After reaching the cusp of the podium in the opening three rounds of the season Nicky Hayden happily walks away from Assen with a maiden World Superbike rostrum and a healthy helping of championship points.
The 2006 MotoGP champion claimed his first podium result in over five years - 2011 Spanish MotoGP when he finished third – and it marks his maiden WSBK rostrum since making the switching between series over the winter.
Hayden had been battling in the hotly-contested front pack throughout race one at Assen but after having a nervy moment at turn five and seeing his team-mate Michael van der Mark tumble out of contention on the penultimate lap the American says he played safe to secure third place.
“Towards the end [of race one], I started to feel more comfortable with the bike and conditions, so I thought I could find something extra in the final two laps,” Hayden said. “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 WSBK podium and the first one in a long time, so I want to thank the team for the great work.”
Aiming to replicate the performance in Sunday's race Hayden endured trickier conditions in a race which began wet but dried up throughout.
Hayden was part of the trio of leading riders with Josh Brookes and Chaz Davies to stay out too long on the dry tyres which cost them valuable time once the pit stops had taken effect and he trailed to a distant sixth place.
“I can't say I'm happy with sixth as I felt I could have finished in a much higher position,” he said. “I got another great start, I went from tenth to fourth just on the first lap and everything felt right. This was the first race for me in the wet in Superbike and with these tyres, so that put a smile on my face.
“Then, when the sun came out, the track started to dry really quickly. I was feeling really good and I guess that made me stay out on track for a bit too long before I pitted. Even when I got back on track I could not get up to speed immediately, as for the first time I was riding a bike with a wet setup on slick tyres. At some stage I found my rhythm and went past Lowes, but then the gap to Davies was simply too big.”
Hayden regained fifth place in the World Superbike riders' championship from Jordi Torres and closed the gap to van der Mark to 23 points.