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Nicky Gets His Next Shot: WSB Opens This Weekend at Phillip Island

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2006 MotoGP champ Nicky Hayden will participate in his first WSB race for Honda this weekend at Phillip Island, Australia. After spending the last several years languishing mid-pack (or worse) in MotoGP races, Hayden promises to be quite a bit more competitive in WSB.  We shall see.

Everything is new for Hayden, of course, but he seems to have the most difficulty coming to grips (no pun intended) with the new rubber. Apparently, the WSB Pirellis have significantly different characteristics to the Bridgestones Hayden used in MotoGP for the last several years. In any event, Hayden has been posting competitive times in testing (7th quickest at the just-completed Phillip Island test).

Hayden has a talented teammate in Michael van der Mark, which will help gauge Hayden’s performance on his new machinery.  As we previously reported, the pre-series favorites have to be Kawasaki’s two riders (both World champions), including Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes. Sykes and Rea were 1st and 2nd quickest at the Phillip Island test (to no one’s surprise).  Stay tuned for reporting on the WSB championship here on MD. Below is the press release from Honda regarding the just-completed test:

The two-day WorldSBK official test has come to a close for the Honda WorldSBK team at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia. Nicky Hayden, Michael van der Mark and the whole team are now ready to tackle the opening round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship, which is scheduled to begin on Friday at the same venue.

The overall track time of eight hours for the test – split into four sessions – was significantly reduced by mixed weather and several red flags. After a first day marked by intermittent rain, today the temperatures rose considerably and reached a peak of 38°C in the air (41°C on the track) that translated into a dramatic change of conditions for the riders.

Michael van der Mark showed great speed in all conditions aboard his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP on the 4.445km fast and flowing Australian circuit, which last year was the stage for a stellar World Superbike debut for the flying Dutchman. The 2014 Supersport World Champion completed the highest number of laps for this test (123) and was fourth fastest with a lap time of 1’31.458.

Nicky Hayden got his first taste of Phillip Island on a Superbike ahead of his first race weekend as a full-time rider in the series. The 34-year-old American and his team tried different set-ups in terms of electronics, linkages, suspension and geometries, eventually finding a good base for the bike especially in cooler conditions. Hayden put in a total of 116 laps over the two days and his 1’31.558 placed him in seventh place overall.

The 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship will kick off on Friday at 10:15am local time (GMT +11) with the first free practice session.


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39 Comments

  1. Norm G. says:

    re: “Nicky Hayden got his first taste of Phillip Island on a Superbike ahead of his first race weekend as a full-time rider in the series. The 34-year-old American and his team tried different set-ups in terms of electronics, linkages, suspension and geometries, eventually finding a good base for the bike especially in cooler conditions. Hayden put in a total of 116 laps over the two days and his 1’31.558 placed him in seventh place overall.”

    essentially making him the Yankee Johnny Rea, or is that Johnny “Ray” unless Honda gets involved…?

  2. TexinOhio says:

    Best wishes to Hayden for the season, then best wishes to the Kawi boys too.

  3. Krisd says:

    Just wish he had better machinery- my last bike was a Fireblade- fantastic bike, but not as class leading as the Kwaka, Yami or Suz so he’s at a disadvantage straight away.

  4. mugwump says:

    Go PJ! Oh yeah show Nicky around the paddock. Best wishes to both this year. You too Sylvain. The Kawi’s won’t need any well wishers.

  5. Watching Nick’s transition to SBK with great interest. Test times suggest the Ten Kate boys have squeezed a little more juice out of the aging Fireblade. Can’t wait to see how it goes, fortunately won’t have to wait long! Hoping for respectable results this year and a well-tested new set of wheels in 2017.

  6. michael ray says:

    i am old and not computer savy. If I subscribe to wsb will I simply be able to turn on my desktop, login and watch the races, without any additional equipment?

    • Hot Dog says:

      I’m dumber than a box of rocks, when it comes to computers, so if I can do it, anyone can. Yep, it’s as easy as you describe. You can run a HDMI cable to your tv and watch amazing camera shots. Some of their high speed cameras shoot at 2400 frames per second, which even allows slow mo footage of rubber coming off the tires. Amazing!

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Yes. Just login and watch on your computer. Or TV if you have a modern Bluray player or smart TV.

    • Curly says:

      Plus along with commentators who actually know the riders’ names, you get a special bonus feature at no extra cost. NO COMMERCIALS!

  7. Vrooom says:

    He’s going to have to be top 4 to live up to expectations. He’s stepping down a league, and while he ran near the bottom of GP, it was always claimed to be due to the bike. No excuses now.

    • mickey says:

      There are those that will still blame the bike

      • wjf says:

        everyone will be blaming Kawasaki this year….

      • VLJ says:

        “There are those that will still blame the bike.”

        And they will be correct, as the Honda is not competitive.

        • mickey says:

          Wondered where you went to VLJ, you dissapeared for awhile.

          Doesn’t matter what bike he is on, if he doesn’t win it will be the bike, or his team mate, or his mechanics, or his birthright, or some other reason other than he’s not fast enough to win anymore.

          Wishing him the best but not expecting much.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I think the Yamahas are going to come on strong despite this being their first year back. I wouldn’t be surprised if the top five proves elusive for Hayden through most of the year.

          • VLJ says:

            Nope, mickey, it’s just the bike. Put him on a top-shelf bike, give him proper support, and he wins races and championships. Treat him like a second-class citizen, punt him to a non-competitive ride, and he becomes a backmarker.

            Just like every other great rider, as a matter of fact. Mark Marquez couldn’t win on Nicky’s recent rides. Nor could Valentino Rossi, who basically ran neck-and-neck with Nicky on the abysmal Ducati.

