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Misano: WSBK team by team analysis

24 June 2009

Crash.net looks back at the eighth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at Misano, San Marino team-by-team…

Ten Kate Honda
Jonathan Rea – 7th, 1st
Carlos Checa – 11th, 5th
Ryuichi Kiyonari – DNF, 14th

For the first time this season, a team other than Xerox Ducati or Yamaha WSB occupy top billing in Crash.net's regular team-by-team analysis, thanks solely to the efforts of Jonathan Rea. Few will have been disappointed to see Rea claim a maiden win in what is increasingly becoming a hugely impressive first season at World Superbike level. There was much to be said about the Ten Kate Honda team heading to Misano having shone last time out at Miller Motorsports Park, with Rea arriving in Italy having been on record pace during a quick test at Magny-Cours a few days earlier. More significantly, however, was what was occurring on the bike, as Ten Kate appeared with some rather resplendent Ohlins suspension for the first time, replacing their long-standing relationship with WP. The effect seemed to be immediate, Rea proving on the pace in each of the sessions to qualify on the front row of the grid. While race one was a washout after fuel problems necessitated a ride back to the pits with Ryuichi Kiyonari (both riders getting a drive-through penalty for their efforts), Rea struck back in race two, taking the fight to both Ducati Xerox's and ripping victory from their hands on the very final lap. A confident way to break any duck, while Ten Kate Honda may have expected more success than this by this point in the season, it is significant that their first triumph in 2009 came from their rookie and not his more experienced team-mates.

Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari, in fairness, didn't endure much luck at Misano. Checa was looking good for a podium finish, and possibly even a victory challenge, in race one when his dry weather bike refused to move from the pit lane. You didn't have to be fluent in Dutch to hear the exasperation from the pit lane… Fifth in race two made some amends, but Rea's success may not sit quite so well with him. Kiyonari never fully recovered from his race one crash, in which he was innocently collected by Rea having high-sided on the wet surface. His two point haul maintains his rollercoaster of a season thus far.


Yamaha WSB
Ben Spies – 1st, 9th
Tom Sykes – 8th, 7th

The term bitter-sweet can probably best describe Ben Spies' season thus far and at the end of seeing a great chance to further close the gap on Noriyuki Haga come to nothing, there were very obvious signs that frustration is beginning to enter his demeanour. You can't blame him either. With Haga having a fairly quiet weekend, Spies was visibly pushing hard at Misano and while his confidence wasn't quite there during the early stages of race one, once on his favoured dry-weather Yamaha, he was unstoppable. Another new track, another victory, another chunk out of Haga's advantage... Things seemed to be going his way again. Indeed, Spies remained favourite heading into race two, but the emergence of a slipping clutch half-way round the first lap scuppered any hopes of doing that. Seemingly about to retire, Spies fiddled, kicked and prodded the R1 into doing what he wanted, wrestling it up to ninth position – a remarkable achievement in itself – but far from his capabilities. Reliability – the cornerstone of Haga's campaign – is becoming a serious factor for Spies and his comments after the weekend reveal that is certainly beginning to play on his mind. Nonetheless, he will brush himself off and try again at Donington Park, one of the few circuits he does know.


Xerox Ducati
Michel Fabrizio – 3rd, 2nd
Noriyuki Haga – 5th, 3rd

Michel Fabrizio garnered all the headlines for Ducati Xerox at Misano as he continues to establish himself as an outside threat for this year's title. Securing his seventh and eighth consecutive podium finishes, although he missed out on a victory when he was overtaken by Jonathan Rea on the final lap of the second race, Fabrizio did not seem too disheartened, the Italian merely pleased to have come away with decent results around a circuit he hasn't enjoyed in the past. Aware that points mean prizes in this year's contest, Fabrizio was the highest scoring rider at Misano, a performance that is ensuring this year's title fight is far from being between just two riders. Conquering consistency – a faux pas of his in the past – is certainly a big step, but the aim is now for him to be beating Spies and Haga for victories. Only then will we see if Fabrizio has what it takes to be a champion.

For team-mate Haga, Misano was another surprisingly quiet round for him, allowing Spies and Fabrizio to dispute matters up front while he kept a watching brief. A poor wet weather set-up meant fifth in the first race was probably a better result than expected, while third in the second indicated some great fighting spirit, but these are results of a man looking to consolidate, rather than necessarily extend, his championship advantage.


Sterilgarda Ducati
Shane Byrne – 2nd, 6th

It feels like it has been a long time coming – it probably seemed even long for Shane Byrne himself – but a second place finish at Misano will bring some much needed pleasure and relief to rider and team. Having shown signs of a step forward in the USA, Byrne carried his form to the scene of Sterilgarda Ducati's maiden WSBK win last season, qualifying a season's best fifth before storming into an early lead during race one, his experience of slippery conditions – an assumed skill when you've raced in Britain for so long – helping him go ten seconds up the road. Sadly for him, the rain didn't return and with the Adriatic sunshine forcing the pendulum towards a charging Ben Spies behind him, he had to settle for second. Nonetheless, a podium on paper is a massive boost for Byrne, who can only hope that this result propels him onto similarly great things on his home ground at Donington Park next weekend.


