looks back at the first round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship team-by-team…
Noriyuki Haga – 1st, 2nd
Michel Fabrizio – 4th, 5th
A great start to the season for reigning champion's Ducati Xerox, not least because it very nearly headed south before race day had even begun. Fifth on the grid for Michel Fabrizio
and 13th for Noriyuki Haga
didn't form the basis for a good weekend, but Haga in particular pulled it out of the bag with a fantastic ride in both races. Superb opening laps in both races made all the difference, Haga looked calm but threatening at the same time, the Japanese rider laying to rest questions people may have had about whether he could gel with the Ducati 1198 and team. Haga isn't known for making great starts to his title campaigns, but a win and a second place means 2009 couldn't have kicked off much better. Although overshadowed by Haga, Fabrizio enjoyed a solid start to his year, but found himself having to work his way back into contention after difficult starts. Nonetheless, fourth and fifth means the Italian has contributed plenty to Ducati's early advantage.
Suzuki Alstare Brux
Max Neukirchner – 2nd, 6th
Yukio Kagayama – 3rd, 8th
With a new team name and an understated livery, Suzuki have certainly been the quietest of the seven manufacturers heading into 2009, a status they fulfilled after qualifying too when Yukio Kagayama
and Max Neukirchner could only manage 11th and 14th. Nonetheless, both riders were revelations in race one, Neukirchner showing exactly why his rivals consider him a title threat by scything his way up the field and almost grabbing victory under Noriyuki Haga's nose – Haga's win was impressive, but Neukirchner could have done from one position further back on the grid… Kagayama also had his moment to shine with a first podium in more than season, although both he and Neukirchner couldn't quite match that form in race two. The pair did work their way up the field, but not quite as quickly, eventually settling for eighth and sixth respectively.
Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – 6th, 3rd
Roberto Rolfo – 13th, 16th
With Sterilgarda struggling, Stiggy Racing is well placed to assume their mantle as the best of the satellite teams after an outstanding debut in the category. The Swedish outfit has Leon Haslam to thank for their headline-grabbing weekend after climbing to the top of the British pile with sixth in the first race and then third in the second, the latter coming after an exciting late assault. With plenty more to come from rider and bike, Johan Stigefelt may be wondering why he didn't make the move sooner… Roberto Rolfo, meanwhile, proved his shoulder is in good condition with a fairly competitive weekend, although he was always towards the lower end of the points. Having seen Haslam's performance, he will need to start aiming for regular top tens in order to hold onto what is likely to be a sought after ride.
Ben Spies – 16th, 1st
Tom Sykes – 10th, 10th
With Ben Spies being tipped for the title before even making a competitive World Superbike start, big things were expected of the American in Australia – and he delivered! While the less said about race one, where he tripped over Max Biaggi
at turn two and couldn't recover lost ground, the better, race two was his crowning glory. Having already scored pole position on his debut, Spies resisted pressure from the other rider expected to challenge him for this year's championship, Noriyuki Haga, to take victory. A win for the new 'big bang' R1 too, team-mate Tom Sykes had a solid full-time debut on the second machine. Although a pair of tenth place finishes were no more than average, poor starts mean Sykes at least got the chance to flex his overtaking skills. There is more to come from the British rider, that's for sure.
DFX Corse Ducati
Regis Laconi – 7th, 4th
With both team and rider desperate to revive their fortunes, DFX Corse and Regis Laconi
were a revelation in Australia. Determined to prove his years flagging at Kawasaki were bike related, Laconi was instantly fast at Phillip Island, his reunion with Ducati proving they are a perfect match. A lap record in qualifying was the highlight, but seventh and fourth place finishes also mark the best result for both himself and the team for some time. A great return to form for both.
Ten Kate Honda
Jonathan Rea – 5th, 9th
Carlos Checa – 12th, 13th
Ryuichi Kiyonari – DNF, 23rd
After shining in qualifying, Ten Kate Honda's race day somewhat flattered to deceive. Jonathan Rea was their star performer, qualifying an excellent third, but struggling slightly in the races with tyre problems. Leading race one briefly, he slipped to an eventual fifth, before following that up with ninth in the second event. Still, having been Ten Kate's top rider comfortably all weekend, it is easy to forget this was just his second ever WSBK event… Carlos Checa's struggles could be attributed to his shoulder injury, one that saw him flagging towards the end of both races. Still, points' finishes form the basis for what is likely to be a more prosperous Qatar round. With his alternatively liveried bike, Ryuichi Kiyonari
looked like he didn't belong at Ten Kate in more ways than one this weekend. Out of contention through qualifying, Kiyonari was taken down in the first race before finishing just 23rd in the second race after suffering with problems. A dismal start to what people expected to be a title campaign.
Jakub Smrz – 9th, 7th
Brendan Roberts – 17th, 19th
A great performance on paper, Jakub Smrz may be slightly disappointed to have missed out on anything better than seventh and ninth after qualifying on the front row. Proving just how good a qualifier he is, before betraying his reputation for poor starts, Smrz nonetheless showed more consistent race pace this season than he did last year, prompting two solid top ten finished. Guandalini team-mate Brendan Roberts, however, had a tough debut and was embarrassed by Smrz. Qualifying outside the top twenty, although Roberts made progress in the races, he was never in with a chance of points. The bike is certainly there, so the Australian will need prove himself over the next few rounds.
Troy Corser – 8th, 22nd
Ruben Xaus – 19th, 11th
BMW's long-awaited World Superbike debut finally rolled around in Australia and the verdict was certainly encouraging. For Troy Corser
and Ruben Xaus, a best of eighth and 11th respectively didn't quite meet their high standards – blame a misjudged performance in qualifying for that -, but for a brand new team and a completely new bike, it was a good performance. Corser's effort was particularly exciting, the Australian rider using his experience – as well as a bit of red mist brought on by his career-low 17th on the grid – to aggressively work his way up the order, setting the fastest lap in the process. A bad tyre choice in race two prevented him from going better, but 11th for Xaus was arguably the Spaniard's best showing on the S1000RR since he joined the team last year. BMW are very far from reaching their potential, so this performance will certainly act as a warning to their rivals.
Max Biaggi – 11th, 15th
Shinya Nakano – 15th, 12th
The same could be said for Aprilia, who put occasionally questionable results in testing behind them to prove they aren't in WSBK to make up the numbers. Max Biaggi
looked visibly pleased with the RSV-4, particularly in qualifying when he put the bike an excellent second on the grid. Unfortunately for him, an error at the start of race one and another at the end of race two prevented him from doing any better than 11th and 15th, although his actual pace put him closer to the top five mark. Shinya Nakano also qualified well in ninth, but found the going tough on his Superbike race debut. Still, a pair of points finishes is a good basis from which to start.
Makoto Tamada – 18th, 17th
Broc Parkes – DNF, 18th