Ben Spies has taken his 'hat off' to Noriyuki Haga for his impressive race winning turn at Imola as the American was left to otherwise rue an uncharacteristically lacklustre day.

Spies had high hopes of continuing the momentum he had built up in the process of snatching the championship lead for the first time this season, but was hampered by technical issues in race one and on-track issues in the second.

Finishing fourth in the first race, Spies blamed a minor technical issue for preventing him from getting amongst the leaders, the American forced to watch as Haga romped to his first win since Kyalami and slash his 18 point margin to just six.

"We had some electronics issues that kept us from running up front," Spies explained. "I wouldn't call it a major problem, but it was just enough that I couldn't ride the bike to its full potential."

A better package in race two gave Spies renewed hope, but after being sucked down to sixth through the first few turns, he was unable to work his way back through the order initially due to an intense tussle with Jonathan Rea.

Battling back to get embroiled in the fight for third, Spies found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when Marco Simoncelli and Max Biaggi tripped over one another ahead of him, sending the latter Aprilia rider wide and into Spies' path. With nowhere else to go, Spies was forced across the gravel and down to sixth.

"Rea got pretty greedy early in the race, passing me in the gravel trap three different times. I felt bad for him as I knew he had the pace to run up front but you've got to know when to calm down and when to take it easy for a couple of laps and let the race come in, you can't push on every corner.

"I had a couple of laps where I wasn't riding well at all then I got myself together and caught up to Simoncelli and Biaggi

"Simoncelli came in a little hot and pushed Biaggi wide," he added. "Max was definitely coming across the track right in my line so I had to run off the track to avoid him. Then I ran off and in the gravel one other time, so all things considered I can't complain too much about the weekend, having to deal with two incidents like that.

A further off whilst attempting to pass Shane Byrne followed before Spies was able to settle for fifth. Despite the less than favourable result, Spies was merely happy to have stayed upright.

"It was a messy race. There were a lot of mistakes, a couple from me and some from others. If you would have told me after the first race that we would only be losing the championship by three points I'd be happy because there were a lot of guys who could beat me this weekend."

Slipping three points behind Haga again in the standings, Spies was gracious in congratulating Haga on getting back to his best following a difficult couple of months recovering from injury.

Nonetheless, with just four races remaining at Magny-Cours and Portimao, Spies is remaining bullish about his title hopes.

"My hat's off to Nori for making such a strong comeback after his injuries. It's just a three-point difference, so essentially we're even going into Magny Cours next weekend. I'm looking forward to the final two rounds.

"I've never been to Magny Cours, so we'll see how that goes. I've been to Portimao and I love that track. The tail end of this championship is going to be interesting that's for sure."


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