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Nicky’s Title Defense – Readers Respond

We had some interesting responses to our article on Tuesday concerning the sorry state of Nicky Hayden’s title defense this year. Here are some of those responses in their unedited form.

  • Have any other champions had to defend their title on a completely different motorcycle?
  • The only person I can think of who successfully did that was Rossi when they moved from 500cc to the 990′s. Nicky isn’t Rossi. But at least Honda gave Rossi the bike he asked for. It’s a known fact that Honda didn’t build the 800 for Nicky. All other defending champions (aside from Rossi’s one exception) have been able to come back and defend their title on basically the same bike, the factory made sure the champion was set up for a solid title defense. Nicky is at a disadvantage on two fronts: completely different bike, and that the bike wasn’t built for him. Not to mention that even Rossi is complaining about the Michelin tire deficiency this year. Nicky will be back. Just look at the raw talent of his brother Roger at Laguna.
  • Come on guys give Nicky a break,Worst title defence in history?? Heres an idea,how about showing some support for Nicky instead of this crap.

  • Don’t remember him having any injuries in 01, and he was still with Suzuki. Nicky already has one more podium this year than KRJR had in 01.

  • Kenny Robert Jr. finished 11TH in 2001. He started all
    16 races if I remember right.

  • I don’t believe Kenny Jr. did too well after he took the championship. Or am I wrong?

  • Yes. Kenny Roberts JR

    In 1999 he was two wins from over taking the leader. KRJ took The GP500 title in 2000 with Valentino Rossi one win from taking it from him and becoming GP500 champian in his GP500 debut year.

    Valentino Rossi took the 500 series in 2001 with son of King Kenny falling back to 11 position in the points. It should be noted that in 1999 Rossi was 250 champ.

  • Outside the recent multi championship winners who has had a decent title defense?
    KR JR 11th
    Alex Criville 9th (his worst season ever)
    Lawson 7th (OK but if fans call you God, you should at least be in the top 3)
    Spencer ?? (always some silly injury but really WTF no points)

  • addendum to previous e-mail:


    It should be noted that DLP Nicky’s performance may just be a fluke of timing on two parts.

    part one:
    His SB champ title was one a bike that was designed by Honda to do one thing. Break the Ducati stranglehold on Superbike champianships. Which the RC51 did quite handly, along with every other title race it entered from Canadian Superbike to US Superbike to World Superbike, British Superbike, Austrailin Superbike and the Isle of Mann Tournoment Trophy with Joey Dunlop at the tiller. I may have left out one or two other titles it won in its debut year.

    part two:
    It is very possible that the only reason Miguel Duhamel didn’t take the title on it in 2000 is because he is a team rider, and he must be a very good one to be so consistantly on the top team year after year.

    This in no way explains or excuses DLP Nicky’s mysterious tendancy to crash once he got to MotoGP nor how he fluked his way to a champianship. It should be noted that one podium position swap down one in any race could have easily changed that.


    But of course we all know that’s racing and that’s why we watch and do it.

  • you forget that Mick Doohan came 17th

    17th in 1999 after 5 consecutive championships

    17th!

  • This open call to berate Nicky is uncalled for!!!! Nicky is a great champion at the highest level. He is riding a totally new bike which he has not yet come to grips with.


    I would believe a better question would be “Is it just me, or is everyone tired of seeing Matt Mladin cherry pick wins in an AMA class that he has stayed in for way too many years riding the same tracks over and over and over and over again to the point where he has to be bored? Doesn’t this make about as much sense as it would for Stewart to have stayed in the lights class? Does anyone understand why he talks bad of America but refuses to go to Moto GP?

    Nicky and is whole family are a class act and good for the sport. Mladin is an act!!

  • Your caveat of “while staying with the same team”–while technically correct–is in practice, a false premise. The factory Honda team abandoned Nicky to build a bike tailor made for the little Spaniard; I can’t bring myself to utter his name.

  • Hayden’s defense is not totally his fault. Honda has buillt the new bike for Pedrosa and seems to be backing him more than their defending champion.
    Even Colin Edwards has commented on this. You would think Hayden was a rider for a satellite team.

    I know this doesn’t answer your question, but this has irritated me all year.

