Rea wins, Spies leads, Haga falls
6 September 2009
Jonathan Rea has won his second career World Superbike race at the Nurburgring, but it is Ben Spies that steals the headlines after assuming the championship lead courtesy of a retirement for Noriyuki Haga.
In what could be considered the pivotal moment for this year's title race, Haga's accident, prompted by contact with Rea, means Spies leaves Germany with the lead in the overall standings for the first time this year.
Haga was dicing with Rea for the lead of the race when the pair collided at the opening turn on lap five, the Japanese rider having run wide before coming back onto line just as Rea was attempting to slip back up the inside.
Making contact, while Rea was able to continue, Haga couldn't remain upright and was forced to lay his Ducati Xerox down. Although it was a low speed accident, Haga was unable to get going again.
Prior to that, Haga had been distracted by the attentions of Rea and his Ten Kate Honda team-mate Carlos Checa, both of whom set a blistering pace in the opening laps. Indeed, Rea found himself down in eighth position from second on the grid after the first few bends, but quickly scythed his way back into contention to be on the back of Checa by the end of lap two,
Checa, meanwhile, was applying his own pressure to Haga and even moved into the lead of a race for the first time this season on lap three. While Haga and Rea both managed to find their way through again on lap four, the Ducati man couldn't resist the charging Northern Irishman as he swept in front almost straight away.
Not to be outdone, Haga used the tow down the home straight at the start of lap five to dive down the inside of the Honda at turn one, the action duly leading on to their imminent coming together.
Haga's fall, in the middle of the circuit, sent the following riders scattering, with Michel Fabrizio losing out in particular as he took drastic avoiding action to miss his team-mate. By contrast, Spies was the big winner, Haga's fall coming at a moment when he appeared to be struggling for ultimate pace.
With a poor start leaving him in seventh, Spies had made no progress before his rival's fall, but leapt three positions straight away, before going on to dispatch of Carlos Checa for third on lap nine at the Esses.
Rea, meanwhile, held a comfortable margin over Leon Haslam, Spies, Checa and Max Biaggi, the Italian recovering from a few 'wide' moments early on to catch and pass Fabrizio and Troy Corser.
Whilst not as prolific as his progress in race one, Spies was still proving to be a race win contender as he shadowed Haslam in second place, the American eventually getting the better of him under braking at his favoured overtaking spot, the Esses.
Setting off in pursuit of Rea, Spies was able to catch the youngster, but was never close enough to launch anything more than the occasional lunge to unsettle him. Safe in the knowledge that he is the new championship leader, Spies pushed hard on the final lap, but had no answer to Rea, who shrugged off the pressure to not only keep Spies at bay, but also set a new lap record in the process.
Spies was forced to play second fiddle, but the result means he has turned a two point deficit into an 18 point advantage at a crucial stage in the season, with only six races remaining.
An error by Haslam shortly after Spies had overtaken him promoted Checa up to third position for his second podium of the day, the Spaniard completing an outstanding weekend for Ronald ten Kate's eponymous team.
Biaggi was another to benefit from a fading Haslam to secure another top five finish on an Aprilia that had threatened to be off the pace during the initial stages of the weekend. Haslam, meanwhile, held on for another solid result to consolidate his sixth place in the standings.
Although not quite as good as his fifth place finish in Brno, a sixth and an eighth for Troy Corser signals his and BMW's best combined result of the season, the S1000RR beginning to prove it has the pace – if not the longevity – to challenge at the front of the field now.
Having barely featured all weekend, an inspired Ryuichi Kiyonari was a surprising seventh after battling his way up from 18th on the grid and passing Tom Sykes and Fabrizio in the closing stages, the latter rider enduring a disappointing weekend to all but end his title hopes.
Suzuki were on for a possible double top ten finish, which would have been their first since Valencia, but an accident for Karl Muggeridge put paid to that. He had been ahead of team-mate Yukio Kagayama up to that point, but it was the Japanese rider who would inherit to snatch tenth position.
Jakub Smrz was eleventh on an unusually quiet day for him, while Fonsi Nieto, Broc Parkes, Luca Scassa and Vittorio Iannuzzo completed the points positions, the latter scoring his second point of the year.
Meanwhile, British riders Shane Byrne and Richard Cooper failed to finish after separate crashes, the pair missing out on points finishes in the process.