Spies grabs dramatic last lap win from Haga
26 April 2009
Ben Spies has won his fourth World Superbike race of the season after snatching victory from Noriyuki Haga's grasp with an outstanding overtaking move just three corners from the chequered flag.
The American had looked out of contention in third with just a handful of laps remaining, but a late spurt saw him on the back of Haga by the final revolution where he proceeded to dive down the inside of his rival at the high-speed right-hand kink at turn 15.
A dramatic finish to an exciting battle for the win that also included an inspired Leon Haslam, Spies fought his way into the reckoning having been removed from the lead on lap 13 by a charging Haga.
Before that, Spies had held a comfortable lead having finally managed to secure a good start from pole position, the American resisting the attentions of the fast-starting Max Neukirchner, while Haga and Haslam lost time attempting to overtake third place Jakub Smrz.
Once he had overtaken the Czech rider, Haga rapidly chased down Neukirchner, who in turn was close enough to be pressuring Spies for the lead of the race.
However, while he was able to resist Haga's advances for a short time, the German's hopes of victory would last no longer than lap seven when he lost the front-end of his Suzuki entering the final corner chicane and came crashing down. Remarkably, the bike would become upright again, crossing the second part of the chicane to narrowly avoid Haslam and end its breakaway in the tyre barriers.
Despite the delay of navigating Neukirchner's runaway bike, Haslam was undeterred and promptly reeled off a series of excellent lap times – including one that would break Troy Bayliss' race lap record – to find himself on the back of the lead fight.
Spies, meanwhile, was still leading, but now had his hands full of Haga, who had made himself aware to the American with a series of feigned moves towards the final corners of the lap.
However, with Haslam now keeping a watching brief in third position, Haga chose lap 13 to make his move, prompted after Spies made a slight error out of the long second turn. Subsequently running slightly wide into the hairpin, Haga pounced to take the lead, while Haslam eagerly capitalised to sweep past into the next corner too.
Having shown aggressive pace in the early stages of the race, Haga attempted to sprint away, but Haslam was going with him, the Stiggy rider shadowing him for a series of laps.
Spies, meanwhile, was staying in contention, but did not seemingly pose a threat to the leading two until around five laps from the finish when he began to reel in Haslam, who could not quite find the extra speed he needed to find a gap past Haga.
When Spies did make his move, it came three laps from home as he dipped the Yamaha up the inside of turn eight. Haslam clung on though, staying alongside Spies right up to the turn ten right-hander and attempting to negate his outside line by leaving only just enough room for his rival. Spies persevered though, and was eventually rewarded with second place.
With just two laps left to catch Haga, seemingly beginning to struggle with fading tyres, Spies didn't waste any time in latching onto the Ducati, the pair heading into the final revolution nose-to-tail.
Even so, when Spies' first attempt to overtake, at the hairpin, failed to materialise, it seemed unlikely that he would relieve the experienced Haga of the win with the corners that remained. Nonetheless, Spies continued to mirror his rival, tucking in behind Haga and using his Yamaha's sheer pace to catch Haga unawares at the high-speed turn 15 and move through.
On the defence immediately, Haga couldn't respond in time before Spies was pulling a wheelie across the finish line to complete arguably the finest victory of his season.
Haga was left a rather frustrated second having shown strong pace in wrestling the lead from Spies, although Haslam was still delighted to have scored his second podium of the season for Stiggy having shown front running pace throughout.
With such intensity at the front, it was no surprise to find fourth place Tom Sykes some eight seconds behind at the finish following a very lonely race. The Yamaha rider had run with Haslam in the early stages, but couldn't maintain his pace, although the result does signal a season's best and maintains his run of top ten finishes.
The battle for fifth almost rivalled the lead for interest, with up to five riders swapping positions during the race. Eventually, Max Biaggi prevailed after battling his way past Smrz and then Michel Fabrizio, the Italian showing decent form to eventually pull away from the battle.
After plummeting relatively quickly in the early stages, Smrz stalked his way back into contention to finish a career-best equalling sixth for Guandalini Ducati. Jonathan Rea held on to seventh, the Northern Irishman showing well in the early stages as he recovered from a poor start, while Regis Laconi and Fabrizio – who dropped back rapidly in the closing stages – were eighth and ninth. BMW's Troy Corser was tenth to make it five manufacturers inside the top ten.
Elsewhere, Shane Byrne continued to keep his points ticking over in 11th, while Karl Muggeridge scores his first of the season in 12th for Celani Suzuki.
Following his disappointing fall early on Neukirchner did a fine recovery job, catching and passing the final point scorers Ruben Xaus and Ryuichi Kiyonari to finish 13th.
His team-mate Yukio Kagayama, however, was one of a few riders to crash out and stay out, the Japanese rider joined on the sidelines by Tommy Hill, Carlos Checa and Shinya Nakano.