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Spies wins interrupted Miller opener

31 May 2009

Ben Spies overcame a mid-race restart to score his fifth World Superbike Championship win of the season in front of his home fans at Miller Motorsports Park.

In a race determined by aggregate results following a red flag period on lap seven, Spies kept his cool on both occasions to romp away from the field and win by almost ten seconds from Carlos Checa.

Spies had led comfortably from the first start, capitalising on his pole position to sling his Yamaha into the lead on the run down to the opening bend, while Shinya Nakano made full use of the lengthy straight to catapult from tenth on the grid to second position behind the American.

Equally impressive off the line was Noriyuki Haga, going from ninth to third, ahead Ryuichi Kiyonari, Broc Parkes and front row sitter Checa.

With Spies already putting considerable air between himself and Nakano in second position, it was already looking like a foregone conclusion as to where the win would go after just a few laps. His cause was certainly being aided by Haga, whose good getaway only brought an apparent lack of race pace into sharper focus.

Indeed, Haga was down to sixth behind team-mate Michel Fabrizio by lap four, while he was then faced with the unusual situation of been swamped by the feisty Kawasakis of Parkes and Jamie Hacking.

Both Parkes and Hacking were providing considerable entertainment in their charge towards the front of the field, belying the bike's lack of pace so far this year to achieve their aims on lap six and get the better of Haga.

Hacking was on a particular charge, making his way past Haga, Parkes and Checa by the end of lap six to suddenly find himself in fourth position.

However, his hopes of progressing further would come to nothing when the red flag was produced following an accident for Karl Muggeridge further back. The Australian had lost control of his Celani Suzuki and with both man and machine stricken on the circuit, organisers chose to stop the race.

His accident was bad news for Hacking and Parkes, who would be moved back to their respective eighth and seventh positions on count-back at the restart, although they would gain a position at the expense of Nakano, who crashed momentarily before the race was stopped when he lost the front-end of his Aprilia whilst attempting to defend from Checa. He wouldn't make the restart.

Following a 20 minute delay, during which time Muggeridge was seen making his own way to the ambulance for a check up at the medical centre, the race was restarted using the aggregate times from where they were at the end of lap six.

It meant Spies held a four second advantage over Kiyonari, with Checa third in the absence of Nakano, Fabrizio fourth and Haga fifth.

At the lights, Spies was again away well but would be beaten into the first corner by an equally fast starting Kiyonari. However, any grandeur dreams the Japanese rider was having about beating Spies ended half way round the lap when Spies pushed his way through and took charge again.

Others to benefit from starting again included Jonathan Rea, who launched off the line to end the 'first' lap fourth on the road, albeit still eighth in the aggregate standings.

Nonetheless, with only his team-mates for company up ahead and running a good pace, it wasn't long before Rea was scaling the timesheets, moving past those who were getting caught up in a much tighter fight just behind.

Most notably, a great start for Parkes had him running fifth on the road, meaning he briefly held fourth overall, ahead of Fabrizio, Biaggi, Rea, Haga and Hacking.

However, the Australian would begin to struggle as the race wore on, being reigned in by Biaggi and Fabrizio before actually being clipped by his team-mate on lap eleven when Hacking attempted an overtaking manoeuvre. The light contact would prompt an even more alarming drop down the order. He would eventually fail to reach the chequered flag.

As the field began to spread out, an unconventional tussle would occur for the remaining podium positions behind Spies, with Kiyonari clinging onto second position, despite the fact he was now running quite far behind Checa on the road.

The former BSB champion would hold the position all the way until lap 13 when, under pressure from Rea, he made an error at Attutude, Kiyonari being briefly flung out his seat but recovering to run behind his team-mates.

Seemingly unable to run the same pace he was managing at the original start, Kiyonari would find himself down to sixth position on the road behind Biaggi and Fabrizio too. Of the two, Fabrizio was Kiyonari's biggest threat for the final podium position on aggregate, the Italian duly grabbing it on the very final lap when he managed to slipstream his way past Biaggi and use the clear air to pump in a strong late effort.

Up at the front, though, Spies was cruising to victory for Yamaha, gradually pulling out his advantage over Checa to cross the line four seconds up on the Spaniard, but almost ten seconds in total.

The best result of the season for Checa, he was comfortably classified ahead of the hard charging Fabrizio, the Italian's last lap effort ensuring he keeps Spies honest in the battle for second in the standings.

Despite fading away in the closing stages, Kiyonari's strong showing at the original start meant he could cling on to fourth, less than a second ahead of Rea, who would come away with fifth, despite having finished a physical third.

Battling up from 16th on the grid, Biaggi was sixth, the Italian utilising the outstanding straight line speed of the Aprilia RSV-4 to pull off some impressive moves down the long home straight.

While he wasn't quite as prolific as he had been in the early stages, seventh position for Jamie Hacking marks Kawasaki's best World Superbike finish since Vallelunga 2007.

His cause was certainly aided by a thrilling exchange for eighth position, which came down to a fight between six riders, the owner of the place changing constantly in the final laps.

Haga had held on to the spot for the majority of the race, but the out of sorts championship leader found himself being swallowed up by Leon Haslam and Shane Byrne, the latter recovering from a terrible start that saw him end the opening lap in 16th position.

While both got the jump on Haga by lap 16, the gulf of time they needed to make up on Haga proved to be too much for both of them and they were forced to contend with tenth and 11th, Haslam ahead of Byrne. Even so, Haga would still be demoted to ninth at the finish after being leapfrogged by Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider making stealthy progress up the field to snatch the position on the final lap of the race.

Elsewhere, Yukio Kagayama finished 12th, ahead of Tom Sykes – his first non top ten finish of the season -, Gregorio Lavilla and Troy Corser.


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