Guandalini Ducati
Jakub Smrz – 4th, 4th
Gregorio Lavilla – 22nd, 15th

Ducati may not have won a race at Misano – their back yard -, but they were certainly well represented in the upper echelons of the order, with Jakub Smrz putting in the race weekend of his career on the Guandalini machine. His prowess over a single lap is well known, but even Smrz exceeded himself in Superpole as he became the surprise figure to break Ben Spies' remarkable run of pole positions. It was done in style too, the Czech rider proving immensely quicker than his rivals in the final sector alone to secure a very popular career-first pole position. Although the man himself didn't expect to win come race day, he was still a force to be reckoned with in terms of raw pace. He even set the fastest lap in race one, but his hopes of a podium ended during the transition from wet to dry settings as he fought to get acclimatised again. Smrz was similarly quick in race two, but a couple of errors kept him consigned to the 'second group'. Nonetheless, he would at least prevail in that fight against Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne to post two fourth place finishes – his best combined result in World Superbikes and one that moves him up to ninth in the overall standings.

Gregorio Lavilla might have fancied his chances on the second machine too, but while he was a top ten runner during free practice – and even race one – he couldn't quite maintain it when it mattered. He has one more race to prove his worth before Brendan Roberts is scheduled to return to his seat.

Suzuki Alstare Brux
Yukio Kagayama – 6th, 11th
Fonsi Nieto – 18th, 12th

A brave performance can probably best describe Yukio Kagayama's run to sixth position at Misano, the Japanese rider overcoming his broken ankle to dice with Noriyuki Haga for a spot inside the top five. Showing his experience in tough conditions, while Kagayama may have lost out to his good friend on the final lap, it was a magnificent performance all the same. By contrast, Fonsi Nieto's hopes of finding another ride when Max Neukirchner returns (supposedly at Brno) were dealt another blow by a further lacklustre performance. A 12th place finish in the second race was his highlight from the weekend, but on a bike that has led races this season, the Spaniard will have hoped to be making more headway than this by now.


Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – 12th, 8th
John Hopkins – DNS, DNS

A disappointing weekend by all accounts for Stiggy Honda, as tactical and technical errors went some way to betraying their rookie status. Racing at Misano for the first time, Leon Haslam was nonetheless on form from the off, comfortably positioned towards the front of the mid-pack before going on to qualify a solid tenth. While not seemingly happy with his bike in the tricky conditions of race one, a drying surface brought out the best in the Briton as he surged his way back up to fourth position as those ahead of him traded in their wet-shod bikes for try weather tyres. However, the differential in speed between Haslam and the likes of Ben Spies and Shane Byrne was immense and by leaving it just a little too late to make that stop, Haslam lost far more than he'd made up by avoiding the pit lane altogether. Finishing an eventual 12th, Haslam fought back for eighth in the second race, despite an engine problem that kept pushing him out of the corners and making him run wide. Still, this remains a solid foundation ahead of his home return at Donington Park next weekend.

On the other side of the garage, John Hopkins has only a week to get better prepared for his return to WSBK competition after choosing to sit Misano out following the first day of competition. Deciding the rigours of the circuit were doing more harm than good, Hopkins will be hoping to be present for his 'second home event' this time.


Aprilia
Shinya Nakano – 9th, 13th
Max Biaggi – 13th, 10th

An unusually anonymous weekend for Max Biaggi allowed Shinya Nakano, for the first time this season, to fly the Aprilia flag at Misano. With the RSV-4 seemingly not so assured around the Adriatic circuit, while Biaggi and Nakano made top ten appearances on the run up to qualifying, this wasn't shaping up to be one of their better events. Worse was to follow in the races, particularly the wet encounter, with the RSV-4 simply dropping back into the field before the circuit came back towards them at the end. Nonetheless, both Nakano and Biaggi secured a top ten finish each to keep their points ticking over, the latter holding onto fifth in the standings too.


Althea Honda
Matthieu Lagrive– 10th, 21st

One of the big stories between events was Althea Honda's decision to drop Tommy Hill from their line-up in favour of Supersport veteran Matthieu Lagrive. While Hill's demise had been on the cards for some time, the promotion of Lagrive still came as a surprise to those who thought they'd give his younger – and more successful – team-mate Mark Aitchison a chance. Nonetheless, Lagrive's Superbike endurance background won out in the end and it was that experience that helped him secure a fine tenth place on his debut. With the weather making the time to change bikes mid-race crucial, Lagrive looked comfortable in the wet before choosing his moment perfectly and holding on to the chequered flag. While he didn't match that pace in the dry second race, his result marks the first top ten for Althea in 2009, while those six points already match Hill's haul from the opening seven rounds too.


