Successful start to season for Suzuki

Max Neukirchner was refusing to be too disheartened at missing out on victory in the first World Superbike race of the season, the Suzuki rider insisting he is just happy to have gotten on the podium.

The German rider provided a star turn in race one, following Noriyuki Haga in defying a lowly starting position on the fourth row to gradually climb the order and snatch the lead on lap nine.

Although Haga made his way back ahead soon afterwards, Neukirchner kept him in his sights and re-took the lead heading into the final lap. Resisting Haga's attentions as they arrived at turn nine, a slight error from Neukirchner was enough to allow his rival back through into a lead he would hold onto by just 0.032secs.

Although Neukirchner was frustrated to have missed out on a victory, he was nonetheless pleased to prove his Suzuki team will be a competitive force this season.

“I was very happy with the first race and thought I could win it, after a big fight with Nori. But I made a little mistake on the last lap and that was enough for Nori to take the chequered flag and push me to second. But for me, second is a great start to the season and it is a good way to say thank you to my team for all the hard work over the winter.”

Suzuki had further reason to celebrate when Yukio Kagayama joined Neukirchner on the podium for his first rostrum finish since Brno in 2007. A rare trouble-free weekend for the Japanese rider, Kagayama was delighted with his successful and uneventful start to the year.

“I am so happy to be on the podium again because the last time was a very long time ago - Brno in 2007. I am a racer and I like to win, so the first race was a good feeling for me.”

Race two wasn't so successful for the two riders, with a change in the temperature preventing them from making such rapid headway. Nonetheless, sixth place for Neukirchner ensures he comes away from the first weekend second in the standings.

“I had some problems with chatter in race two and also got caught up in a lot of traffic and found it not easy to get through it,” he said. “I lost three seconds on the front group and that was too much to make up. The grip level seemed quite a bit down in race two and it was not possible to go any faster. If I had gone any quicker, I may have crashed and I didn't want that as Yukio and I have not had a single crash all weekend!”

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Neukirchner, Australian WSBK 2009
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Lowes leads start of Suzuka 8 Hours (pic: Suzuki)

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