Temperatures were higher than expected, meaning that for some of the bikes, the allocation of front tires, especially, were right on the upper edge of the performance envelope. "It looks like here after four, five laps, not only the rear tire, but also the front tire is overheating. Because I think nobody expected this temperature here at Valencia and looks like the front tire is on the soft side," Marc Márquez said. Did that mean we could expect another Phillip Island style race, came the semi-serious question? Márquez laughed off the question, before offering a more serious answer. "In the end it looks like here I need to try to manage again the tires," he said. He had problems with the extra soft tire, as he had at Phillip Island, but also with the soft front, a tire he hadn't used in Australia. That was a tire which had given him problems throughout the Le Mans race, Márquez having to save crashes all through the race.

It wasn't only Márquez who had a problem with the tires. Cal Crutchlow had the same complaint. "The tires here are no good," he said. The right-hand side of the asymmetric tire was too soft, as was the harder of the two symmetric options. Crutchlow said he would ask in the Safety Commission for the medium tire – one step harder than the two symmetric front tires available – to be made available. That is not something which Bridgestone would consider: the medium tire would be good for braking, and for the many left-hand corners, but it would inevitably lead to a spate of crashes in Turn 4, the first right hander after a couple of kilometers of lefts. The right side of the tire would cool down, and riders would inevitably ask too much of the tire and thrown them off, Bridgestone feared.

In reality, it was only the Hondas which were suffering with tire choice, and only because air and ground temperatures were unexpectedly warm. The Yamahas had no problem at all, most of them using either the asymmetric front or the soft, though Pol Espargaro gave his preference to the extra soft tire. How good the front tires were showed up in the timesheets, Jorge Lorenzo leading after the first day.

Quick Yamahas

Lorenzo was fast from the off, with a strong rhythm and good pace, but he did not have it all his own way. The two Repsol Hondas were quick too, with the pace of Marc Márquez being masked on the timesheet by the fact that he did not put a new tire in at the end of FP2. He had alternated between the medium and the hard tire, with no real preference between the two, and had been fast on both tires. Dani Pedrosa was also not happy, struggling with both front and rear grip. Despite that, Pedrosa ended the day in second spot, a quarter of a second off the pace of Lorenzo.

The good news for Valentino Rossi was that he came out and was immediately fast from the beginning of practice. He had a good feeling with the bike, and the changes they had made had helped improve the bike, Rossi's pace broadly similar to the leaders. At the moment, Rossi is a fraction slower than Lorenzo, Márquez and Pedrosa, but given his usual form, he should be fast enough on Sunday. He will have his work cut out in the race, starting from the back of the grid, but Valencia is a track where anything can happen. "It is a treacherous little track," Wilco Zeelenberg mused. "It's easy to make a mistake." That explained the many topsy-turvy results throughout the years, he said, but with stable weather expected and the new surface laid last year, the track should be a little less unpredictable.

With Rossi due to serve his grid penalty at Valencia, and start from the back of the grid, there was much speculation around what Rossi's strategy might be for qualifying. The penalty is due to be served on the grid, rather than on qualifying, so Rossi's position will be recorded as the one earned by his performance in Q2. But on the grid, Rossi must go to the back of the grid, the rest of the field moving up one place to fill the gap left by Rossi. They would contest Q2 as normal, Rossi told reporters. He and his team had considered an alternative strategy, but they believed the most important thing was to treat this weekend like an ordinary MotoGP race. Any deviation from the norm would only distract Rossi from what is already a very high-tension event.

The 64,000 dollar question

The tension is still palpable everywhere, not least among those involved at a high level in the sport. Rumors of sponsors jumping ship over the aftermath of Sepang are running rife, fed by real facts on the ground. Italian watchmaker Sector is to drop sponsorship of Jorge Lorenzo, ostensibly over his actions at Sepang. Movistar is said to be deeply irritated, after having been forced to cancel the special celebration planned after the race with the two riders involved, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Then there is the realm of more unsubstantiated gossip. It is known that Repsol are having to take a big hit for their investment in Canadian tar sands projects, which looked very profitable at over $100 a barrel, but is running a dramatic loss now that oil prices have slipped well under $50 a barrel. Repsol are having to lay off their staff in large quantities, and questions are being asked of whether the Spanish oil giant gets sufficient return on its sponsorship investment. A week ago, I laughed the rumors of Repsol pulling out of Honda sponsorship as untrustworthy. This week, I am taking them much more seriously, as the Spanish oil giant is also looking at withdrawing from the FIM CEV championship. Another big sponsor is rumored to be getting cold feet, and looking to get out of the relationship they had with the Repsol Honda squad.