            The passport issue only has to do with who receives and is allowed to retain top rides, irrespective of results.

          • mickey says:

            Ok first race done. Nicky finished 9th. His teammate VanderMark on what I assume is a similar Honda? finished on the podium.

            Is it the bike?

          • Scott says:

            Did you watch the race, Mickey? Or did you only look at the finishing order?

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            THE BIKE WAS SET UP FOR VAN DER MARK!!!

            Okay, couldn’t help myself. In all seriousness, Hayden looked looked good for half the race. His tires feel off early. If it is a setup issue, they might be able to find it. If it is a riding style symptom, then maybe Hayden can adjust. Whatever the case, Hayden can’t afford to be destroyed by his teammate like that for too many races without responding. Let’s see how he does on race two. Then we’ll know if the bike is really built around Van der Mark or not!

          • mickey says:

            Scott, did not watch the race. Just saw finishing order posted here. I am a big fan of Nicky as a person, great guy, probably the best in the MotoGP paddock when he was there, just not that big of a fan of Hayden as a racer. Wish I could say I were. Been watching GP since 1973 and we have had some great American champions. I don’t think he was one of them. If he were any nationality other than an “American” he wouldn’t have a fan base at all. He has just never shown me much on the race track, even the year he won his championship. And it’s not going to be any easier for him now. Lots of younger, hungrier guys wanting to stand on that podium. Sorry to say that, because I know it riles a lot of American fans, but that’s the way I see it. I don’t say it as an American, I say it as a racing fan.

          • VLJ says:

            “Ok first race done. Nicky finished 9th. His teammate VanderMark on what I assume is a similar Honda? finished on the podium.

            Is it the bike?”

            No, it was the front tire. It was toast by halfway through the race.

            I assume you saw the test times and the qualifying times. Nicky has been right there with his teammate, sometimes a bit quicker, and just behind the Kawis and top Ducatis. And let’s keep in mind that his teammate was with this team last year, on the same bike. Nicky wasn’t.

            I know you’re absolutely dying to pile on with the I-told-you-so’s, but try to pump the brakes a bit here. It was just one race, the very first race. Maybe we could wait until they get to some of the point-and-shoot tracks, rather than basing it solely on one race at the monster that is Phillip Island.

    • jimmihaffa says:

      Nicky was very averse to mixing it up in duels or heavy traffic towards the end of his tenure in MotoGP. WorldSBK is even more rough and tumble, and though I think he may be more on pace I suspect he will be equally likely to concede places in duels in this series too. Much as I’d like to see otherwise, I don’t see him cracking the top 5.

      • Scott says:

        Maybe Dirck should do a pre-season poll, and we can all make our predictions for Nicky:

        – Final place in the standings
        – Number of race wins
        – Number of podium finishes

        Dirck? Whaddya say?!

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Hey, Scott. Sorry, just saw your comment. Maybe we should let Nicky get the first round under his belt at this point. I’ll think about a poll after that.

  8. wjf says:

    Maybe they should bring the RC51 out of retirement….

  9. Fred_M says:

    Nicky is a former MotoGP champion and no one can take that away from him. He’s had a great career and he can hold his head high even if he never takes another podium. We should all be so successful…

    • Scotty says:

      WEll said Fred!!!! Any GP title doesnt come easy and he got one. My favorite rider of all time? Wayne Gardner – only won the one title but what a tough fighter he was.

      • Krisd says:

        Hate to tell you- WG was famous for his whinging…..

        • Scotty says:

          Maybe with good cause – and he was also famous for being a tough rider who excelled in superbikes, proddy bikes and GPs. And being 50 years old I don’t remember a lot of whinging from WG…and I followed hm from when he was throwing a CB1100R around Amaroo, to the end of his career, and met him in Newcastle.

  10. EZMark says:

    Come home Nicky and win a GNC Flat Track title before you’re too old to do it.

  11. mickey says:

    I really hope Nicky does well, and finds a home to finish out his career.

  12. Scott says:

    I just saw that the BeIn Sports channel will be carrying MotoGP, WSBK, and MotoAmerica races this year…

    The bad news: Not everyone can get BeIn Sports, and those who do generally have to buy the highest level package from their cable or satellite provider to get it.

    But the good news: Now you can set your DVR to record these races, instead of sitting by your computer hoping it goes off on schedule… No commercials! … No FOX theme music blaring over the announcers for 15 seconds before going to a commercial… No Ralph Sheheen! … And lastly, we no longer have to buy a subscription from MotoGP or WSBK to watch their races!

    And one more thing:

    GO NICKY!

    • ChrisP says:

      I personally love my MotoGP.com subscription. I can watch all the practice, qual. and races from all three classes. It turns a GP into a full weekend event (if you want it to be…), instead of just an hour. That said, the more people that get the opportunity to see it, the better!

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I am with you, there. I also bought the WSB streaming pass this year, too. Watch when I want, where I want… On the cell phone or on the big screen.

        • Dave says:

          Had the Moto GP pass last year and am getting the WSBK this year. Dumped Direct TV and will never go back. Love the fact that I can catch up on the races whenever I want without any recording to mess with. And with Chromecast, I can watch on the big TV. Go Nicky…

        • Hot Dog says:

          I’m with both of you guys on the Moto GP package, it’s fantastic! Now that Yamaha’s in the Superbike hunt, I’m going to have to step up and purchase that one too.

          • Curly says:

            I’m with all three of you. Best 99 Euros you can spend especially if you like to watch all three classes plus all of the practice and qualifying sessions. With Nicky and Yamaha back in Superbikes I may alos pop for that subcription.

  13. RD350 says:

    Go Nicky!