Michel Fabrizio has moved into second place in the World Superbike championship race after recording two similar positions in the pair of races at Kyalami in South Africa - although he admits that he would have pushed harder for the race two win had he not been battling his team-mate.
The Italian played his part in a dream finish to the weekend for the Ducati Xerox team, backing up team-mate Noriyuki Haga in both races to help extend the Italian marque's advantage over Yamaha in the standings.
The two riders got away to a cracking start in the first race, and held first and second place for almost the entire 24-lap distance, with Fabrizio leading the first eleven laps ahead of his team-mate and poleman Ben Spies before making a mistake that allowed Haga to seize the initiative. While the Japanese veteran built a decisive gap, Fabrizio and Spies were left to battle it out for second until the American made a mistake that allowed Ducati man to make enough of a break.
“Race one turned into a great battle between myself and Ben, and it's just a pity that the battle was for second and not first place," admitted Fabrizio, who set the race's fastest lap, "Once Nori got past us, he started to build a small gap and was going faster than me in the first split, which meant I couldn't catch him again."
Haga again took the early initiative in race two, with Fabrizio dropping back into the pack behind Spies, Jonathan Rea and Max Biaggi and having to fight his way towards the front again. Although Spies briefly took the lead, he was quickly sidelined by technical gremlins, allowing the Italian to move into second place, albeit seemingly too far behind his team-mate to challenge for the win.
The two Ducati riders continued to increase their lead over the chasing pack, which proved incapable of making up what was, by the end of the race, an eight-second gap. Fabrizio, however, began to close on his team-mate and, by the final lap, had erased the margin between them to the point of being able to make a move for the lead. Twice he scythed down the inside of Haga but, on both occasions, was forced wide exiting the turn and eventually had to settle for another second place.
"Maybe I made a mistake telling Nori that I was going strong in the third split because, in race two, that's where he really pushed hard," the Italian grinned, "Although I was giving it my all right until the end, it was Nori who took the win. We had fun battling it out together - and, on the last lap, if he hadn't been my team-mate, I would have given him a push with the shoulder!
"I've moved into second place with today's results, so this leaves me extremely satisfied and I look forward to the next race in Salt Lake.”
Fabrizio overtakes Spies in the overall classification, but lies some 85 points behind Haga with only a three-point cushion to the American heading to his home race in two weeks' time. Ducati, meanwhile, took its tally to 275 points for the season and leads Yamaha by an increased 72-point margin.