Have the events of Sepang driven money out of the sport? That would be stretching a point, but only a little. For sponsors who were mulling over the relationship with the various factories, and looking for an excuse to get out, Sepang provided the perfect cover story. There may be more of those than we think.


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Total votes: 84
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Comments

Hayden is a legend.
He won the title in one of the most fierce and closely contested seasons ever. And there were many credible competitors who had all the tools they needed for the title, but came up short. Plus he has been a bastion for humility and hard work and an example for people on and off the track.

Hayden, cheers. You'll always have a fan in me.

Brisgestone should be legends too. They revolutionized the sport and brought with it tyres that helped create the aliens and this new brand of near perect racing.

Cheers.

Total votes: 77

And yet you can bet the public interest for the Valencia round will be massive, given extra intrigue BECAUSE of the events in Sepang. And no matter who wins the title the controversy will add more interest to next year's title as well. I think if Repsol pull out the the sponsor vacuum will be filled pretty quickly.

Total votes: 66

Could this other big sponsor be Red Bull?

Total votes: 63

No, Red Bull is staying. They have more money than Croesus, and no qualms about being involved. 

Total votes: 69

Starting with his ill-advised press conference, it's ironic that the rider so pivotal to MotoGP's current success may have just taken a big-ass chunk out of the series.

Total votes: 77

Well, I am very disappointed to see this years championship decided in "the Backroom" by way of penalty points---very sad after a cracking racing season! Oh well, I can see why sponsors would want to bail out…
Sad to see Nicky pushed off to Superbikes after years of second (third?) rate Hondas---was that really the best Honda could do for a former World Champion?
Well, it's all over but the shouting and seeing what Vale can do from the back row…

Total votes: 85

I caught a shudder as if a northern Alberta gust of polar wind just blew over my exposed skin around this time of year as I came to the end of another well-written piece. I knew the actions of Sepang would do damage to the sport the moment they happened, but perhaps I seriously underestimated the ramifications of it all especially with the corporations that attach their name and image here. While Rossi may have brought more than will ever be lost INTO the world championship, the stark realization of the mess he's made goes a long way in explaining the look on his face every time the cameras have landed on it so far since the Valencia weekend began. It's all slowly dawning on him, and just keeps on coming, clearly with no end yet in sight. I still love the guy, but for the first time ever I wouldn't like to be in his boots. Although, my money is still on him to win the championship on Sunday because I think he'll somehow find a way to deal with all this. We'll find out soon enough.

Total votes: 112

Whilst I agree that it may not be much fun in Rossi's boots at the moment it's certainly not true that he's created this mess. Rossi's actions on track were far from ideal but, importantly, far from the worst we have ever seen. Marquez crashing into the back of another moto2 rider on a cool down lap, crashing at silver stone under double waved yellows at and very nearly seriously injuring marshals and another rider. He's not the only one. Lorenzo has a history of reckless riding.
The mess has been caused by he childish reactions of certain key players, namely Livio Suppo, HRC, Repsol (by far and away the biggest culprit - turning a blind eye to Marquez' misbehaviour but condemning Rossi) and Lorenzo. Dorna haven't helped either with its clumsy handling of the situation. No one is blameless, but Rossi has not created this mess. He dropped the plate, others are now throwing the food around the room.

