Despite finishing marginally over 1.5 seconds off the race winner in his first weekend racing for the Ten Kate Honda squad, Nicky Hayden couldn't hide his disappointment on missing a debut podium in the class by 0.039s.
The American underlined how he had lost none of his fighting instincts after two years on uncompetitive 'Open' class MotoGP machinery in the Phillip Island World Superbike double header, as he fought to put himself within touching distance of third place on the final lap of race two.
Yet a typically uncompromising move from Davide Giugliano pushed the American off line at turn ten, handing the Italian the ideal line through the final double lefts that ensured he exited the final corner with enough in hand to fend off the advancing Honda man.
A top three finish would have been Hayden's first ascent of a podium since Jerez, 2011, but Giugliano's final manoeuvre left him 'disappointed not to get it done.'
“The bike was much better today and the pace was faster," said Hayden. "I'm really thankful to my guys. It's just unfortunate that I couldn't at least get on the podium. It's tough but it's how it goes. We learned a lot from race one to race two. I learned a lot this whole weekend.
“As much as I'm a little disappointed I should be not too disappointed and try and look at the positives. I would have been satisfied with the podium. Even though Chaz crashed and, not given me the position, but I would have been very satisfied with the podium. I'm disappointed not to get it done in the last lap.
“He was on the inside. He came around me in turn nine and he was there. But I braked really deep and could close the door. I missed the line and was out of position for turn ten. When I opened the gas in eleven the traction control was cutting.
“The tyre was incredible. It was perfect until [Tom] Sykes and Giugliano touched. There was a gap to the front three and I really pushed. I think I did my fastest lap to close that gap down. But I took a little out of the tyre and I needed to go down on the traction control. I did go down some but I should have done more. He just drove past me and I got a run on him through the last corner but not enough. That's racing, you know.”
Coming off a disappointing first race, in which his podium aspirations were ruined by a severely worn front tyre, Hayden opted for different compound on Sunday, while riding style and chassis changes also kept him in the victory hunt.
“We ran a different front tyre today and also we changed the balance of the bike. Also my riding style. Yesterday I really wasn't expecting any problems with the front. I was really attacking the corners and, if anything, I was trying to save the rear tyre. The rear never dropped. Without so much time, we changed a combination of things and don't really know what made the tyre last. It's not really clear why it went of yesterday but we're happy also to race with the SC2. I went into the race and had used that tyre very little. I was not sure for that race.
“I like the two races. I would say that. Yesterday, you know, to go home with that feeling after being in the lead group going back to ninth wasn't nice. I learned a lot. It was nice to be in the lead group and to be on the front straight and not have guys come past me on both sides like the last two years.”
With team-mate Michael van der Mark scoring two strong podium finishes, Hayden was under no illusions that Phillip Island is a circuit that suits the CBR1000RR's strong points.
Thailand represented more of a challenge to the machine in 2015, and it's the circuit in South East Asia that Hayden feels the double header at the Burirum circuit will be a sign of 'what I'm going to be in for this year.'
“I'm looking forward to going to Thailand. We'll find out a bit more the reality of what our potential is for this season. Here, we got to test for two days and I was able to understand Superbike. There is going to be what I'm up against. On paper it doesn't suit our bike like this one.
“We'll go on Friday morning, have two sessions and basically a quick qualifying and a race. It'll be entirely different. Not that this weekend was easy by any means but I'm expecting it to be harder next week. That's what I'm going to be in for this year so I might as well get a taste for it.”