Nicky Hayden, 2006 MotoGP World Champion!
My heartiest congratulations to Nicky Hayden, his crew chief, Pete Benson, the entire Repsol/HRC team behind him, Phil Baker, Aldon, and everyone else who made a difference. Everyone involved has worked extremely hard this season, and the fruit of all their labor is the 2006 MotoGP World Championship!
I've haven't been around the GP paddock very long, but I've learned a lot this season and everyday, every race, was an opportunity to grow and evolve. I've seen and done more than I expected, and I never missed a chance to try something new - whether it was something as simple as a new type of food, or something a bit more complicated. . . . haha! One thing that has confounded me, and I'm sure has also had an effect on the American riders and workers in MotoGP, are the amazing cultural differences between all the peoples working here. While we travel around the world, visiting strange and beautiful places, the paddock remains the same, everyone working hard no matter where we are or what the conditions may be. It's within the paddock life, the close and constant contact with your team-mates and friends, that you really see how life is totally different everywhere. Some things that would bother me meant nothing to other people, and conversely, I was guilty of inadvertantly stepping on a few toes myself. Nothing intentional, but it happens and it's important that we were all able to step back, stumble through the language barriers, and clear the air. Communication is really critical out here, and while English may be the "official" language of MotoGP (and it's fairly international, too), the bottom line is that without a solid grasp of Spanish and/or Italian, it's very, very lonely, and moreso, it's difficult to get the job done because there really isn't a lot of time between practice sessions!
My initial goal of working in MotoGP this year has been fulfilled, but through the course of all this travelling, and all these races, my ultimate goals have slightly shifted. Overall, I think everything is the same, but more than ever I want to contribute to my team (whichever that will be) and be as valuable as possible. There's something so special and magical to me about actually laying hands on a machine that is going to go out and race. Just knowing that I was responsible for something, that my dilligence and attention to detail was helping to insure that my bike was going to make it home to the finish, makes watching my rider and the races that much more intense. There's far more to MotoGP than just wrenching on the bikes, however, and there is a huge amount of preparation and planning that must be put into a season because there are details and obstacles to overcome that most people will never consider. How to get our equipment to a tiny island off of Australia, for instance, and what if we need something once we get there? Timing is everything, and making sure things are lined up so that the people on the front lines can get the job done with the utmost efficiency and minimum of fuss is just as important, if not moreso. Anyway, there are a bunch of things to do in MotoGP and it seems like everyone involved in the series is "world class". Speaking of World Class, I should get back to talking a little about Nicky Hayden, something I wanted to do when I sat down to put some clicks into the website!
I've seen and heard quite a bit about all the teams, the riders - just about everything and anything - and there is a huge amount of respect given to Nicky Hayden, and the rest of the Hayden clan. One recent vivid memory is of Estoril, just after 9AM on Monday morning following the race. Nicky had just lost the World Championship lead the day before after being torpedo'ed by Dani Pedrosa's bike. My team was leaving our hotel, which overlooked the track, and the weather was heavily overcast and slightly rainy. One bike was roaring in the distance, alone. No one had to look, no one had to ask. We all knew it was Nicky Hayden. Putting in the laps, putting in the time and effort, never giving up. This was the case as several tracks, in the preseason, wherever and whenever. Nicky works hard, and he's earned the respect and admiration of many people, myself included. More than just a hard-worker, Nicky is an approachable and genuine guy who is quite sincere. He took the time to check in on me a few times this year, always stopping to say hello and see how I was doing. If he was rolling by on a scooter (while I was running around working, haha!), he'd pull over just to say, "What's up?", and I want to say thanks. It helped me to get on with my job and was oddly comforting, because truthfully, we're a long way from home out here. Actually, the fraternity of Americans out here is really nice, because we recognize the same similarities and differences, and also enjoy joking around with one another - because we can "get it"! There's a hierarchy out here, and riders are usually at the top with their support, the teams, behind them all the way. Many times I've seen people changed by their position or their status, but Nicky Hayden is just one of the guys - a regular guy who has an incredible amount of drive, perserverance, tenacity, talent, and the ability to get his two-wheeled machine around the track better than anyone else.
The Fastest? Sometimes.
The most entertaining? Maybe.
The Best? You're damn right!
Here's to Nicky Hayden, your 2006 MotoGP World Champion!
As Nicky said following the race,
"You've just got to believe!"
Lots going on this week and teams are busy testing here in Valencia for the following season, and there are still matters that are undecided at the moment. More excitement coming . . . . . .