Nicky Hayden was made a MotoGP Legend during a ceremony on Friday at his final grand prix, in Valencia.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta presented the 2006 world champion with his official 'legend' status, after which the popular American said:
“It is really is a great honour to receive this. I do not take it lightly, I know there are people in this club with more illustrious careers and who have obviously won more than me, but regardless I got in there!
“Very happy. I mean for 13 years it was eat, breathe and sleep MotoGP. It's been an amazing ride. Of course these last two years have been tough, but I've enjoyed every minute of it, worked with some great teams and rode some great bikes.
“It's really fitting to do it here at Valencia. This is the track I came to watch at in 2002. I stood out there and - wow! It was my first European GP and it was a big shock just how professional everything was and the size of the crowd. I realised then I was in the big leagues and better get it together quick [in 2003]!
“That first year was tough, but also in Valencia I got the Rookie of the Year title, was able to beat the 250cc champion and WSBK champion and runner-up, which was pretty special. Then to get the crown here in 2006 was obviously the highlight of my career and something really special for me and my family.
“I'd just like to thank everybody who has supported me through it all, my teams and my family, I appreciate it all. Thanks also to Carmelo; I think MotoGP - as much as the last weeks have been a little negative - is in a great place. The sport is bigger and better than ever, the tracks are safer and the young talent keeps getting younger and faster. So the future is very bright.”
Hayden, who is moving to World Superbike next season, leaves MotoGP with 28 podiums, 7 fastest laps, 5 pole positions and 3 race wins.
The #69 raced for Repsol Honda from 2003-2008, Ducati Team from 2009-2013 and then Aspar in 2014-2015.
Ezpeleta said: “For all of us, it's a great pleasure to give Nicky this award - this is not just because you've been Champion and you're one of the riders with most starts in the premier class, but also for your behaviour over all those years, your sportsmanship and your friendship. It's a great pleasure to consider you one of our legends. Thank you for all you've done for the sport in all those years.”
Hayden joins a long list of greats that have been made MotoGP Legends, including Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan, Geoff Duke, Wayne Gardner, Mike Hailwood, Daijiro Kato, Eddie Lawson, Anton Mang, Angel Nieto, Wayne Rainey, Phil Read, Jim Redman, Kenny Roberts, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz, Barry Sheene, Marco Simoncelli, Freddie Spencer, Casey Stoner, John Surtees and Carlo Ubbiali.