  • I think it says a lot bout how well supported Nicky is. When Honda got the new bike together, was not fit to Nicky. When the new engine hit there camp, it sure did not go to Nicky first. Looks like Honda just wants Nicky to be a good little test rider, & they will let him ride. So what if he is champ, not who Honda wanted to be champ. If I was Nicky, the 08 season would be about finding me a ride where I could win, for a factory that wanted me to. What a shame. Keep your head up Nicky, some of us are out here watching & cheering you on.

  • KR Jr. won the championship in 2000 against rookie Rossi but finished in 11th place the following year.

  • I’m not sure if anyone has done as badly as Nicky has. But in his defense, he hasn’t had the equipment to work with this year.

    Honda seems to have put all their marbles on Pedrosa and made the new bike for him. Nicky has, basically, been left dangling in the wind and trying to do what he can with a bike that’s not well done nor fitted to him.

    Too bad because I believe him to be a high caliber rider that can do better with the right equipment.

  • Dear Editurd, Has any other world champ been told by his engineers that they are building the bike for this title defense around his teammate? Honda really had the Kentucky Kid grab his ankles and gave him a rough deal this year. Maybe the question you should have asked is why is Pedrosa not leading the championship on a bike built especially him by the team that dominated Motogp for most of the last decade. Nicky is not the most gifted rider out there but is a very solid performer when given the chance. Sadly, Repsol Honda has given the chance to his team mate who is now languishing in third place in the championship.

  • I found your article about Nicky’s poor performance in 2007 interesting, as I have been thinking about it all year in comparison with Damon Hill’s Formula One (motorcars here) title defense of 1997.
    After winning his first F1 title in 1996, Damon finished 12th on the season in 1997, not exactly a sterling title defense. In Hill’s case changing teams between seasons (and not by choice) from Williams to Jordan helped seal his fate, as perhaps to a lesser degree Nicky’s change to the 800s (along with the rest of the field) has not served him well.

    I realize we’re talking different disciplines here, but I believe that like Damon, many observers feel that Nicky’s lack of dominance, even in his title year, makes him less a champion than others who have earned the title. However, a World Champion remains one in the books forever, and worthy of the title.

  • He never deserved it in the first place! Should have only gotten “Honorable Mention” at best. He won on others mistakes and several years of Honda R&D. He was at the right place at the right time.

  • how did alex creville (sp?) do? or KR jr? certainly they were non-factors the next year after their title

  • I thought that Kenny Roberts Jr. finished out of top 10 in 2001 after winning in 2000. If not it must have been close. I’m actually surprised that he’s still running in the series given his dismal record since 2000. I guess when your Daddy is paying for your ticket though :)

  • Why don’t you give us some examples of title defenders who successfully rode bikes that differed in displacement by almost 20 percent from the prior year?

  • Why don’t you give us some examples of title defenders who successfully rode bikes that differed in displacement by almost 20 percent from the prior year?

  • He’s a better rider than his results show, so what’s going on?

  • Title defense? Pretty fitting IMHO.

  • No, but this may be a 1st, but let us remember that these are completely differtent bikes that really seem to favor european riders that came from the 250′s where corner speed is everything. The 800′s also seem to favor the smaller riders as well. Remember Nicky comes from a backround of Monster Superbikes that are braked hard , slid in, pointed out & shot out of the turns. A historical comparison is not valid. Lets see Nicky in WSBK, the 800′s w/Traction Control are a different breed.

  • I’m a Kenny Jr fan so I hate to say it, but Kenny Roberts Jr. only finished 11th in 2001 after winning the championship in 2000. As far as I can remember he did not suffer any major injury in 2001 and he stayed with the Telefonica MovieStar Suzuki team.

  • What about ALL of the other issues surrounding his defence?? Honda really screwed the big one with there 800, Michelin is also getting a lesson from Bridgestone. While I don’t give Nicky a full pardon, he has been set back by these two major equipment failures. Who would have thought Rossi would be TRYING to keep pace? (Rossi is still the best rider out there, only an idiot would argue that.)

    The other main contributor to Nicky’s let down IS his problem, and that is the different riding style on the 800 is more akin to the 250GP as far as carring speed in and out corners instead of cranking out the brute power of the 990. The lose in power really favors the featherweight riders like Stoner and Pedrosa.

    I hope Honda and Michelin get it together soon, but it’s too late for this year anyway. Sorry Nicky.

