18 November 2009
Haga looking forward to next year.
Noriyuki Haga insists he won't dwell on his narrow 2009 World Superbike title defeat and is 'already ready' for 2010.
Haga looked set to become Japan's first champion - a Japanese rider hasn't won the WSBK or 500cc/MotoGP title - when he stormed to a huge 85 point lead (over Michel Fabrizio) after six rounds of his first season at Ducati Xerox.
But unfortunately for Haga, he was up against Ben Spies, who put together the best rookie season in WSBK history to snatch the title from Haga by six points at the Portimao finale.
“I made a better start to the season than usual and then I led the championship for most of the season and this was more than I had done in previous seasons,” Haga told the official WSBK website. “Overall I had a good season in terms of wins and podiums, but unfortunately I lost the title at Portimao."
Reflecting on his battle with Spies, Haga paid tribute to the American - whilst highlighting tyres as his great 'what if'.
"From the start of the season Ben was very strong and it was a hard fight against him all year, every race it became harder!” he said. "For his first year in the championship, and not knowing most of the circuits, I can't deny that he is a very strong rider. But it was a close fight and sometimes it happened that our preferred tyre compound was not available; if it had been, maybe the championship result would have been different - this is something we will never know."
2009 was the third time that Haga had finished WSBK title runner-up and was not his closest defeat, having charged up to within just two points of James Toseland in 2007.
This season was different though because Haga led the championship for all but two of the 14 rounds, losing it initially at the Nurburgring (round eleven) and then again at Portimao, which he began with a ten point lead.
Haga insists he has the mental strength to try and do it all again in 2010.
"I feel ready for 2010 already!” he declared. “The results of other seasons is something we cannot change, it is already in the past. We will start again and another battle will begin. My only worry is always for the things I can't control; I always give 100% but certain things, like pigeons on the track [Monza], cannot be predicted!"
Haga - who was injured at Donington Park - took a best-yet nine race wins and 19 podiums from the 28 races this season. The 34-year-old will remain at Ducati, alongside Michel Fabrizio, next season, when Spies will move to MotoGP.
Whatever happens next year, the #41 insists 2010 won't be his last in World Superbike.
"No, not at all! I am sure 2010 won't be my last SBK season and I haven't even considered going to race in America!” he replied. “I am not thinking about the next step as I intend to continue in SBK for as long as I can be a strong contender."
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