Noriyuki Haga says he cannot wait for the World Superbike Championship title showdown at Portimao after an eighth win and a second place saw him put ten points between himself and Ben Spies with just one round remaining.
Shrugging off a less than ideal starting position of fifth, Haga was made to work hard in race one after getting bottled up behind Max Biaggi
in third for the majority of the race.
Following several attempts at trying to get past the Aprilia, it wasn't until lap 17 – six laps from the finish – that Haga dispatched of Biaggi for second position and set about hunting leader Spies down.
A series of record breaking laps would see Haga get to within half a second of Spies as they entered the final lap, although it was always going to take a mistake from the American to allow his rival a sniff at victory.
Remarkably, though, that is exactly what happened, Spies running wide at 180 to allow Haga to briefly scamper through. However, a better line on the exit of the bend allowed Spies to scramble back into the lead and take the win away from Haga.
Even so, despite missing out on the win, Haga insists it was an enjoyable fight right down to the chequered flag.
“In race one I really enjoyed myself, it was a fantastic race. I didn't make the best start and then it took a lot of laps before I was able to pass Max. Once I got past him I realised I didn't have many laps left in which to catch Ben.
“If I'd had just one extra lap, I think I'd have won. On the last lap I was waiting for Ben to make a mistake and when he did so, I managed to get up alongside him but unfortunately the next corner worked in his favour and he got past me.”
Race two proved less eventful, but more rewarding, for Haga after a good opening lap would see him snatch a lead he would maintain all the way to the finish line. Coupled to Spies' fourth place finish, it means he holds a ten point advantage in the standings with just Portimao remaining.
“In the second race, we made some small changes to my bike and they worked, giving me more confidence. This victory is truly a great result as we have regained a small advantage. Now we go to Portimao where Ben and I will fight for the 2009 title – I can't wait.”
In addition to his aiding his own title chances, Haga's victory in race two also meant he was able to give Ducati the manufacturers' title with one round remaining.
“I am extremely pleased that my results have awarded us the Constructors title. Thanks to Ducati and to my race engineer Ernesto Marinelli for giving me a great bike for Race 2; and to the whole Ducati Xerox team because my first year in Ducati is fantastic.”