    P.S. Bring back the 990′s! What the hell is in the logic “the bikes are too powerful”?? Aren’t the bikes supposed to be powerful?? Are we racing here or what??

  • The other main contributor to Nicky’s let down IS his problem, and that is the different riding style on the 800 is more akin to the 250GP as far as carring speed in and out corners instead of cranking out the brute power of the 990. The lose in power really favors the featherweight riders like Stoner and Pedrosa.
    I hope Honda and Michelin get it together soon, but it’s too late for this year anyway. Sorry Nicky.

  • With regard to Nicky’s title defense, I think a better question is whether any MotoGP champion has received such dismal support from from their team?

    Repsol Honda seems to have made it very clear that Pedrosa is their rider of choice, even admitting that the new bikes were built for him. I would imagine that having that knowledge would be a huge blow to any champion riders psyche. He’s riding in a new class with a bike built for someone else, and he’s stuck at Repsol for another year after this. Cut the guy some slack.

    Truly, A blatantly obvious Hayden fan

  • Well, I remember that KRJR had a horrible year in 2001 after winning the title in 2000. I don’t know his final standing in the points though.

  • You might better ask “Has any GP champion ever been so poorly treated by a major manufacturer?”

    In my opinion, that’s the major question. This guy who is championing Pedrosa seems to be truely Machevelian.

  • On the surface you MAY have a point there. However, There are some important factors that are not as readily apparent as the points. First off, and everybody knows it and Nicky knew it coming into this year, that is of course that the bike was not built with him in mind. Let’s look back in history and see when the last time a manufacturer hung their world champion out to dry, abandoning him, ignoring his input on the next year’s bike choosing instead to gamble building a bike that specifically suits what should be their #2 rider. Second, being the cynic that I am and there is nothing other than the disparity in results to support this but, when has a #2 rider’s manager both held the funnel AND at the same time pissed in the ear of the manufacturer with so much volume as Puig has? Just like the debacle of a couple of seasons back when HRC played rider roulette, deciding to throw all their riders in the deep end while Rossi waltzed away with the title for Yamaha. Something is seriously wrong with the HRC/Puig program and frankly I’m accusing that partnership of being in collusion to not just have Dummie…sorry Dani win the title but, to bring Nicky down, way down and if you take a close look they have only been able to do a mediocre job at either objective. My prediction, I know you didn’t ask for it but, here it is anyway…Nicky will suffer through another dismal year at Honda and go on to win another title for another manufacturer. Pedrosa will NEVER win the MotoGP title on ANY BIKE OF ANY DISPLACEMENT. He neither has the mental metal or personal independence/assertiveness to put a REAL championship season together. In the off chance that he does win a championship, it will only be because he backs into it and Alberto whines him to the top. Association brings on assimilation…meaning? The longer Dani is tied to Alberto’s G-string the greater the chance that his “premier class” career will mimic his mentor’s. Not to say that I want to see Dani get hurt but, I think all would agree that except for the odd flash of brilliance Puig’s 500 GP story SUCKED!

    One more thing…If Hopkins hadn’t tried to win the race before he got to turn 3, Laguna Seca might have looked a lot different. Ask Nicky what he thinks.

    One more thing…If Hopkins hadn’t tried to win the race before he got to turn 3, Laguna Seca might have looked a lot different. Ask Nicky what he thinks.

  • Perhaps you should rephrase the title to Honda’s Title Defense, or Michelin’s Title Defense. It appears that as Hayden had the good fortune to capitalize on others mistakes and take the title in 2006. His equipment was among the best last year, whereas in 2007 it clearly is not so far. Even Honda has admitted that they underestimated the performance required to be competitive this year on the 800cc bikes. Realistically Hayden is probably not a rider able to always be at the front, few aside from Rossi and Stoner (this year) are able to do that. But he is almost without question a better rider than his results this year have shown.

    Another thing not to be overlooked is the rule changes and how they have shaken up the establishment. The park ferme tire rule has greatly reduced Michelin’s former dominance, while the 800cc bikes require a different style than Hayden has ever used before. Throw in a bike that is at best third among the manufacturers most weekends, and it looks like a perfect storm of bike, tires, and rider having to change his style. From a historical perspective perhaps these rule changes are unprecedented.

