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Spies doubles up in Qatar

14 March 2009

Ben Spies has completed a double victory in the second round of the World Superbike Championship in Qatar after producing another almost faultless performance.

A perfect weekend that included a new lap record in Superpole, two race wins and also a new race lap record, the victory marks his third in just four World Superbike races.

Although he again didn't lead from the off, Spies assumed control from lap six before scampering away from the chasing pack, leading home an identical podium of himself, Noriyuki Haga and Max Biaggi.

Making a better start than he managed during the first race, Spies was nonetheless beaten down to the first corner by Biaggi, while his outside line would also allow Haga to move ahead into second position by turn two.

Having lost out to Spies in the first race when he spent too long trying to find his way past Biaggi, Haga made no mistake this time around, passing the Italian by the end of the first lap before making a determined effort to get away from his rivals.

Spies took a little longer to disperse of Biaggi, passing on lap four but took just two more laps to catch and pass Haga with a fairly easy draught down the home straight and into turn one.

A slight error in the ensuing lap from Haga was subsequently enough to break any tow he may have had on the Yamaha, Spies duly taking advantage to simply pull away to a margin of around four seconds.

From here Spies was untroubled to the chequered flag, setting consistent lap times – including a record lap beneath Fonsi Nieto's previous best – until the final revolution when he eased off to allow Haga to cross the line around two seconds adrift.

Even so, despite his maximum haul of points, two second places for Haga means Spies has merely halved the gap down to ten points heading to the first of the European rounds in Valencia, where he will once again be looking to prove he is a quick learner.

Yet again, Haga was made to work hard for second place by an inspired Biaggi, who despite losing the lead early on in the race, twice battled his way past the Ducati, including on the final lap. However, Haga fought back with only a few corners to go to sweep back past and consign Biaggi to the bottom step of the podium again.

On the plus side, his brace of points has rocketed Biaggi up the overall standings to fourth position, while Aprilia are just behind Honda for third in the manufacturer standings too.

Despite the identical podium, the battle for second was at least a three-way battle this time, involving Ryuichi Kiyonari, who put an unnoticed first race behind him to scythe his way up from 12th on the grid.

Making up eight positions in just four laps, Kiyonari even latched onto the back of the Haga/Biaggi battle, but inexplicably stalled in that position for the remainder of the race after never being able to quite get into a position to attack. Nonetheless, fourth represents both his and the Ten Kate Honda team's best result of the season so far.

After a frustrating performance in race one, Tom Sykes was able to deliver on the promise he has shown throughout the weekend by bringing his Yamaha home a quiet, but well deserved, fifth. Getting a better start this time, Sykes diced with Troy Corser and Shane Byrne early on, before settling in the position he started. The consistent start to his World Superbike career has been rewarded with a move up to sixth in the overall standings.

Countryman Byrne didn't fare quite so well, despite getting a marvellous start to jump up from eighth on the grid to fourth, only to gradually drop down the order as the race progressed to finish an eventual 12th.

Coming in the other direction was Max Neukirchner, who gave Suzuki something to smile about on an otherwise dismal weekend by finishing sixth from 19th on the grid. The German rider, who is nursing injured arms having crashed three times this weekend, even had the satisfaction of beating Shinya Nakano to the line by a mere 0.002secs, a result that keeps him third in the standings.

Although not quite as quick as Neukirchner, Jonathan Rea also made good progress up the field from 17th to finish in eighth, ahead of Troy Corser.

The Aussie rider was on the verge of a breakthrough result for the BMW team after somehow battling his way up to fifth position from 16th on the grid by the opening split of the race. However, while he lapped strongly early on, he couldn't quite sustain the pace to the end of the race.

Nonetheless, he would finish ninth after beating team-mate Ruben Xaus and Leon Haslam in a blanket finish, the trio separated by just 0.040secs.

Elsewhere, Carlos Checa was a disappointing 13th after finishing fifth in the first race, ahead of Regis Laconi and Yukio Kagayama, the Japanese rider just edging out Broc Parkes and Jakub Smrz, the front row sitter having been forced to start from the pit lane for the second race.


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