Crash.Net WSBK News
Kyalami: WSBK team by team analysis
20 May 2009
Crash.net looks back at the sixth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at Kyalami, South Africa team-by-team...
Noriyuki Haga – 1st, 1st
Michel Fabrizio – 2nd, 2nd
For all the talk of the 2009 World Superbike season being a closely fought thing, the reality is looking remarkably different. Two more wins for Noriyuki Haga (his fifth and sixth of the season), coupled to more troublesome luck for Ben Spies, means his lead in the overall standings is an eye-watering – for his rivals at least - 85 points. Haga claims not to be thinking about the title, but with the half-way mark in the season arriving next time out at Miller Motorsports Park, it will surely now be in his sights. History is most certainly on his side too. At this stage in the season last year Troy Bayliss' advantage wasn't nearly as comprehensive before he went on to win by three figures. Again achieved without having really given much away in practice and qualifying, Haga's lead – over Michel Fabrizio now - means he can guarantee to be leading the standings for the next three races. Somehow, you get the impression it'll last longer than that…
It is remarkable what a race win can do for your confidence. As a passionate man who races with plenty of heart, victory at Monza is likely to have had a big effect on another fine performance in South Africa. Picking up where he left off in testing six months ago, Fabrizio dominated up to Superpole, although getting to within 0.001secs is easily the closest anyone has gotten this season to Spies on a single lap. He raced well too, more than having the legs of the American, and while the chasm of experience told in his fight with Haga, at least he was game enough to have a go. He's come in for criticism in the past, but a new best of second in the standings is rich reward for a rider that is rapidly beginning to show why Davide Tardozzi has retained his faith in him.
Ten Kate Honda
Jonathan Rea – 4th, 3rd
Carlos Checa – 6th, 6th
Ryuichi Kiyonari – 12th, 13th
It was all about Jonathan Rea in the Ten Kate Honda camp at Kyalami, the Northern Irishman picking up his maiden World Superbike podium after an impressive performance throughout the weekend. On the pace from the word go, Rea took advantage of having experienced the circuit on a Superbike in testing to show that he is probably the team's top rider when the playing field is even. Excellent over a single lap, while Rea bridged the gap between the leaders and those behind in the races, his entertaining duals with Max Biaggi and Leon Haslam are a sign that, on a slightly better sorted bike, Rea has an excellent future at this level. Elsewhere in the team, Carlos Checa enjoyed his most consistent weekend of the year, posting a pair of sixth place finishes. Although overshadowed by Rea, the Spaniard's competitive showing throughout the weekend will steady some nerves heading to the USA – the scene of his superb double triumph twelve months ago.
At Monza he celebrated his first two podiums of the season. One week later and Ryuichi Kiyonari is well outside the top ten. In some ways, a mediocre performance in Italy prior to South Africa would have probably been more beneficial, for this simply raises the question as to why a rider can go front to back in less than a week… It's certainly the question Ronald ten Kate should be asking him.
Ben Spies – 3rd, DNF
Tom Sykes – 10th, 9th
It is possibly just as well that USA is the next stop for Ben Spies on the World Superbike trail as a return home should give him the motivation he needs to forget a weekend in which his title challenge took another potentially fatal blow. Spies will be the first to admit he made errors at Valencia and Assen, but this is the first time mechanical woes have entered into the equation (fuel consumption irregularities not included). Given its 'technological pioneer' status, it is a little surprising this is the first R1 breakdown of the season during a race, but while there is no ideal time for this to happen, this puts a big strain on Spies' title hopes. On the other side of the garage, Tom Sykes maintained his run of top ten finishes – but only just. With the Yamaha seemingly not at its best around Kyalami, this hasn't been a weekend to remember for the either the Briton or the American.
Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – DNF, 4th
Although not the overall result either himself or the team would have hoped for, Leon Haslam can be satisfied to have come away with another top five result at Kyalami. By far the quickest of the riders who weren't present during a pre-season test in December, Haslam quickly shrugged off the cobwebs to match the leaders from free practice on the Friday. Although qualifying didn't go to plan and race one ended in a hail of gravel stones, a fighting ride to fourth in the second – possibly motivated by a bit of the red mist – at least brought the weekend to a close on a high. Maintaining fourth in the standings, Haslam now leads a trio of British riders overall.
Max Biaggi – 5th, 5th
Shinya Nakano – 7th, 7th
After a few flashes of brilliance in recent rounds, Aprilia returned to form at Kyalami, with both Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano putting in their best collective performance since the second round at Qatar. Biaggi was their star representative again, qualifying well in third position, although his race pace wasn't quite so strong. Nonetheless, Biaggi battled hard with Jonathan Rea in both races, even if he would eventually just finish off his tail on both occasions. Still, the performance of both Biaggi and Shinya Nakano, who also put in his best showing since Qatar too, is indicative of the progress made by the RSV-4 since making its group test debut at the same circuit some six months ago. With Biaggi just 13 points adrift of fourth in the standings, Aprilia can be proud of what they have achieved as the half way mark in the season approaches.