    However, there have been others which failed miserably to defend their titles. Marco Lucchinelli comes to mind, as does Alex Criville.

  • Are you trying to rub this in Nicky’s face? Is this the most noteworthy subject in the world of motorcycles? If Danny P. was winning everything then we could look at Nicky. It is Ducati kicking every ones butt, plain and simple. Honda has produced an inferior race bike, and every one is down on Nicky. He was loyal to Honda and in hind sight, should have gone to Ducati. He will be back !

  • Kenny Roberts Jr ??

  • Kenny Roberts Jr’s defense of his 2000 title. It seems when the motorcycle changes it may have a direct effect on his position. Kenny finished 11th for the year. Nicky is a great rider and I think between the difference in motorcycle and the lack of support from his tire manufacturer it is tough to overcome. I am disappointed throughout your whole staff you were unable to come up with a name of another rider who had difficulties but I am simply upset that you obviously got reprimanded too much when you tried to write a real story (read: bashing women) so you have to turn to a great rider in a difficult time.

  • I’ll only ask one question in retort:

    Has any motorcycle manufacturer ever before had one of their riders win the GP championship one year and not considered that rider their number one rider at the start of the following season?

  • Kenny Roberts Jr.
    2000 500cc World Champ for Suzuki
    2001 500cc 11th place for Suzuki

  • That’s easy, Kenny Roberts Jr. failed to maintain a top-10 standing in 2001 after winning the title for Suzuki in 2000.

    Hopefully, it hasn’t become an American tradition.

    From Team Roberts http://www.teamkr.com/index.cfm?p=riders :
    2001: 11th 500cc World Championship (Suzuki)
    2000: 500cc World Champion (Suzuki) Four GP Wins

  • Prior to Nicky’s bad luck this season, Kenny Roberts Jr. has a dismal follow-up year in 2001 after winning the GP title in 2000.

  • Where did KRJr. finish the year following his championship? I know he did poorly, but have to admit this season for Nicky has been a disaster. Between the bike being designed for Pedrosa, Michelin not being up to snuff and Nicky’s confidence in the dumps, his season has been terrible.

  • Twist the knife, why don’t you? Nothing better to do?Kenny Roberts Junior finished 11th in the year after his Championship win, and he stayed with Suzuki, and as far as I know wasn’t injured or overly sick.

  • kenny roberts jr. season defense ’01…? alex criville season defense ’00…?

  • Kenny Roberts Jnr finished 11th in 2001 after winning the title in 2000

  • The problem isn’t entirely Nicky’s fault. The biggest problem is the bike was fitted (from what I understand) for a smaller rider like Pedrosa. Honda obviously felt Pedrosa had the brighter future when they developed the 800, and they left the defending champ with an ill suited ride. Then, he goes to Laguna Seca, a track that he knows better than anyone on the circut, gets a decent start, and he’s knocked out of the race on the first lap because of someone else’s error. Not to mention the tire issue, with Bridgestone holding a clear advantage in most of the races this year. I’m not suggesting Hayden is the greatest Moto GP champ ever…he clearly benefitted from Rossi’s crashes and mechanical problems last year, but being defending champ, he definitely deserved better than having his factory ride designed for a smaller rider. He’s still one of the 5 best riders on the circuit, if given the right bike.

    On another subject, the reason Stoner is running away with the title is that his Ducati is so much faster than any of the other bikes on the track. Give Rossi the same bike and it would be no contest. It’s amazing Rossi has managed any wins this year given the Ducati speed advantage. I thought your “Is Valentino Whining?” article was a bit unfair. He’s always complementary of the other riders and doesn’t deserve the whiner tag. Face it, nobody in Moto GP is close to his talent level. I’ve seen the guy save tank slappers on wet pavement. That’s about as close to God like riding as a human can get in my eyes.

  • I think it is worth noting that while Nicky has been atrocious, all accounts seem to indicate that Honda was convinced that small was the way to go with the new 800cc bikes, and therefore built the bike around that malignant dwarf Dani Pedrosa.

  • Two riders come to mind, Alex Criville finishing 9th after winning the championship and Kenny Roberts Jr. finishing 11th after his championship. Were they healthy? I can’t remember, but they did stay with the same team.

  • No Kenny JR was worse.

