Noriyuki Haga produced a dream result for the Ducati Xerox team at the Kyalami WSBK double-header, defying his Monza injuries to claim a double win and strengthen his championship challenge.
The Japanese veteran's performance was made even sweeter for the Ducati squad as he was chased home in both races by team-mate Michel Fabrizio, stretching its advantage at the head of the manufacturers' championship as the WSBK heads for the USA.
The two riders got away well in the first race, holding first and second places for almost the entire 24-lap distance. Not content to allow Fabrizio to hold sway, however, Haga passed his team-mate on lap twelve and gradually built up a gap as the Italian battled poleman Ben Spies out for second.
“In the first race, having had some suspension problems during Friday and Saturday, I have to say I didn't expect to be able to keep pace with Michel and Ben," a surprised Haga admitted, "But I made a good start and tried to stick with Michel. Then, when he appeared to have a small problem, I made my move...."
In race two, 'Nitro Nori' again got a good getaway but, this time, had to concede, briefly, to Spies. However, when the American suffered a technical failure, Haga resumed in front, with his Italian team-mate moving into second position. The two Ducati riders then continued to increase their lead over the chasing pack, before Fabrizio attempted a last lap bid for glory.
Twice the Italian saw a gap to the inside of Haga's machine but, on both occasions, ran wide on exit allowing the Japanese ace to regain the lead and, eventually, claim his second victory of the day, just a week after contact with a bird caused him to crash heavily at Monza.
"My arm was not a problem at all during the racing, but I must say I was very glad to see there are less birds here at Kyalami," he joked, "For race two, we made a small change to the settings of my bike and I felt more comfortable on it - but I knew that Michel was close behind me.
"In the last laps, my braking was suffering, so I had to hold on. On the last lap, I saw Michel do harder braking than me and, of course, I took the wrong line, but I was able to open the gas and get to the line first. I am very happy to take another 50 points away with me today and increase my advantage in the standings.”
Haga now holds an 85-point advantage over second place, which falls to Fabrizio after Spies' misfortune in race two.