The second round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship, which will take place at Qatar this weekend, had a watery prologue on Wednesday when seven leading riders took to offshore boats of the Qatar Powerboat Team around the Corniche bay area of the capital, Doha.
Early championship leader Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) and fellow Phillip Island race winner Ben Spies (Yamaha) plus Max Biaggi (Aprilia), Max Neukirchner (Suzuki), Troy Corser (BMW), Jonathan Rea (Honda) and Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) were all invited by Sheikh Hassan Al Thani, Qatar Marine Sports Federation president and Class 1 offshore champion on board two Nor-Tech Mercury 36' catamarans for a different kind of speed trip in the build-up to this Saturday's WSBK round.
“It wasn't my first time onboard this kind of boat but it was quite exciting,” declared Haga. “I'm thinking I want to buy this kind of boat but it's just to throw away for the money and I need to check with my wife first! As for this weekend's race, Ducati have good experience and settings for here, now I have started the season well from the first round so we will see from here in the next races.”
“We knew we had the pace to battle at Phillip Island, not necessarily to win, but it was important to get the first win out of the way” commented Spies. “I've kind of been like trying to prove myself on Superbikes for quite a long time, so my win in Australia felt like it had been a long time coming. Qatar is a track where I've never turned a wheel on, it seems OK, I'll just have to go out and learn it. 110 mph on water is a different feeling totally, but luckily we survived that and now I can go to work tomorrow!”
“Phillip Island was high performance on qualifying, nobody expected to see us on the front row and fighting for pole position until the end” said Biaggi. “But something at the moment is still a bit 'raw' and we need to find the right conditions to make it 'well done' and explore different ways to go for development. At the moment we're in early stages. This morning was a completely new way to go for me, we went fast on the speedboats. It was interesting to see the steering round the buoy, they go very quick and this type of boat is very stable, almost double the speed on the tarmac!”