WSBK » 24 October 2009
Spies takes vital pole, Haga down in 10th
Ben Spies takes his eleventh - and most important - pole position of the season at Portimao, as Noriyuki Haga can only manage tenth.
Ben Spies has put himself in a perfect position to snatch the 2009 World Superbike title after securing pole position for the final two races of the season at Portimao, while Noriyuki Haga could only manage a tenth on the grid.
Another record-breaking eleventh pole position for the American, Spies shrugged off an indifferent start to the weekend to put in a superb lap of 1min 42.412secs when it mattered, almost half a second quicker than his closest rival.
By contrast, Haga endured a torrid session, the championship leader being eliminated from the second phase of Superpole when his desperate final effort was only good enough to get him up to ninth position. He would eventually be forced to settle for tenth with a lap almost a second slower than his key rival.
With neither rider enjoying a stint at the top of the timesheets so far this weekend, Superpole was expected to be close between the two protagonists, particularly if they could not display pole-winning pace.
However, Spies and Haga hinted at how the session would pan out during the first knockout session, the Yamaha rider emerging an easy third, while Haga was only 11th fastest by comparison.
As Q2 got underway, Spies immediately stamped his authority on proceedings, slashing the previous lap record with a time of 1min 42.568secs on his first attempt.
Haga, first two efforts, however, weren't even good enough to reach the top ten, the championship leader returning to the pit lane to complain of problems with set-up on the Ducati Xerox.
Given one final shot at getting into the top eight, Haga needed to go faster than Jakub Smrz on the Guandalini Ducati, the Czech having just lowered the benchmark moments before. However, despite his best efforts, Haga proved to be a tenth short of Smrz's time, placing him ninth, before then being bumped down to tenth when Troy Corser moved through into Q3.
With his key rival out of the picture for the time being, Spies set about keeping his record tally of pole positions going, the soon-to-be MotoGP rider recovering from an aborted first lap to pump in the fastest time ever achieved on two wheels around the Portuguese circuit.
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