Nicky Hayden and Michael van der Mark have completed the Spanish Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship with another strong performance, as the two Honda WorldSBK riders were fourth and sixth, respectively, at the end of race two at ‘Circuito de Jerez’ today.
Hayden got a good launch from fifth place on the grid and immediately showed some aggressiveness on track, which helped him moving up to fourth place at turn five during the opening lap of the encounter. The competitive rhythm shown in the early stages of the race helped the ‘Kentucky Kid’ consolidate his position, although as the laps went by he seemed unable to stay in contention for a rostrum finish.
The 35-year-old American kept pushing as hard as he could on board his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machine and – with three laps to go – he had narrowed down to half a second his gap to third place. Nicky kept riding at the limit up to the chequered flag, although he could not get close enough to make a final move on Sykes.
Michael van der Mark maintained his position after the start and, after taking a bit of time to get past some of his rivals, by lap ten he joined Lowes and Guintoli in the battle for fifth place. After elevating himself up to sixth, he tried all he could not to lose touch with his former team mate and – with a really quick final lap of the encounter – he crossed the line 0.5s away from fifth place.
With only the two Qatari races left in the season, van der Mark is still fourth in the championship standings, 23 points ahead of Hayden in fifth.
It wasn’t an easy race, especially in the beginning, because the guys ahead were just too fast for me. Chaz got to the front quicker today and during the first laps, with new tyres, I just couldn’t run at their pace. On used tyres my bike was working really well, so I was able to chip away at them and bring that gap back, but it was a little too late. On the last lap I just wasn’t close enough to put a wheel in anywhere. The team did a great job this weekend because the bike worked really well around here; I’m just a little frustrated that I wasn’t able to be faster in the beginning to go with them. Also, at the end of the race, if you want a podium you need to step up and make something happen, but today I just couldn’t do it. Two fourth places are not the end of the world, but certainly a couple of podiums would have been nicer.
I’m quite disappointed with today, to be honest. This morning we tried something with the bike that I was sure could have helped us during the race, although during warm up it didn’t look like that. I got a great start to the race but unfortunately I had a small electronic issue that cost me many places. My pace during the race was not exhilarating but not too bad either and, in the end, I was almost as fast as the podium guys and I could even see them in the distance. I’m surely not happy, because I know I could have been much closer to the podium, but now we need to know what happened and get ready for the last round.
It was a good day for us. We made a few changes in the morning, but nothing major. We decided to go with different tyres with Nicky, both at the front and rear, and in the second part of the race it worked really well for him. Unfortunately, this tyre combination did not allow him to stay with the leaders at the beginning, but towards the end he was on the rear wheel of the Kawasaki ahead so really close to a podium position. Overall, he rode really well and did a great job. Michael’s bike had a bit of a hiccup at the start that lasted only a short while, but that was enough to cost him several places. He rode very well and was able to recover some of them again, up to the point when he got really close to fifth. Sixth place is not too bad, considering the small issue he had at the start, so all in all we’re happy with our performance this weekend and we are looking forward to the last round in Qatar.