Total votes: 120

In regards to all the racing incidents you cite in order to demonstrate that Rossi's actions are "far from the worse we've ever seen" hopefully you can understand the difference between an incident that comes as a result of racing at the limit, and an incident that could have been avoided completely and entirely altogether. The Sepang incident could have been avoided because it was borne out of pre-meditated and deliberate actions. Rossi's deliberate actions. This is not up for debate. It is acknowledged by the man himself to be true. He intended to run Marquez wide. Deliberately. I think it is because it was pre-meditated and deliberately carried out by such a super-star rider that is Valentino Rossi, with such a strong and loyal fan following and support base, that some of us find it difficult to fault the guy. Yes, he's amazing, but... Far too many have no problem calling out and laying blame on several players that had absolutely nothing to do with Rossi's deliberate actions in Malaysia, but the plain truth of the matter is that Rossi started all this with his weird accusations about Marc's riding in Australia, and his half-baked theory about him helping Lorenzo win. Whatever. If Valentino expected a different result after that press conference, then he needs to honestly look in the mirror and ask himself what he would have done if the tables were turned. Seriously. You say no one is blameless but have no problem laying blame in the laps of people who had absolutely nothing to do with this whole thing happening. Make no mistake, Rossi is to blame for all of this. And if you think the implications of it all are equatable to a simple food fight that just looks bad and leaves a bit of a mess to clean up, then you are seriously playing down the gravity of what Rossi has done to the perception of not only himself and his career and legacy, but to the entire sport. Ask yourself how you would have regarded the rider who did what Rossi did - TO Rossi - especially if you happened not to like that other rider nearly as much as you like Valentino. Would you be defending his actions like you're defending Rossi's right now? If you can HONESTLY do this then I will believe that you are not just another Rossi "fanatic". Wrong is wrong, regardless of who perpetrated the wrong, and this is not an opportunity to start comparing racing incidents to deliberate (and wrong) actions. There is a very, VERY big difference when you do something that is wrong - intentionally and deliberately. It's what separates first degree wrong behavior from second degree wrong behavior - and you do understand the difference between them when it comes time to sentencing...I hope.

P.S. And anyone who is now saying that Marc stepped over the line and broke the unwritten rules of engagement by racing Valentino so hard while not in title contention, then just look at how Valentino behaved at Motegi in 2010 when he banged it up pretty hard with Jorge, while having no real chance of winning the title himself - as opposed to Lorenzo who was fighting for the championship at the time. And please be honest and impartial here, not fanatical.

Total votes: 64

is how I've always thought of the Kentucky Kid. I was there the first time he rode in a national AMA roadrace back in 1997 when he was 16. He had a stock Honda 600 that rode in the SuperStock class. He started back in about 26th? or so and finished just outside the top 15. It wasn't his finish that garnered my attention. It was his ability to setup passes and execute them with precision. I'd heard and read about him and his early success in dirt track racing. I looked him up in the paddock that day when we came in from working corners. He was a very friendly & enthusiastic young man with a quick wit and an endless grin. When I told him I'd been watching him work his way through the field, his eyes lit up like a drag strip tree as he talked about how much fun he'd had. After a few more races that year it was obvious that this kid had talent and would be moving up quickly. He did just that and within a few years he moved into GP racing. He managed to win the title in 2006 while developing a new bike for his new teammate, Dani Pedrosa. Even then, he wasn't treated as an equal in the Honda camp.

Thanks for the years of dedication and class, Nicky. Not everyone in the GP paddock is a good guy and shows it, no matter what the situation is. In the nearly 2 decades since I met him, I've never heard him make a derogatory comment about other riders, his team, DORNA, etc. Nor have I read about it. That's not something you can say about most riders. In fact, several of the current crop of stars could learn a lot about keeping their mouths shut from Nicky. As my step-grandfather said "Sometimes, it's better to keep your mouth shut and let people wonder how stupid you are. Rather than opening that same mouth and removing all doubt". Good luck in the future Nicky, go get that damn mile win so you can claim a grand slam.

Total votes: 102

Perfect comments on Nicky. Less than a legend when measured strictly by on-track accomplishments, but an admirable MotoGP competitor who will be long remembered. Fantastic story about the Del Mar Mile too. Best of luck to NH69 in WSBK, and also to capturing a mile win if he decides to pursue that.

Total votes: 76

That's a question that had no business being asked in a farewell column. No class whatsoever, David. After all Nicky has done for the sport, you couldn't let that go? With that statement, the rest of the article comes off as a left handed compliment. Nicky deserved better. Here's hoping he has great season next year. See you at Laguna Seca, Nicky!