  • I cannot “thing” of any worse title defenses. The why’s and how’s can be debated ad nauseam. I blame HRC/Honda. The haters can’t take away the fact that Nicky is and always will be a world champion.

  • In 1981 Marco Lucchinelli won with Suzuki and switched to Honda and finished 8th in 1982.
    In 1982 Franco Uncini won and finished 9th in 1983.

    Seasons not over yet……

  • The lad can ride, we all know that. I don’t blame him as much as I blame Honda for their lack of engineering on the new bike. If you’re riding as hard as you can, and you’re a world class rider – and we all know Nicky is – but you’re still not finishing on the podium, then there’s pretty good chance that the machine between your legs is the culprit. He’ll be back…

  • RE:- Nicky’s Title Defense Worst in GP History? POOR DIDDUMS !!!! HAHAhahahhAhHAHahaahahahahHAhahaahahhahaha!!!!!

    GO CASEY !!!!!

  • A title defense while staying healthy and with the same team overlooks a hugely significant factor: the rules changed. So the bike ridden by the #1 rider changed.

    The last somewhat similar episode was Kenny Roberts Jr defending his 2000 championship. He won on a 500cc two stroke and the next year began the 990cc four stroke era. Suzuki did not respond with a competitive 990 MotoGP entry, and Junior suffered accordingly. Is that a failure by the rider to defend his championship? Of course, he didn’t repeat, but the real “blame” goes to Suzuki for failing to give a world championship winning rider a machine as capable as the rider. Junior was on the podium twice last year (5 years later), so he hadn’t forgotten how to ride. Similarly for Honda in 2007. Superb 2006 990cc RC211V followed by the mediocre at best RC212V.

    There is one rider ahead of Nicky on “equal” equipment, his teammate Pedrosa. The only other Honda getting any kind of results is Melandri, and he has the benefit of the Bridgestone tires. Looking at the results of Checa and Nakano, who are also on Michelin tired Hondas one can see how uncompetitive the Honda/Michelin combo really is. Checa stands 15th overall in the WRC, Nakano 17th. Last year Nakano was 10th in the WRC after Laguna, riding a Kawasaki/Bridgestone and having scored 67 points. This year, 17th with 29 points. Was the 2006 Kaw that good, or the 2007 Honda that bad, or is it Michelin 2007 versus Bridgestone 2006, or has Nakano’s riding degenerated?

    Similarly for Nicky, it is hard to state the weighting of each factor influencing his 2007 results. The bike is not relatively as good as last year, the tires are not superior and the competition provided by the other riders on the grid is not some static entity. Not to mention racing luck. But I am confident that Nicky Hayden has not forgotten how to ride, any more than KRJR did. It’s just a question of getting a competitive machine on competitive tires and he’ll be back in the top 5 where he belongs.

  • Kenny Roberts, Jr. won the 2000 championship and placed 11th the following year (the year of Rossi’s first championship). This was still in the 500cc two-stroke era. Roberts was on Suzukis both years. (Was he healthy in the 2001 season? I can’t remember.)

  • Hi there – I’m probably wrong but what about Wayne Gardner 1988….. that year Honda redesigned the NSR for the worst.

  • Someday, in your dreams, you’ll be riding your favorite bike with the stickiest tires money can buy, passing squids like their standing still. When you reach your destination your riding buddies will praise you as being particularly fast and smooth that day.

    What nobody else will tell you is that you’ll never have .00000000001 of the talent and speed Nicky Hayden has on his favorite bike with his favorite tires riding in the best or worst conditions anyone can imagine with several million onlookers surrounded by similarly skilled people.

    Life is too short for the crap you’re sowing, remember to look long and hard into the mirror and try, try, try to keep it together.

  • Nothing wrong with the defense, everything wrong with the evaluation.

    Nicky inherited it last season. If the competition had a machine that was reliable and consistent. He would have been a non-factor (last year). He limped in with, what everyone else gave him.

    Don’t be too hard on him this year. The expectations were too high.

  • Kenny Roberts Jnr. won on a good steering but underpowered Suzuki by riding VERY hard.


    The next year there were 5 good NSR500s and 5 almost as good YZR500s on the grids, and no matter how hard Roberts shoved the Suzuki into the corners, he was always going to be beaten off the turns by the NSR500s.

    He ended up 11th in the 2001 Championship.