Haga eases to victory after Spies DNF
26 April 2009
Noriyuki Haga has stretched his World Superbike Championship advantage to 60 points after capitalising on an accident for Ben Spies to win the second race of the day at Assen.
The Japanese rider was left with a relatively easy run to the finish line when the American, who had led at the end of the opening lap, came down at the first turn as they entered the second lap.
Although there was high attrition with only 17 bikes finishing, the race didn't provide nearly as much action as the earlier event, the 'round two' match of Spies versus Haga having receieved high-billing at the start as they nearly swapped paint through the first few corners.
Indeed, although Haga got the better start to move in front on the exit of the first turn, albeit only after Leon Haslam ran wide following a determined attempt to take the lead for himself, Spies struck back at the hairpin and dipped back ahead.
However, just as the race was shaping up to be another epic tussle between the two title protagonists, Spies was down and out at the first turn, the American landing in the gravel trap while his Yamaha went on to catapult the barriers before coming to rest.
Looking visibly frustrated with the outcome, particularly after his headline-grabbing turn in the first race, Spies was left to watch whilst Haga steadily moved away from the chasing pack to claim an untroubled fourth win of the season.
Those results, together with his four other second place finishes, means Haga has pulled out a mammoth 60 point lead over his key rival after just eight races.
With Haga easing away, attention instead turned to the battle for second position, which was initially led by Max Neukirchner, ahead of Haslam, Jakub Smrz and Michel Fabrizio.
After a disappointing ninth in race one, it was Fabrizio who was on the move in the early stages, passing both Smrz and Haslam before displacing Neukirchner with a dive down the inside of the chicane. Caught unawares, Neukirchner was forced to sit up and straight-line the corner, dropping him to the back of the pack.
Despite his best efforts, though, Fabrizio could not break away, with Haslam and Smrz going with him as they lapped at a similar pace to Haga, now several seconds up the road.
Buoyed by his superb run to third position in the first race, Haslam kept Fabrizio under significant pressure, hounding the Italian through each bend but being unable to find his way through.
Nonetheless, the Stiggy's rider's perseverance paid off when he finally planted a move on lap 13, Haslam resisting Fabrizio's counter-attacks to move through and gradually pull away.
Crossing the line just over two seconds behind winner Haga, second place marks Haslam's best-ever WSBK result and brings to a close to an outstanding day that also sees him up to third in the overall standings.
The battle for third went down to the wire too, Fabrizio holding the position into the final lap, only for Smrz to get the better of him and record what is also his and Guandalini Ducati's best-ever result at WSBK level.
Some way behind, Jonathan Rea got a much needed boost with a run to fifth, the Northern Irishman recovering from another poor start to come out on top of a heated battle between himself and the sole Yamaha of Tom Sykes.
Keeping a watching brief just behind, Carlos Checa was seventh, with Shane Byrne eighth, Neukirchner ninth and Troy Corser tenth. Ruben Xaus followed in 11th after a race-long fight with Yukio Kagayama.
In a race that saw problems for Spies, Regis Laconi, Karl Muggeridge and Stuart Easton among others, the final three points paying positions fell to Brendan Roberts, Matteo Baiocco and Luca Scassa – all first time scorers at this level.
The WSBK field now heads south to Italy for the annual jaunt to the exciting and high-speed Monza circuit…