Haga takes advantage as Spies struggles
4 October 2009
Noriyuki Haga will take a ten point lead over Ben Spies into the final round of the World Superbike Championship after cruising to an eighth win of the season at Magny-Cours.
Having slipped two points behind Spies after the American won the opening race in France, the Ducati rider struck back by taking the lead of race two on lap one and never looking back.
By contrast, Spies endured a troublesome race, the Yamaha rider quickly falling away from the lead fight to eventually cross the line more than 18 seconds adrift of Haga.
Despite a rather confusing end to the race when Haga and second place Max Biaggi continued racing for a lap beyond the chequered flag, victory for the Japanese rider also means that Ducati has sealed the manufacturer's title one round early.
With his race win challenge in race one blunted by a tardy start, Haga made no such mistakes on this occasion from fifth on the grid, moving straight past pole sitter Spies off the line before muscling his way up to second position around the long Estoril right-hander.
Having gotten the swift Aprilia off the line well, it was Biaggi that led as the field braked into the Adelaide hairpin, but having seen how difficult the Italian was to overtake during race one, Haga wasted no time in dispatching his sparring partner, slipping up the inside at 180.
Although Spies would attempt to follow through, all he would achieve would be a loss of position to Jonathan Rea.
Despite losing the lead, Biaggi was refusing to allow Haga to sprint away into the distance, the Brno race winner shadowing him up until he made an attempt at passing through the Adelaide hairpin on lap five. Nonetheless, Haga would calmly cut through on the inside on the exit to snatch back the position.
Biaggi would go on to make a second attempt around the outside of Haga into the same bend two laps later, but would instead find the close following Rea slipping through into second position.
Determined to make up for his retirement in race one, Rea set about trying to hustle Haga straight away, the Northern Irishman looking confident as he attempted to pull alongside on the exit of Estoril. Nonetheless, Haga was staying firm, his superiority on the brakes preventing Rea from only ever getting a brief overlap.
From here, the pendulum between the top three swung continuously, the gap increasing and shrinking as they either worked together or tripped over one another.
Eventually, Biaggi would work his way back up to second place after a late-braking manoeuvre on Rea at Lycee was duly rewarded, Rea being forced to concede on the tarmac run-off area in a failed attempt to repel his rival.
Allowing Biaggi one last go at taking the win, Haga would nonetheless keep things very much under control, taking the win by just over a second from Biaggi, who in turn made it a double podium for Aprilia, and Rea in third.
Spies, meanwhile, laboured home in fourth after rapidly dropping off the pace with an apparent problem on his Yamaha R1. Having rallied early on, Spies was more than two seconds behind the leaders when he began to drop back more noticeably, the visibly frustrated race one winner finishing well adrift by the chequered flag.
Nonetheless, the result could prove to be important in the long-term as it keeps Spies to within ten points of Haga in the standings. Crucially, this means that if Spies wins both races at Portimao – one of the few circuits on the calendar he knows – and Haga finishes just behind him in second position, his greater number of wins (a potential 15 to Haga's eight) would see him win the title despite finishing the season equal on points.
Indeed, luckily for him, Spies was unable to be overhauled by Leon Haslam, who posted his second top five finish of the day for Stiggy Racing after yet another lonely performance.
Sixth position fell to the person he is tipped to be replacing at Suzuki next season, Yukio Kagayama, the Japanese rider producing his most convincing race day performance since Monza to eventually prevail over Shane Byrne following a race-long battle.
Eighth place for Kagayama's team-mate, Karl Muggeridge, gave the team further reason to be pleased as the Australian posted his first top ten result with Suzuki and his best finish since Miller Motorsports Park last season.
Ninth place was originally set to go the way of Leon Camier, but the young Briton was once again eliminated by a technical issue, leaving him with a bitter double DNF on his debut with the Aprilia team.
Instead, Carlos Checa assumed the position, having recovered from an early delay when circumnavigating Michel Fabrizio's fallen Ducati, ahead of Troy Corser and Fonsi Nieto, while Ruben Xaus in 12th ensures BMW's collects its biggest points haul over a single weekend since entering World Superbikes.
Fabrizio scored three points for 13th after recovering from a tumble at Adelaide on lap four, the Italian coming down shortly after having just overtaken Shane Byrne for sixth position. Producing an impressive recovery ride to the points, it nonetheless means it is now mathematically impossible for him to win the title at Portimao.
Just behind, Matteo Baiocco was a double points scorer for Guandalini Ducati in 14th, while Broc Parkes picks up a single point for himself and Kawasaki at the end of a difficult weekend.