Total votes: 85

Maybe I am a bit old school, but if I were asked, I would hand the 2015 champion title to Hayden. He may not have 2 or 9 titles under his belt, he may not have the raw talent of the "big" 3 and he may not be a master of PR like the yellow guy, but I truly admire his personality and the hard work he made to arrive at the top (and afterwards). In my eyes he (and maybe Pedrosa) deserved it much more than the current contenders.
Seriously, this guy never had a bad word to anyone, never complained, kicked or pushed or started a PR-campaign even when he was torpedoed out in the gates of his championship. But rather kept his head down and worked even harder.
Maybe his humility did not help him either in the MotoGP business (compared to the big egos of the others) and it seems that the fans are also tought to want heroes and evils, but I personally prefer his gentleman-like behaviour.
Luckily we will have him in the WSBK which I tend to like much more than the MotoGP anyway. (however I fear that he will not have a big chance on the outdated CBR).

Total votes: 82

This weekend was kicked off by the permanent bureau reminded the riders about dignity and sportsmanship.

Well no (ok few) people IMO represent these attributes more than Nicky.

I DO NOT want this to read like a backhanded compliment...

But as it easy as it is to watch the racers on TV, to look at the screen and lament that you don't have Stoner's raw talent or Rossi's endless determination, Lorenzo's bottomless self confidence or Dani's never give up attitude...

....The fact remains that Nicky proves "ordinary" (sic) hard working joes can make extraordinary dreams come true just as effectively as the apparently superlatively talented

There's really only one word to describe a man who can triumph over adversaries such as Rossi et el...

Legend...

Of late (last 5 years) MotoGP entries into WSB have faired well (Biaggi/Checa)

I've every belief that Nicky can do the double, baffling statisticians for years to come... statistics just don't tell the whole story. Hard, honest work can always prevail.

(If anyone reads this and thinks I'm claiming NH has no talent then please wind your neck in)

Total votes: 71

Thank you. If for nothing else, Nicky Hayden is living proof that the trophies and championships are not the guaranteed purvey of the "aliens" (or whatever the current fashionable term). An ordinary, talented, and determined rider can ascend the heights - even if his team isn't giving him the maximum support.

And, quite frankly, that makes the seasons more interesting. I haven't enjoyed a MotoGP season as much as I did in 2006, because; a. Yes I'm a Nicky Hayden fanboy and have been for almost twenty years, and, b. It was wonderful to watch someone who wasn't one of the "guaranteed big guns/aliens" running away with the series from the fourth or fifth race on.

Total votes: 63

While I like Nicky and I'd say he could well have the talent to get a WSBK title, I'm not sure that the Honda he'll be riding will be fast enough to take him there. Here's hoping that Honda's 2017 model is something special.

Total votes: 56

Might just need a good excuse to go exclusive with their compatriots.
RB do have lots of money, and it seems just as possible they would invest more into bikes if they drop F1, but if Repsol leaves HRC and/or CEV that could be a void RB would be happy to fill.
Honda are pouring money into F1 too, so they have various demands for resources (engineers too).

if sponsors are not committed, or have problems that mean tough questions have to be answered, then they will leave. I struggle to think that this event ("there is no such thing as bad publicity") will have the nett effect of lost fans and that is what the sponsors will be most concerned about.

Rossi is still a money machine and whilst MM and JL are great riders, they are not as popular as the man.

I have no doubt that VR will go back to the focused racer he is after Sepang and it will be a lesson learnt (I learnt plenty after 36). The bigger question and issue is whether MM and JL have learnt that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Hayden has shown that good conduct and being a nice person gets you a lot more fans than really being a nasty person (not just playing the part). The Kid may not (I don't know) have the bigger social media following, but he has a huge number of passive fans like me. I hope we see more of him on the Superbike grids and interviews, because he is a real pleasure to watch and listen to, as well as riding a bike. MGP and TV should have made more of him. Walking away with a championship and as an official Legend ain't so bad.

Total votes: 99

I, like many others, have been a Nicky Hayden fan for many years. Watched him in the AMA and loved his attitude, talent and work ethic.

