A bittersweet opening race for Honda Racing at TT Circuit Assen saw Nicky Hayden storm to his first podium in the championship and local rider Michael van der Mark crash out on the penultimate lap from second position.
Hayden launched off the grid from 10th position to force himself into 6th position in the early stages of the race, before squeezing past a further 2 riders and sitting comfortably in 4th. However, the misfortunes of one Honda rider on the third corner of the penultimate lap, opened up a gap on the podium for the other Honda rider. After having a moment himself on turn 5 of the penultimate lap, Hayden backed off the pace and settled happily for the 3rd podium place.
The America is pleased with his maiden podium and hopes he can push the bike further in tomorrow’s race. Hayden said:“The start of the race was really intense, because we had such little dry track-time, basically two laps on race tyres in Superpole 2, and so we didn’t know what to expect. I got a great start and was able to stay with the leading group of riders, although they were quite fast and every time I tried to relax, I could see a little gap opening in front of me. Towards the end, I started to feel more comfortable with the bike and conditions, so I thought I could find something extra in the final two laps. Just after Michael’s crash I had a moment at turn five, so I thought it was better to ride home in third. It’s my maiden WorldSBK podium and the first one in a long time, so I want to thank the team for the great work. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully we can put up a better fight.”
Michael van der Mark was gutted to crash out of his home race when he was pushing for victory. He said: “In Superpole it was all a bit of a gamble, really, but I felt fine on the bike even though the wind was really strong and made our job a bit more difficult. The laps I did with the race tyres were okay and with the qualifying rubber I made a mistake and lost a bit of time, but fifth was still a decent result. My race start was not the best and I stayed calm in the first couple of laps, then I built up some good speed and had a nice battle at the front with Chaz Davies and especially with Jonathan Rea. I felt I was much quicker in some areas but I was also losing a bit of ground at the exit of turn 5. I knew I had the pace to at least be on the podium but I wanted to win, so I was planning to attack at some point in the last two laps. Unfortunately I lost the front at turn 3 and that was a real shame, because the podium was there. We know what to change for tomorrow and hopefully we can make up what we lost today.”