looks back at the sixth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park, USA team-by-team…
Ben Spies – 1st, 1st
Tom Sykes – 13th, 9th
While there was probably an air of inevitability about it, Ben Spies' pole position and two very dominant race wins are still a remarkable achievement, regardless of whether he has intimate knowledge of the circuit already. While he kept a surprisingly low profile on the first day of competition, Spies' record-breaking seventh consecutive pole position – by more than half a second – would set the tone for the remainder of the weekend. Untouchable in either race, Spies even managed good starts each time – an area where the Yamaha R1 has struggled this year – to simply ride off into the distance. Carlos Checa and Michel Fabrizio tried hard but they were no competition. While it still leaves him with a mountain to climb in the overall standings, this performance does raise the question of how much Spies has left to give on circuits he does know, should he remain in WSBK next season. Rivals should be very worried indeed…
By sharp contrast, Tom Sykes endured a torrid time at Miller, even when Spies' performance isn't taken into account. Qualifying outside Superpole, although Sykes rallied hard in both races, there is only so much you can do from 22nd on the grid. Ninth in the second race was a decent showing, particularly for a rookie, although Sykes will be counting down the days to Donington Park when he can show exactly what he can do in familiar surroundings.
Michel Fabrizio – 3rd, 2nd
Noriyuki Haga – 9th, 8th
Michel Fabrizio flew the Ducati flag for the majority of the weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, with Noriyuki Haga seemingly struggling to ever get comfortable with the bike or the circuit throughout. The championship leader's cause was certainly not aided by a colossal accident during the second qualification session, but Haga refused to blame that for his eventual eighth and ninth place finish – easily his least convincing performance for quite a while, even beyond this season. Indeed, Haga is renowned for his 'off' weekends, but having seen good starts reduced to mid-field finishes, even this was a bit of a surprise. Misano should prove a much happier hunting ground…
It was up to Fabrizio, instead, to spare the team's blushes with two more convincing podium finishes. Although he has been demoted back to third by Spies in the overall standings, the Italian is being dragged along too. Showing fighting spirit in the first race to finish third on aggregate, Fabrizio put on a spirited display in race two in his attempts to chase down Spies. Although he failed on that account, it was certainly no disgrace that he finished similarly several seconds up on third. More proof Fabrizio is coming of age this season…
Ten Kate Honda
Carlos Checa – 2nd, DNF
Jonathan Rea – 5th, 3rd
Ryuichi Kiyonari – 4th, 5th
While we've seen hints of a recovery at various stages recently, most notably Ryuichi Kiyonari's podium at Monza and Jonathan Rea's maiden rostrum at Kyalami, Miller proved the first time this year that all
three Ten Kate riders have been prominent. The turn of Carlos Checa to snatch the initiative, the Spaniard looked every inch the rider that won twice in Utah last season as he dabbled inside the top five throughout the weekend. He should have been on the podium twice, were it not for a fall in the second race, but Checa was definitely Ten Kate's form man this time.
Then again, Rea and Kiyonari weren't far off. Although Kiyonari was the better qualifier in third, compared to Rea's 11th, the Northern Irishman was the better racer, effectively finishing third twice, although his first race effort on aggregate placed him fifth. Significantly, it moves him up to fourth in the overall standings - a great achievement alone -, but one that in turn reasserts Ten Kate's authority over Stiggy Honda. A much needed good weekend for the Dutch team.
Max Biaggi – 6th, 4th
Shinya Nakano – DNF, 7th
Save for a blip on Saturday afternoon, Aprilia enjoyed another prosperous weekend in the USA, with both Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano showing good form during the races in particular. Despite Nakano's best efforts, Biaggi was once again their front runner finishing fourth and sixth in the two races. It could have been even better too had Biaggi not fallen during Superpole and prevented himself from qualifying any better than 16th on the grid. Indeed, while his – and Nakano's - missile starts made up for his spot on the fourth row, it begs the question of how far ahead he would have been at the first corner had he qualified on the front row like he was threatening… Nonetheless, the RSV-4 remains a work in progress, Biaggi complaining of stability into corners, potentially as a result of the bike's outstanding straight-line pace, as shown by a number of failed overtaking attempts when he ran wide. Nakano, meanwhile, was looking the possibility of a podium in the first race after his incredible start from tenth, when he fell and couldn't compete, but seventh in the second race, despite an injured hand, keeps his points ticking over with another decent result.
Jamie Hacking – 7th, 19th
Broc Parkes – DNF, 11th
It has been a while since we have seen a 'green machine' – let alone two – competing at the front of the World Superbike field, but Miller Motorsports Park certainly seemed to suit the ZX-10R this weekend. While much can be made of the fact stand-in Jamie Hacking had prior experience of the circuit, he didn't know much about the team and the Pirelli tyres beforehand, more than negating any kind of advantage. Nonetheless, the American was superb throughout the weekend, qualifying eighth and finishing seventh in the first race – the manufacturer's best result in 44 attempts! Ben Spies has already tipped Hacking for big things should be come to WSBKs – Kawasaki could do a lot worse than snapping him up while they can… Although overshadowed slightly by Hacking, Parkes deserves an honourable mention too, matching Hacking for the most part – and out-qualifying him too – around a circuit he has not ridden before. Tyre problems in race one and contact at the start of the second prevented anything better than 11th, but the Australian was certainly capable of a top eight result unhindered. Now the challenge is to maintain this form at the upcoming events…
Jakub Smrz – 8th, 6th
Gregorio Lavilla – 14th, DNF