Before the press conference, all the MotoGP riders posed for a photo holding up a sign to show their support for Nicky Hayden. Naturally, one of them was Valentino who had just written a post on his Facebook profile a few hours earlier, citing some of his fondest memories with the Kentucky Kid.
“Yesterday the news of his accident came as a shock. I spoke with my friend, a doctor, who explained how difficult the situation is - he said - Today what happened began to sink in and I wrote that post. Nicky is a very talented rider, but especially a great friend. He comes from a nice family of racers and right now we can only hope for the best.”
Rossi and Hayden shared a garage first with Honda and then with Ducati.
“I always remember the first time I met him - he reminisces - He had arrived in Japan from the USA and I saw him at the Tokyo station. He was dressed ‘American style’ and seemed like a fish out of water. Then we spent a lot of time together. He was nice to everybody, just a really cool guy.”
Their paths would cross again professionally in 2006 when they competed for the MotoGP title in the final race of the season.
“It had been a strange season and I had arrived in Valencia with an 8-point advantage, so in theory I was the favourite - he dredges up the memory - Instead, he beat me, but losing to a person that you like is not quite as hard, it makes it a bit sweeter.”
Another bonding moment was in Valencia in 2015. Rossi had lost the battle for the title and Hayden was riding his last MotoGP race.
“After the finish line I found him beside me and that gave me strength. He was sincere and these things usually do not happen - he thinks back to that episode - I hope that everything turns out for the best, although the situation seems critical.”
Many in the paddock are also reflecting on how dangerous it is on the road and train on a bicycle.
“You think about how many dangers there are in MotoGP and then something like this happens on a bicycle, but maybe on roads that are open to traffic, there are even greater dangers – Valentino voiced his thoughts - At one time or another we have all been in risky situations with a cyclist and now, with the new bicycles, they are very fast. I don’t think that all of these accidents in this period are by chance. We need to be more careful or go train on a track.”
Photo © Fermino Fraternali