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Haga wins Monza race two stunner

11 May 2008

Noriyuki Haga survived intermittent clouds of smoke from his Yamaha R1 to overtake countryman Ryuichi Kiyonari for victory on the very last turn of a dramatic, incident packed, second race at Monza.

Just 0.051secs separated Haga from WSBK rookie Kiyonari at the flag - with debut race one winner Max Neukirchner sandwiched between them, just 0.009secs behind Nitro Nori!

As in race one, Neukirchner had battled for the lead with Haga for much of the race - then, having been caught and passed by Kiyonari late in the race, the top three were almost side-by-side as they entered the final turn.

Kiyonari, just ninth at the end of lap one, had charged forwards to take the lead of a WSBK race for the first time halfway through the last lap, then kept the advantage on the brakes into the last corner. But Kiyonari was then forced to sit up when Haga launched his Yamaha Italia neatly inside the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider at the apex of the famous Parabolica.

That interruption was enough to prevent Kiyonari from repassing Haga on the run to the line, while a clean exit for Neukirchner saw the Suzuki rider sweep past Kiyo and get within a fraction of a second of Haga and a dream Monza double.

Reigning BSB champion Kiyonari, who had finished sixth in race one, was clearly disappointed to see victory snatched away, but at least secured his first WSBK podium in only his fifth event.

Haga had achieved the double at Monza one year ago, but looked set to join the likes of Troy Bayliss, Yukio Kagayama, Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi on the race two DNF list when clouds of smoke became spewing from the rear of his R1 just after the midway mark.

Fortunately, it was tyre smoke - apparently caused by bodywork coming loose - and not engine oil. It continued off and on for the rest of the race, surely causing those behind - and watching in the pits - to fear the worst, but Haga appeared oblivious and it certainly didn't slow his pace.

World championship leader Bayliss had no such luck. Having finished third in race one, Bayliss was determined to leave his final Monza race weekend with a victory - and took the lead early in race two - but the double world champion's Ducati struck terminal technical problems moments after losing the lead to Haga on lap 8 of 18.

Kagayama's exit was typically more spectacular. The Japanese had taken the lead into turn one, but later dropped from the front group after running wide and through the gravel at the Lesmo corners. Kagayama rejoined safely, but was thrown spectacularly from his Alstare Suzuki soon after.

Two other big names to bite the dust were Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. After a tough time in practice and qualifying, Biaggi had salvaged fifth in race one - a position he was battling to repeat in race two, until being torpedoed by Jakub Smrz at the second chicane with three laps to go. Worryingly, the Roman walked away holding his left wrist, which he broke earlier this year at Phillip Island.

Checa, who had qualified on the front row, finished eighth in race one after a poor start and got another tardy getaway in race two, sitting eighth at the end of lap one. The Spaniard then squandered the chance to gain points on Bayliss when he fell from the same position on lap 10.

Checa had earlier survived a heart-stopping moment when he was rammed from behind by Troy Corser under braking for turn one.

2008 race winner Fonsi Nieto steered clear of such incidents to finish fourth, having been in the lead group throughout. Michel Fabrizio was the sole factory Ducati to reach the flag in fifth, with Karl Muggeridge and Ruben Xaus sixth and seventh after failing to finish race one.

In the world championship standings, Bayliss remains 78 points clear of Checa, but Haga is now up to third - 82 points from the top - with Neukirchner just a single digit further behind.


Race results (2) - Monza:

1. Haga
2. Neukirchner
3. Kiyonari
4. Nieto
5. Fabrizio
6. Muggeridge
7. Xaus
8. Corser
9. Badovini
10. Lavilla
11. Lanzi
12. Nakatomi
13. Holland
14. Gimbert
15. Beck


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