looks back at the eighth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at Misano, San Marino team-by-team…
Ten Kate Honda
Jonathan Rea – 7th, 1st
Carlos Checa – 11th, 5th
Ryuichi Kiyonari – DNF, 14th
For the first time this season, a team other than Xerox Ducati or Yamaha WSB occupy top billing in Crash.net's
regular team-by-team analysis, thanks solely to the efforts of Jonathan Rea. Few will have been disappointed to see Rea claim a maiden win in what is increasingly becoming a hugely impressive first season at World Superbike level. There was much to be said about the Ten Kate Honda team heading to Misano having shone last time out at Miller Motorsports Park, with Rea arriving in Italy having been on record pace during a quick test at Magny-Cours a few days earlier. More significantly, however, was what was occurring on the bike, as Ten Kate appeared with some rather resplendent Ohlins suspension for the first time, replacing their long-standing relationship with WP. The effect seemed to be immediate, Rea proving on the pace in each of the sessions to qualify on the front row of the grid. While race one was a washout after fuel problems necessitated a ride back to the pits with Ryuichi Kiyonari (both riders getting a drive-through penalty for their efforts), Rea struck back in race two, taking the fight to both Ducati Xerox's and ripping victory from their hands on the very final lap. A confident way to break any duck, while Ten Kate Honda may have expected more success than this by this point in the season, it is significant that their first triumph in 2009 came from their rookie and not his more experienced team-mates.
Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari, in fairness, didn't endure much luck at Misano. Checa was looking good for a podium finish, and possibly even a victory challenge, in race one when his dry weather bike refused to move from the pit lane. You didn't have to be fluent in Dutch to hear the exasperation from the pit lane… Fifth in race two made some amends, but Rea's success may not sit quite so well with him. Kiyonari never fully recovered from his race one crash, in which he was innocently collected by Rea having high-sided on the wet surface. His two point haul maintains his rollercoaster of a season thus far.
Ben Spies – 1st, 9th
Tom Sykes – 8th, 7th
The term bitter-sweet can probably best describe Ben Spies' season thus far and at the end of seeing a great chance to further close the gap on Noriyuki Haga come to nothing, there were very obvious signs that frustration is beginning to enter his demeanour. You can't blame him either. With Haga having a fairly quiet weekend, Spies was visibly pushing hard at Misano and while his confidence wasn't quite there during the early stages of race one, once on his favoured dry-weather Yamaha, he was unstoppable. Another new track, another victory, another chunk out of Haga's advantage... Things seemed to be going his way again. Indeed, Spies remained favourite heading into race two, but the emergence of a slipping clutch half-way round the first lap scuppered any hopes of doing that. Seemingly about to retire, Spies fiddled, kicked and prodded the R1 into doing what he wanted, wrestling it up to ninth position – a remarkable achievement in itself – but far from his capabilities. Reliability – the cornerstone of Haga's campaign – is becoming a serious factor for Spies and his comments after the weekend reveal that is certainly beginning to play on his mind. Nonetheless, he will brush himself off and try again at Donington Park, one of the few circuits he does know.
Michel Fabrizio – 3rd, 2nd
Noriyuki Haga – 5th, 3rd
Michel Fabrizio garnered all the headlines for Ducati Xerox at Misano as he continues to establish himself as an outside threat for this year's title. Securing his seventh and eighth consecutive podium finishes, although he missed out on a victory when he was overtaken by Jonathan Rea on the final lap of the second race, Fabrizio did not seem too disheartened, the Italian merely pleased to have come away with decent results around a circuit he hasn't enjoyed in the past. Aware that points mean prizes in this year's contest, Fabrizio was the highest scoring rider at Misano, a performance that is ensuring this year's title fight is far from being between just two riders. Conquering consistency – a faux pas of his in the past – is certainly a big step, but the aim is now for him to be beating Spies and Haga for victories. Only then will we see if Fabrizio has what it takes to be a champion.
For team-mate Haga, Misano was another surprisingly quiet round for him, allowing Spies and Fabrizio to dispute matters up front while he kept a watching brief. A poor wet weather set-up meant fifth in the first race was probably a better result than expected, while third in the second indicated some great fighting spirit, but these are results of a man looking to consolidate, rather than necessarily extend, his championship advantage.
Shane Byrne – 2nd, 6th
It feels like it has been a long time coming – it probably seemed even long for Shane Byrne himself – but a second place finish at Misano will bring some much needed pleasure and relief to rider and team. Having shown signs of a step forward in the USA, Byrne carried his form to the scene of Sterilgarda Ducati's maiden WSBK win last season, qualifying a season's best fifth before storming into an early lead during race one, his experience of slippery conditions – an assumed skill when you've raced in Britain for so long – helping him go ten seconds up the road. Sadly for him, the rain didn't return and with the Adriatic sunshine forcing the pendulum towards a charging Ben Spies behind him, he had to settle for second. Nonetheless, a podium on paper is a massive boost for Byrne, who can only hope that this result propels him onto similarly great things on his home ground at Donington Park next weekend.
Jakub Smrz – 4th, 4th
Gregorio Lavilla – 22nd, 15th
Ducati may not have won a race at Misano – their back yard -, but they were certainly well represented in the upper echelons of the order, with Jakub Smrz putting in the race weekend of his career on the Guandalini machine. His prowess over a single lap is well known, but even Smrz exceeded himself in Superpole as he became the surprise figure to break Ben Spies' remarkable run of pole positions. It was done in style too, the Czech rider proving immensely quicker than his rivals in the final sector alone to secure a very popular career-first pole position. Although the man himself didn't expect to win come race day, he was still a force to be reckoned with in terms of raw pace. He even set the fastest lap in race one, but his hopes of a podium ended during the transition from wet to dry settings as he fought to get acclimatised again. Smrz was similarly quick in race two, but a couple of errors kept him consigned to the 'second group'. Nonetheless, he would at least prevail in that fight against Carlos Checa and Shane Byrne to post two fourth place finishes – his best combined result in World Superbikes and one that moves him up to ninth in the overall standings.
Gregorio Lavilla might have fancied his chances on the second machine too, but while he was a top ten runner during free practice – and even race one – he couldn't quite maintain it when it mattered. He has one more race to prove his worth before Brendan Roberts is scheduled to return to his seat.
Suzuki Alstare Brux
Yukio Kagayama – 6th, 11th
Fonsi Nieto – 18th, 12th
A brave performance can probably best describe Yukio Kagayama's run to sixth position at Misano, the Japanese rider overcoming his broken ankle to dice with Noriyuki Haga for a spot inside the top five. Showing his experience in tough conditions, while Kagayama may have lost out to his good friend on the final lap, it was a magnificent performance all the same. By contrast, Fonsi Nieto's hopes of finding another ride when Max Neukirchner returns (supposedly at Brno) were dealt another blow by a further lacklustre performance. A 12th place finish in the second race was his highlight from the weekend, but on a bike that has led races this season, the Spaniard will have hoped to be making more headway than this by now.
Stiggy Racing Honda
Leon Haslam – 12th, 8th
John Hopkins – DNS, DNS