BMW Alpha Racing
Ruben Xaus – 14th, 16th
Troy Corser – DNF, 19th

BMW reached another milestone at Misano, even if their results didn't exactly show it. A best of 14th position for Ruben Xaus was a lower result than he deserved in the first race after showing some impressive tenacity in his rise through the field in slippery conditions, only to then enjoy his moment of glory out front just a couple of laps too long. Of course, his finishing position had a lot to do with the subsequent pit lane speeding penalty he received afterwards (he blamed the fact BMW are at the end of the pit lane), but it was a good sign of how well the S1000RR performs in the wet. By contrast, the bike's dry performance was less convincing, with neither Xaus – who won at Misano twelve months ago - nor Troy Corser scoring in race two. Corser had to come back from a somewhat embarrassing fall on the warm-up lap of race one, the Australian being shaken enough to go pointless for what is now four meetings in a row (although he did sit two of those out). Progress was always anticipated to be slower than that of Aprilia, but BMW wouldn't have expected to be going backwards after what was such an encouraging start to the year…


Celani Race Suzuki
Alessandro Polita – 15th, 21st

With Karl Muggeridge making the late decision to not aggravate his vertebrae injures further – despite having done so without realising for three rounds already -, Alessandro Polita made a belated seasonal debut at Misano aboard the Celani Suzuki. Having lost his ride at cash—strapped Sterilgarda Ducati pre-season and then again when Hoegee Suzuki withdrew from Supersports, the former Superstock champion put in a decent showing on his return to the team he last raced for in 2007. Proving tactically astute in race one, Polita crossed the line 15th to get one point on the board – a good effort in what has been a difficult season off the track thus far.


Kawasaki SRT
Jamie Hacking – 16th, 22nd
Broc Parkes – 17th, 17th

Following their star turn at Miller Motorsports Park, Kawasaki's fortunes took a turn for the worse at Misano, with Jamie Hacking and Broc Parkes struggling to have things go their way. It looked like being a case of progression for Parkes, who entered Superpole with a provisional fifth position in his grasp, but he couldn't find space on his best lap and he was instead left to miss Q2 for, remarkably, the first time this season. In the races it was Hacking – given a stay of execution after his top ten showing on his debut in America – that flew the Kawasaki flag, cruising up to fourth position at one stage during the changeable conditions of race one. Somewhat embarrassingly, though, he didn't fully understand the flag-to-flag rule, making his pit stop far too late to do anything other than cross the line a frustrated 16th. Race two didn't fare much better for the pair, both struggling with set-up to miss out on the points – a disappointing weekend for the manufacturer given their rate of progress in recent races.


DFX Corse Ducati
Lorenzo Lanzi – 19th, 18th

Everything worked against Lorenzo Lanzi at Misano, a circuit he would have been confident of a decent result. Quick in free practice, he qualified a decent 16th for the two races and ran well in the early stages on each occasion. However, his performances over a long distance would wane and the Italian couldn't get back into contention. Two lowly results just inside the top twenty will be considered disappointing given the performances of Shane Byrne and Jakub Smrz up the road…


Pedercini Kawasaki
Luca Scassa – DNF, 20th
David Salom – 23rd, DNF

A tough weekend all round for the Kawasaki team, Pedercini joined the factory team in failing to make it into the points. Scassa might have fancied his chances around a familiar circuit, but while he was quick in the wet sessions leading up to the races, a failure to finish race one prevented him from getting on the scoresheets. From here, neither himself nor David Salom would trouble the point scorers.


Squadra Corse Italia Honda
Vittorio Iannuzzo – 20th, 24th

A home event for both rider and team, returning to action after a two race break, Vittorio Iannuzzo and Squadra Corse Italia remain rooted at the bottom of the leaderboard with no points. On the plus side, Iannuzzo did reach the finish line on both occasions for the first time since Qatar.

Yamaha France Ipone
David Checa – 21st, DNF

Having been absent from the two flyaway races, David Checa returned to the saddle at Misano, but success was no more forthcoming. Although more competitive than Shaun Whyte and Erwan Nigon, Checa continues to proceed without any points to his name after managing a best of 21st position.


TKR Switzerland Suzuki
Roland Resch – DNF, 25th

Dodgy weather conditions helped Roland Resch put in his most convincing showing so far this year, the Austraian rising from the foot of the timesheets during the damp sessions before rising to just outside the points the opening race. In the end, Resch would fail to finish that race before finishing a lonely 25th in the second.

PSG-1 Corse Kawasaki
Matteo Baiocco – DNF, DNF

PSG-1 Corse returned to action for their home round, but Matteo Baiocco's hopes of giving them some points came to nothing. While he proved to be competitive alongside the Pedercini Kawasakis, the Italian failed to finish either race.


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