I've met and talked with all of his family and I can tell you that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. All the Hayden's are like Nicky and his dad is a class act. I'll never forget Earl's face when I told him I'd ridden my little SV 650 from Orlando to Laguna to watch his son race. He is a very proud father and rightly so.

I can't wait to see Nicky in the USA round of WSB (and at the Indy mile - I hope)!
.

Total votes: 69

David had make the comment, to defuse the situation: If he hadn't commented as he did, within four or five comments some jacknape would have come on claiming that Hayden was an also-ran who didn't deserve the '06 championship, etc., etc., etc.

Even though this site is much better behaved than most, Nicky Hayden's status in the long run of the history of MotoGP will be a contentious subject to some people. He just didn't win enough times to entertain some people.

Total votes: 59

Since it made no difference where Rossi qualified, he seems to have spent most of the session working on race setting. Then he decided to have a go at a lap time, put on a medium rear and after P3 he was about .2 down on the pole time and on a personal best when he low-sided. He was third fastest through P2 and even without completing P3 and P4 his ideal lap was 6th. It seems likely that had he completed that lap he would have been third or fourth after a Q2 where he only took one bite of the qualifying apple.

The fact that he crashed is kinda logical since he was making a big step without building up to it. The fact that he thought it was worth it to make a push for what would have been a theatrical but bootless pole is typical #46.

Tomorrow is one for the books. He needs to pass about six riders by the time he gets through turn 1, another couple at Doohan corner, and maybe one more at the end of the back straight, one at the hairpin and by then he'll be catching faster guys at the frightening 13/14 combo where he might get one and then he'll try and line up another couple of victims on the stoppers at the long turn 1 braking zone to start the second lap. By then he should be somewhere in the top dozen or better and, if he's going to have a shot making a run on 4th or better, he'll need to be no more than 3 seconds back at the end of lap 2.

Once Rossi breaks top ten and once Jorge has hit his rhythm you'll start seeing the Rossi info on his board. Jorge is cool as the other side of the pillow this year and unlikely to make a second mistake.

But there are a lot of things that can go wrong for either rider, especially for Rossi. it will be helter-skelter for Rossi on a charge like he'll be on. Some riders will leave him room for one of two reasons...the second being they don't want to be gently nudged off the apex.

I need to calm down now. Can't wait for this one!

Total votes: 67

"David had make the comment, to defuse the situation" Nonsense. Regardless of what he says, people will still say what's on their mind. If others choose to broach the subject, then so be it. My opinion is that David could have taken the high road and not include this question in an otherwise great send off article about a very popular rider. It could have waited until a more appropriate time. If some "Jacknape" choose to chime in "within four or five comments", so be it. They're just passionate fans with opinions, like you and me. David is a professional and I disagree with his timing.

Total votes: 69

First off, Hayden inspired me to ride a bike at a higher level. His flat-track-on-tarmac style is artwork. I'm gonna miss the KentuckyKid in MotoGP, but he's given me new reason to keep up with WSBK. Can't wait to watch him ride a bike with a bit less electronic interference. Thanks for the spectacle Nicky. I'll be a fan forever.

And, wasn't it Repsol that said Rossi's maneuver was so horrific, they were thinking of leaving the series for it. So pinning the pipeline failure on a racer. Creative.

Total votes: 65

No matter how much of a fan you are of Hayden and how nice the guy is, it has nothing to do with the valid question if he deserved the MotoGP Legend status. The timing is of course correct, because he received the honour this weekend and this is a website reporting and analysing MotoGP news. Questioning it months later would not be news anymore. And the question asks itself if you look at who got the status in the past.

There have been less than 20 riders granted Legend status before the modern MotoGP era. Less than 20 from the entire history of the sport. If you look at the illustrious list of names - Ago, Duke, Sheene, Doohan, Lawson, Nieto, Spencer etc - all of them completely dominated at the height of their careers or changed the sport forever, or both.

I was already baffled at giving Simoncelli posthumous Legend status (unpopular opinion alert) which appeared to be largely fuelled by the emotional atmosphere after his death instead of actually based on his achievements or status, both of which during his career put him nowhere near the riders previously granted that privilege.

