Author: Oli Rushby Pics: Gold & Goose Posted: 29 Feb 2016
Nicky Hayden has said he has to be satisfied with his World Superbike debut at Phillip Island this weekend despite missing out on the podium by 0.039sec in the second race.
Moving to the Superbike World Championship with Honda, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion walked away from the opening round with two strong top ten finishes.
Hayden was up the sharp end in both of the weekend’s races but slipped back through the pack towards the end of Saturday’s first outing with severe tyre wear.
With a race under his belt, Hayden remained close to the leading pack throughout the second race. When a mistake from Tom Sykes and Davide Giugliano elevated the American to fourth place, he began to close down the leading trio of Jonathan Rea, Michael van der Mark and Chaz Davies.
While Hayden was unable to bridge the gap to the front, he found himself in third position as Chaz Davies crashed out challenging for the lead on the final lap.
However, a mistake saw the Kentucky Kid succumb to a last lap charge from Ducati’s Davide Giugliano, denying him a debut podium by just 0.039sec.
“It was definitely a much better race on Sunday,” Hayden said. “We were quite a lot faster and had much more consistency. The bike was able to go all the way to the finish. I was disappointed to lose the podium on the last lap and at one point I thought I might be able to do something even better, but when Jonathan [Rea] hit the front he was really quick.
“I should be somewhat satisfied as we learned a lot this weekend; the team improved the bike so much between race one and two. It would have been good to be on the podium but regardless, it was nice being at the front and being competitive.”
Coming to World Superbikes after two nightmare years on Honda’s uncompetitive production MotoGP racer, Hayden admits he felt slightly uneasy ahead of Saturday’s opening race.
“It’s nice not to have guys blowing straight past me on the straights,” said Hayden. “I won’t say I was nervous but I was a bit unsure of what I was getting myself in for on Saturday! A couple of these guys I’ve never seen on track in my life and the first few laps at Phillip Island are always uneasy let alone at the start of the season. On track everybody rides in the right way, I knew what kind of level of competition I was getting into so I can’t say I’m surprised.”
The World Superbike championship now moves to Thailand for Round 2 at the Chang International circuit, where Hayden predicts things will a little more tough.
“The bike really held the line well in the fast stuff and was great in the fast corners but I was losing out under acceleration, so we need to see if we can improve that. Thailand is going to be more of a reality, as there isn’t two day’s testing to get up to speed. It’s a new track for me and it’s much more stop and go compared to Phillip Island so I’ll be seeing what I’m really in for this year. I’m not saying this weekend has been easy but we tested here and I already knew the track. It’ll be good to see how we go in a few weeks’ time.”