Noriyuki Haga was thrilled to bring a stop to Ben Spies' momentum after a win and a second place finish at Imola swung the World Superbike Championship pendulum back in his favour.
Arriving in Italy still reeling from his Nurburgring retirement, one that saw him lose the championship lead for the first time this season, Haga went on to find himself slightly adrift on the outside of the front row following qualifying, starting two positions behind Spies.
However, come race day, Haga once again proved his worth as a fighter over a race distance by immediately getting himself into a position during the first encounter to tackle early leader Max Biaggi.
Quickly recovering from losing out to team-mate Michel Fabrizio
on lap five, Haga proceeded to shadow Biaggi's every movements until the defining pass eventually came on lap 18, the Ducati Xerox powering out of Acque Minerale to propel Haga into the lead.
From that point on, Haga was able to cruise home to take his first victory since Kyalami almost four months ago.
“It's great to have won again, having not been in this position since Kyalami and having had some tough rounds after the Donington accident,” he said. “It was a very long race, I thought it would never end, and with all that happened, I don't even remember when I overtook Max!
“Over this weekend we have gradually improved and I am especially happy with the result because my father has travelled to Europe for the first time to see me race.”
Eyeing more of the same in the second outing, Haga looked to have the race sewn up as he galloped into an early lead, but a switch to his spare bike between the races meant he was slightly uncomfortable, therefore allowing Fabrizio to catch and pass him on lap 13.
With the anticipated team orders failing to come, Haga was forced to settle for second, but extended his congratulations to his team-mate nonetheless.
“For race two I unfortunately had to go out on the second bike as we had problems with the first and we couldn't get it fixed in time. It was a hard race and I am very tired at the end of it all.