Now, similarly, I feel the same with Hayden's introduction to MotoGP's "Hall of Fame". Yes, he is a very nice guy. Yes, he is hard working. But so are many other riders. Being the last American champion to hold up the honours and having lots of fans shouldn't be the benchmark for Legend status. For all we know, Doohan was a complete arse when he was dominating the sport. Again, this is not bashing Hayden in any way (although I am sure people will read that into it), it's questioning the criteria for the Legend status, which in recent years seems to have gone more towards pleasing fans and going for the "popular" riders than honouring really outstanding achievements.

Maybe an unpopular opinion, but this is how I see it.

Total votes: 78

Having said what I have said in the heading to this comment, I am actually in complete agreement with David Emmett's assessment of Nicky Hayden. As stv21 sees, there would be many more who are circumspect about the necessity to induct Nicky Hayden's name among the Legends of MotoGP. I think skyerocker has a point when he says David may have made that comment about Hayden having only three wins etc. only to pre-empt a war of words here which has not fully succeeded given Dannyboy's posts. I believe the Dannyboy is an American (sorry if I have made an inaccurate deduction) and probably Highside Specialist too (says he has been inspired by Nicky Hayden to take up riding at a higher level; whatever that may mean. And sorry if my deduction about Highside Specialist being American is wrong) and hence have been offended by the question that was raised. I do not think that this is the wrong moment for David to raise that question at this juncture. If you don't do it now, at any other juncture it would be without a context and hence would most certainly look like an insult. Having raised the question and then agreed with the induction of Nicky Hayden into the list of Legends, by David, should not be seen as a left handed or a back handed compliment.

Let me add my own two bits about Nicky Hayden. My perception of Hayden especially in his title winning year was that he was a percentages rider; somebody who rode consistently at a certain level without necessarily being very exceptionally talented. If I may draw a parallel from the world of tennis, Hayden was a bit like Jim Courier. Andre Agassi once said that Jim Courier had no talent and it was just hard work that brought him to where he was. And Courier replied to that by saying working hard and remaining consistent is also a talent. If one puts aside the strict rules of semantics aside for a minute, there is a point in what Courier says. Not everyone can work hard and stay consistent at a high level. Over the years I have understood and learned to respect that Hayden too rode consistently at a pretty high level, without appearing to be spectacular, and working within the limitations that he has. Just because he doesn't look spectacular does not mean he is anything less. A world championship is a world championship as long as you did not steal it, buy it or gain it by some illegal means. He is a world champion and a great ambassador of sportsmanship in MotoGP which has always needed that. The geniuses that we talk about were usually lacking in this latter aspect.

Hayden's interview that I read on crash.net showed what the qualities of a sportsman are. His take on the latest situation in which Valentino Rossi finds himself was that personally he would have preferred to dock points for his offence and let him start wherever he qualified and fight for the championship. And after having said that he also said that the Safety Commission was doing what the riders had asked for and therefore to ask to make exceptions would mean opening a new set of problems since this can become a precedent that can be cited later on be invoked by others and that would nullify the purpose of the Commission itself. Very mature, very sportsmanly.

I also remember when he once again became a partner of Valentino Rossi at Ducati, Casey Stoner made a scathing remark about him along with some on Rossi himself and Jerry Burgess. Stoner had said that he had more contempt for Burgess since Burgess went to Ducati with Rossi thinking that there was a small problem with the Ducati that could be fixed in a minute. He then said that he felt sorry for Nicky Hayden who just sat there waiting for Rossi and Burgess to develop a competitive motorcycle and then ride it for the championship. When this was brought to Hayden's attention he simply said that Stoner "feeds off stuff like that and that makes him ride more aggressively so its alright". I think that was a great interpretation of the comment, because all sportsmen do need something to bring the best out of them.

Most of all I cannot forget at the end of 2007 Hayden stopping specifically on the slowing down lap and congratulate Stoner for winning the World Championship. That was poignant because he had to surrender the championship to Stoner. There are many other instances that I can talk about; but the post is already long and so I shall refrain. But Hayden for me is a sportsman if there was ever one and this in conjunction with a World championship that he has makes him thoroughly deserving of the status as a legend in the MotoGP world.

Total votes: 58