“That’s why we line up on Sunday.” This was a throwaway comment from Nicky Hayden made during his MotoGP title winning campaign of 2006. The American was referring to the fact that anything could happen over the course of a race, but on Sunday he showed again that the true reason why racers line up on Sunday is to win.
Hayden claimed a stunning maiden WorldSBK victory in difficult conditions at the Sepang International Circuit this passed weekend. For Hayden, having waited ten years for a vicotry, it was clear in the aftermath just how much it meant for The Kentucky Kid to finally win again.
Having made a superb start, and jumping to the front from the outset, the Hayden opened a commanding lead before Davide Giugliano started to take chunks out of the Honda rider’s lead. Even on the last lap, there was doubts as to who would win the race.
“I only felt confident of winning once I’d crossed the finish line. I learned a long time ago — and if you see me or my brothers, or my Dad — we never celebrate until the bike crosses the finish line. And I went flat-out across the line! It’s been a long time since my last win and I wish it wasn’t so long but that’s the reality,” said Hayden.
“My first GP win was something special, but this feels great. I’ve had a couple of dry years, but I never stopped trying. I got the opportunity to come here to Superbike when at the end of last year I didn’t have a lot of opportunities. There weren’t lot of people in Superbike that were really interested. So to be able to still have some good races so I’m really happy,” he added.
With a sudden downpour delaying the start of the World Supersport race for two hours, there was question marks as to whether the Superbike race would start on time. This meant that with the track soaked by the rain shower, the all-new track surface would be put to the ultimate test.
When the riders made their way around for the warm-up lap, a decision had been made by Race Control that if any rider put their hand in the air and complained about visibility due to the spray, then the race start would be delayed.
The track was resurfaced less than a month before the race, but it held up to the test and the riders later raved about the conditions. The sighting laps were the first time that the WorldSBK field were able to test the surface in the wet, but having seen a wet World Supersport session Hayden felt confident in the grip level.
From the start Nicky was a man on the move and his elbows out, aggressive style of riding saw him quickly barge to the front from the second row of the grid.
The Kentucky native shot into the lead like a bullet and later one leading rider quiped that “I was shocked he managed to go so fast. I thought it was his lack of experience with Pirelli’s and he didn’t understand the tires but he made them work today.”
“When the WSS guys were on track in the wet on Friday afternoon, I watched basically the whole session to see what they were doing,” said Hayden. “I’d seen the lap times and knew the track must be good.”
“PJ [Jacobsen] also told me the new asphalt was really good in the wet. But I’d had a great pace in morning warm-up, in the dry, so I wasn’t necessarily happy it rained because anything can happen. But when it rained I knew I had to go for it.”
“I know people say ‘you can’t win the race on the first lap’ but in wet races, you can. After the warm-up and sighting lap I knew visibility was not going to easy. So I wanted to get to the front and, I mean, I’m not exactly fighting for the championship, so I had to go for it.
“I pulled a gap and they did a great job with the drainage of this track because it started to dry very quickly. Almost too quick in some places, so it was tough at the end but I managed my gap, got the win and I’m very happy.”
With this success Hayden becomes the 16th rider to win races in both World Superbikes and the premier class of MotoGP.