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Haga forced to settle for second again
26 October 2009
Noriyuki Haga's hopes of winning that elusive World Superbike Championship title will go wanting for another season after a fall in race one saw him get overhauled by Ben Spies at the final round of the season in Portugal.
Haga went into the weekend with a ten point advantage over Spies, but would put himself on the back foot after qualifying when he could only manage tenth position on the grid.
Blaming set-up woes for his lack of pace over a single lap, Haga was working his way through the order in the early stages of race one to get up to fifth place, only for his Ducati Xerox to fold beneath him because of a tyre problem.
“All weekend I have had problems with the set up of the bike, mainly with the tyres that didn't give me total confidence,” he lamented. “Usually we have a package that works well at every track and here too we didn't change so much with regard to the setting, only really tyres.
“In race one we mounted two hard tyres and they didn't perform as we'd hoped, they didn't give me the necessary grip so it was hard to brake and unfortunately I fell even though I wasn't pushing so hard.”
With Spies taking victory, Haga now had a 15 point deficit to make up in the final race, the erstwhile leader changing his tactics by swapping to his second bike in an attempt to cure his grip issues.
It appeared to be working too, Haga pushing past Spies early on before working his way up to second position on the final lap. However, with the American securing the fifth place he needed to be crowned champion, Haga would ultimately end up six points short.
“We changed bikes for race two, just to be sure, as well as changing tyres of course. This time I had more grip and was able to make a good race. Unfortunately second in the race was not enough to take the title and it's a real pity, but I must say that I have had a great first year with this fantastic team that always provides me with a good bike.”
A bitter end to a season in which Haga, in his first year for the factory Ducati team, led for almost its entirety, it is the third time he has now finished as runner-up in the World Superbike Championship.
Nonetheless, Haga was gracious in defeat, praising MotoGP-bound Spies, as well as his team for giving him a bike capable of challenging for the title.
“I thank my whole technical team, Ducati, the sponsors and the Clinica Mobile who have taken good care of me throughout the season.
“My compliments go to Ben who has been such a strong rival this year and even though he is going to MotoGP next year, I am sure we will remain friends. This week we'll start testing in preparation for next year. This year was a new adventure with Ducati and we'll continue to give 100% in 2010."
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