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Is Nicky Hayden the Best 18 Year Old Ever; Thoughts on Honda’s 2000 Roadracing Team

Nicky Hayden turned 18 in July of this year, and, by the end of this racing season, he had (1) won the AMA 600cc SuperSport roadracing title, (2) won the Hagerstown half-mile dirt track race in the AMA Grand National Dirt Track series (also taking three runner-up finishes in that series), (3) finished second in the AMA Formula Extreme roadracing series; and (4) landed on the podium in an AMA Superbike race after just a few rides on the feisty Honda RC45 (beating his teammate Eric Bostrom, who was in his second season on the RC45, and who is none too shabby a rider himself).

We can’t think of another 18 year old (17 for most of the season) in the history of racing who has accomplished as much as Nicky Hayden accomplished this year.

It is well accepted that being an accomplished AMA dirt tracker was the foundation for many national and world roadracing champions, including Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson. Nicky Hayden may be the most gifted dirt tracker of them all (I’m sure you’ll argue this one with me).

If Nicky Hayden is the most accomplished road racer in history for his age, how good will he get when he peaks? And when will that be?

Next year, Hayden will race AMA Superbikes full time alongside teammate Miguel Duhamel (the winningest AMA Superbike rider of all time). Together, they will dial in the new Honda RC51.

We know that Miguel will hate losing to a young kid like Nicky Hayden — even more than he hates losing to Doug Chandler. It will be extremely interesting to watch these two ride the new Honda, but we think that the Honda will be competitive right out of the box, and that both Hayden and Duhamel will win races on this bike. Don’t forget that Miguel Duhamel rode the Harley-Davidson VR1000 years ago in the early stages of its development, and did remarkably well considering the fact that the bike was essentially uncompetitive at that stage. He knows how to ride a twin.

Nicky Hayden knows how to ride a twin, as well (at least a dirt track twin). We think he will adapt to the RC51 very quickly. Anyone who can jump on an RC45 and put it on the podium in his first few races can adapt to a slower revving, better handling 1000cc V-twin Superbike.

All in all, Honda’s roadracing team should be outstanding next year. We hope that Miguel Duhamel stays healthy (and that his leg has finally had enough time to fully heal). We also hope that Nicky Hayden continues to display the brilliant riding he displayed this year — and wins multiple AMA Superbike races next year. We wouldn’t be surprised.