Suzuki Alstare Brux
Yukio Kagayama – 8th, 8th
Fonsi Nieto – 16th, 15th
Suzuki Alstare Brux courted plenty of the headlines on the run up to the Kyalami event, partly due to the confirmation that Max Neukirchner is likely to be sidelined for some time with a broken leg and partly also because his replacement for the time being is Fonsi Nieto. Although the circumstances surrounding his 'drop' from the team after just one season last year made him a slightly surprise candidate, it was nonetheless a welcome return for the former race winner. Not that the weekend went to plan for him, Nieto struggling to learn the bike and the circuit, leaving him outside the top twenty during practice and qualifying. Still, he did look more competitive in the races, giving him something to work on when he is expected to fill in again at Miller Motorsports Park, a more familiar venue for him. Yukio Kagayama, meanwhile, kept the points ticking over with a pair of eighth place finishes. Although it leaves him in a better position now than he did at this stage last year, the noises coming from the former British Superbike favourite are that he is struggling to make the K9 bike work at each venue. Roughly translated, the bike is quick, but isn't easy to set-up…
Shane Byrne – 9th, DNF
Following his 'morale shattering' weekend in Italy, Shane Byrne and Sterilgarda Ducati recuperated some of their confidence at Kyalami with a more consistent performance from both rider and team. The Briton was an occasional top ten runner in practice, while he would go on to translate that into a ninth place finish in the opening race – only the fourth time this season he has finished inside the top ten. Although a mechanical woe prevented a repeat in race two, this can be put down to a better weekend.
Jakub Smrz – 14th, 10th
Gregorio Lavilla – 11th, 12th
Although a best of tenth place doesn't exactly reach the heights of their Assen podium, Guandalini Ducati enjoyed their first ever 'double-double' in that both of their riders scored in both races. Having seen his plans with the Pro Ride Honda team come to nothing, Gregorio Lavilla was a popular returnee to the paddock at Kyalami after being called upon to replace the injured Brendan Roberts. Also a return to Ducati for the former British Superbike Champion, Lavilla, who has raced at Kyalami before, didn't take long to get acquainted to his surroundings and was an immediate top ten performer in practice. Although he faded somewhat in qualifying and the races, Lavilla was still quicker than Roberts has been all season, begging the question as to whether they will look to keep the Spaniard on for a little longer… Jakub Smrz, meanwhile, saw his strong qualifying effort ruined by early issues in both races (those issues said to be run-ins with Ruben Xaus, according to the Spaniard). Nonetheless, tenth and 14th represents a good fight back from the Czech.
Sheridan Morais – 13th, 11th
Broc Parkes – 15th, 14th
One of the big stories of the World Superbike weekend was Sheridan Morais' World Superbike debut at Kawasaki. Having initially preferred to go solo with Broc Parkes, still struggling with his own injuries, Kawasaki made a late announcement that Morais would replace Makoto Tamada after all. A rarity in that he has taken the ZX-10R to a Superbike title, while Morais has a few nondescript Superstock credits to his name, his knowledge of the bike and circuit made him a revelation throughout the weekend, the South African making the Kawasaki look like a top ten contender from the off. Although he didn't quite translate that in the races – not helped by a low attrition rate –, two good points finishes means Morais has more than made his mark on the team and the series. With Parkes also scoring just behind, it was Kawasaki's best weekend of the season, while it is also worth noting that Morais scored more in his first race than Tamada has managed all season so far…
David Salom – 20th, 16th
Luca Scassa – 17th, DNF
Making the most of the fact several of their more direct rivals didn't make the trip to Kyalami, Pedercini Kawasaki were chasing their third consecutive points finish in South Africa, but would fall just short. Still, it was a significant event for David Salom who had the edge on Luca Scassa, reached Superpole for the first time and just finished outside the points. Scassa might have fancied his chances of scoring too had he not fallen, but both looked fairly competitive on what was a more level playing field.
Tommy Hill – 19th, 17th
It has been eight races now since Tommy Hill last scored for the Althea Honda team, the Briton's decent start to the season now an increasingly distant memory. The problem seems to stem from race form because Hill once again participated in Superpole, qualifying 20th, but was out paced by Pedercini Kawasaki, a team he was comfortably quicker than a few rounds ago. Roll on Donington Park next month…
Celani Race Suzuki
Karl Muggeridge – 18th, DNF
A difficult weekend for Karl Muggeridge and the Celani Suzuki team, the Australian rider couldn't capitalise on the various last minute substitutes and depleted competition to add to his points tally. Qualifying outside the top twenty, Muggeridge finished 18th in the first race before retiring in the second – chalk this one down to experience…
BMW Alpha Racing
Steve Martin – 22nd, 18th
Ruben Xaus – DNF, DNF
Having enjoyed their best results of the season at Monza, BMW would endure their toughest weekend yet at Kyalami. Not helped by the absence of Troy Corser, test rider Steve Martin stepped in to take his place but while he had knowledge of both the circuit and the bike, he couldn't lift himself from the bottom of the field. Ruben Xaus, meanwhile, would have probably scored had he completed more than three laps all day, but the Spaniard could spend more time in the pit lane than on the track. Still, given their infancy, it is surprising that this is the first weekend BMW have failed to score all year.
Yamaha France Ipone
Shaun Whyte – 21st, 19th
Replacing David Checa, who is likely to compete in only the European rounds this season, Shaun Whyte was an interesting choice for Yamaha France GMT. Although the Zimbabwean's experience showed in the races as he was lapped, he was fairly competitive with the likes of Steve Martin and Karl Muggeridge in practice. A brief, but welcome, addition to the series.
DFX Corse Ducati
Regis Laconi – DNS, DNS
As one of the most popular riders in the World Superbike paddock, the revelation that Regis Laconi was in an induced coma on Friday night after a crash at Kyalami was certainly met with great concern and worry. The Frenchman is beginning to get on the road to recovery, but with a broken vertebra, it isn't likely we will see him performing wonders on the DFX Ducati for some time. A massive shame given his form this year, we wish Regis all the best in his recovery process.