Former MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden claimed his first World Superbike victory in a wet second race at Sepang on Sunday.

The 34-year-old American, who joined Ten Kate Honda and WSBK at the start of this season, led every lap - but came under growing pressure from Davide Giugliano in the closing stages.

Hayden held firm to cross the finish line 1.254s ahead of the Ducati rider, sealing his first win at world championship level since Laguna Seca 2006 and becoming the 16th rider to have won both 500cc/MotoGP and WSBK races.

Minutes after the podium ceremony, Hayden spoke to Crash.net about the achievement...

Crash.net:
Congratulations Nicky, how did you feel going into the race given there had been no previous wet track time for the Superbike class this weekend?

Nicky Hayden:
When the WSS guys were on track in the wet on Friday afternoon I watched basically the whole session to see what they were doing. I'd seen the lap times and knew the track must be good. PJ [Jacobsen] also told me the new asphalt was really good in the wet.

But I'd had a great pace in morning warm-up, in the dry, so I wasn't necessarily happy it rained because anything can happen. But when it rained I knew I had to go for it. I know people say 'you can't win the race on the first lap' - but in rain races, you can.

After the warm-up and sighting lap I knew visibility was not going to easy. So I wanted to get to the front and, I mean, I'm not exactly fighting for the championship! So I had to go for it, pulled a gap and they did a great job with the drainage of this track because it started to dry very quickly. Almost too quick in some places! So it was tough at the end but I managed my gap, got the win and I'm very happy.

Crash.net:
You can't take anything for granted in racing, but was there a point where you felt confident about getting the win?

Nicky Hayden:
Across the finish line! I learned a long time ago - if you see me or my brothers, my Dad - we never celebrate until the bike crosses the finish line. And I went flat-out across the line!

Crash.net:
At Phillip Island Davide took a podium finish from you on the very last lap, was that at the back of your mind?

Nicky Hayden:
For sure! The track was basically dry in places so it was hard to push. A couple of times he got close and I responded with the lap time. And the last lap I put in a good lap. Like I said I didn't think it was over until the chequered flag.

Crash.net:
Your last win was in MotoGP in 2006, how does this compare?

Nicky Hayden:
It's been a long time since my last win unfortunately! I wish it wasn't so long but that's the reality. My first GP win was something special, but this feels great. I've had a couple of dry years, but I never stopped trying. I got the opportunity here in Superbike, when at the end of last year I can tell you I never had a lot of opportunities. Also not a lot of people in Superbike were real interested. So to be able to still do some good races - really happy.

Crash.net:
It's also a lift for Honda and the Ten Kate team, who haven't won since 2014...

Nicky Hayden:
Yeah, like I said they were one of the only teams that wanted to give me an opportunity. So it's nice to give them a great reward. We know the rain helped us. Let's not kid ourselves, if the race is in full dry it's going to be more difficult. But you can check the pace from the warm-up and see we had a good feeling. I'm very happy to give the team this victory.

Hayden is sixth in the world championship after 6 of 13 rounds, with two podiums.

By Peter McLaren
 

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