Superb maiden WorldSBK win for Hayden in race two at Sepang
Nicky Hayden came out on top in today’s race two at Sepang International Circuit to claim a spectacular maiden race win, in what was only his sixth FIM Superbike World Championship round as full-time rider in the series. Michael van der Mark completed the Malaysian event with a sixth place finish. Hayden’s impressive performance in race two marks the return of Honda to the top step of the podium for the first time since 2014, when Jonathan Rea was victorious in race two at Portimão.
Hayden got a great launch from fourth place on the grid and immediately set his sights on the lead, which he was able to take before the completion of the first lap. From then on, the 34-year-old never looked back and continued to master his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP perfectly around the wet 5.543 Km Sepang International Circuit. By lap eleven of sixteen Hayden had a four-second margin over second place, which he carefully managed up to the chequered flag in spite of a quick drop of grip as the track was drying out.
Michael van der Mark’s performance was hindered by his poor starting position, although the young Dutchman was able to make up several places in the early laps courtesy of a great feeling with his bike in full-wet conditions. As soon as the track started to get drier, though, the 2014 World Supersport Champion began to experience some grip issues that did not allow him to stay with the front-runners.
Nicky Hayden 69
I’m really happy for this win. Last night I was so frustrated that my crew chief asked me if I was OK and told me not to give up. I told him not to worry, and that I was just a bit of a sore loser. This morning in the dry we had good pace and great potential. When it started raining I knew I had to go for it: I’m definitely not in the championship fight and that meant I could risk a bit more. In the first laps I took some chances to get to the front and I didn’t want to get caught up racing in a pack like in Assen. I wanted to be at the front with clear visibility. As I got to the front the bike worked so well because the team knows the bike inside out and the set-up was perfect. I tried to stay as comfortable as possible while in the lead because we weren’t sure of tyre durability on this track with the new asphalt. I managed to pull a gap and definitely in the end wasn’t easy, because those guys were coming for me. I was able to hold on to the lead and get my first win in a long time. It’s been a few dry years but I never stopped trying; to get a win at this point in my career in Superbike is truly amazing.
Michael van der Mark 60
In the warm up this morning we tried something different again but it didn’t really work out. Before the race I didn’t know what to expect and I think the rain came a bit like a gift for us. My start wasn’t so good and I got pushed wide at the first turn, but I immediately got a good feeling in full-wet conditions and was able to bridge the gap to the front. As soon as the track started to dry out, I started struggling with the grip and couldn’t brake as hard as I wanted to. I’m really disappointed because the result could have been much better and I feel we were still missing something. I’m really happy for Nicky and his first win; we on the other hand have to find that competitive set-up again, the one that allowed us to do so well in Australia and Thailand. I’m pretty sure we will be back at the front in Donington.
Nicky simply put together the perfect race today. The rain didn’t catch us unprepared, because we had already a good set-up for the wet from day one at Assen. He got a great start and was able to get a 3-4 second margin that he managed right to the end, despite a great comeback by Giugliano. Nicky was able to counter attack whenever he saw that the gap was closing too much. So, it was a victory after a long time both for him and us, and we’re over the moon. We hope that this is only the beginning. Michael was doing well at the beginning of the race but unfortunately, with the track drying up he had a severe drop of grip. He did well to hold on to sixth and I’m confident that the next round he will fight for more.