looks back at the fifth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at Monza, Italy team-by-team...
Michel Fabrizio – 1st, 2nd
Noriyuki Haga – 2nd, DNF
It took four years, 87 races and 13 podiums, but on home ground at Monza Michel Fabrizio
finally broke his World Superbike duck. Although enthusiasts will always remember the circumstances surrounding his win, when Ben Spies ran out of fuel on the last lap, Fabrizio, regardless, was a deserving winner. While Spies had the legs of him in qualifying, Fabrizio was a better match during the race, proving immaculate on the brakes as he initially resisted both the American and team-mate Noriyuki Haga. Midway through the race, a gearshift problem stymied his progress, but Fabrizio was able to work around this, setting the fastest lap and taking on Spies for the win. While a dose of luck was crucial to securing that eventual triumph, it shouldn't take away from his achievement.
Also the first time Fabrizio has beaten Noriyuki Haga
in a straight fight this season, the Japanese rider had the flip side of his team-mate's luck. Although he capitalised on Spies' misfortune in race one, Haga succumbed to an unusual retirement in race two he was caught up in a flock of birds having snatched the lead at the start. Impacting with his arm, it dropped him back before the loss of sensation caused him to crash. An unfortunate way to end a run of nine top two finishes, Haga can take heart from the fact it wasn't his error that caused his retirement. Even so, 54 points still separate him from Spies, so the ball remains very much in his court.
Ben Spies – 15th, 1st
Tom Sykes – 6th, 6th
History has shown that motorcycle riders can be an emotional lot, visibly angry at themselves, rivals and/or teams for various reasons. Put in the same position, most would have been more than a bit irked to see a certain win come to nothing just metres from the finish line because of an error regarding fuel consumption. Spies, however, was remarkably composed, simply crossing the line, pulling up at the pit wall and disappearing from view. No waving arms, no kicking and no shouting, Spies kept himself in check to be disappointed, rather than angry. A fine attribute and one that probably helped motivate him to an easy victory in the second race. It should have been the double, but at least Spies can come away safe in the knowledge that he remains the coolest character out there…
Read between the lines and Tom Sykes' two top six finishes represent more than just another pair of good results. Indeed, with Noriyuki Haga
retiring, Sykes is now the only rider in the field to have finished each race this season inside the top ten, while his fifth in the overall standings puts him ahead of several more experienced competitors. Cynics will argue he has the best package on the grid, but this is only magnified by the performances of team-mate Spies – in isolation, Sykes is doing a superb job.
Ten Kate Honda
Ryuichi Kiyonari – 3rd, 3rd
Jonathan Rea – 5th, 7th
Carlos Checa – 9th, 10th
Ten Kate Honda returned to some kind of prominence at Monza, Ryuichi Kiyonari
giving his lacklustre season a tremendous boost by climbing onto the podium not once, but twice. Also the first rostrum result for the Dutch team this year, the result could have been even better had the Japanese rider gotten a better start in race one. Dropping to a lowly 17th, Kiyonari set some blistering lap times to reclaim a surprise third, just eight seconds off the leaders, when Ben Spies and Max Biaggi
were moved back. Another podium in the second race was further proof to what Kiyonari can do around circuits he knows and loves (he scored his first podium at Monza last year too), but he needs to prove that he can do it again at other race tracks now. The weekend was also successful for Jonathan Rea, who put in his best WSBK performance yet with a pair of top five finishes. Although no doubt frustrated to be caught and passed by Kiyonari in race one, Rea remains the team's most consistent performer, particularly alongside Carlos Checa, who is becoming increasingly stuck in the lower reaches of the top ten. Now behind Kiyonari in the standings, the Spaniard will be looking forward to Miller Motorsports Park in two rounds time, the scene of his double triumph in 2008…
Suzuki Alstare Brux
Yukio Kagayama – 4th, 17th
Max Neukirchner – DNS, DNS
Few will forget the frightening impact that put Max Neukirchner in hospital, but thankfully the German is now embarking on the road to recovery having undergone successful surgery. Another disappointing chapter for a Suzuki team that have not experienced the best of luck so far this season, things were looking good for Neukirchner when he qualified on the front row, with Yukio Kagayama
just behind, but the German's good start would prove his undoing when Brendan Roberts' Guandalini Ducati swept into his path and did the damage. Instead, Kagayama was left to uphold honours and, ultimately, he did a fine job, finishing fourth in the first race, while he would have been on course for a similar result in the second had he not been given a drive-through penalty. With Neukirchner sidelined, attention ultimately turns to the man who replaces… none other than former rider Fonsi Nieto…
Max Biaggi – 11th, 5th
Shinya Nakano – 13th, 12th
There were some very angry people in the Aprilia garage following the opening race of the weekend, not least Max Biaggi
himself. The Italian had seemingly done enough to secure a third podium finish of the season for both himself and the team, only to be told that he had been given a 20 second penalty for cutting a chicane. Biaggi was by no means the only offender, although it was only him that stewards felt fit to penalise somewhat controversially. Still, despite wanting to hang up his overalls there and then, Biaggi stuck it out and was rewarded with fifth in race two. The speed from Aprilia is certainly there and they are now on the cusp of taking fourth from Suzuki in the standings, but luck isn't quite so evident. Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, Shinya Nakano had a quiet weekend around an unknown circuit. Refusing to blame his recent shoulder injury for his lack of form, he instead admitted he'd found the going tough in Italy. He is confident of an improvement at Kyalami, where he tested last year.
BMW Alpha Racing
Ruben Xaus – 7th, 9th
Troy Corser – DNF, DNS
BMW enjoyed their best meeting of the season at Monza - although it could have gone even better. Unlike previous weekends where the team have made good starts in practice before fading during the all important Superpole, BMW started the weekend quietly before building up to a solid performance in qualifying, one that put Troy Corser
11th – their best grid position yet. However, Corser's race day was about to get rather painful, the Australian having a bike land on him at the aborted first start, before crashing at high-speed at the restart. It prompts the question of what could have been, because Ruben Xaus
would go on to record their best-ever finish of seventh in the same race, despite starting three positions further back. In fact, the Spaniard showed strong long-distance pace, backing his seventh up with a ninth later in the day. Progress may be a little slow, but at least it is all heading in the right direction…
Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – DNF, 7th
Jake Zemke – 18th, 20th
A tyre gamble in qualification proved Stiggy Racing's undoing at Monza, leaving Leon Haslam with too much to do come race day. Still, the Briton fought valiantly in both races, finishing seventh in the second encounter – with the fourth quickest lap -, while a retirement whilst heading for a top ten in the first signalled a good fight back. Even so, the team know now not to go too far with the tyres unless absolutely certain they will make it through to the shootout. On the other side of the garage, Jake Zemke arrived to replace injured countryman John Hopkins, but had a tough weekend adapting to the rigours of the championship and the circuit.
DFX Corse Ducati
Regis Laconi – 8th, 11th