28 May 2009
Preview - Miller Motorsports Park
It doesn't seem all that long ago we were here looking forward to what was promising to be a very exciting – and competitive – 2009 World Superbike season, but seven rounds in we have already reached the half-way point in the year.
Back then, just four months ago, a number of questions were being posed – could Noriyuki Haga be on the way to a first WSBK title? Just how good is Ben Spies? How will the British riders fare?
The answers? Yes, excellent and very well…
Indeed, so much has occurred in the first six rounds of the season it is difficult to turn it into any kind of synopsis. Nonetheless, the headline heading to the seventh event of the year at Miller Motorsports Park is that Haga is well on the way to a maiden world title after so many years of trying.
Two more wins at Kyalami, coupled to a retirement for Spies, means Haga holds a very comprehensive 85 point lead over now Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio. It's an advantage that is more Hodgson '03 than Bayliss '08 – and even their seasons ended in the same way…
Not that Haga has particularly good memories of Miller Motorsports Park, which last year made its debut as the venue for the United States' schedule return.
Breaking his collarbone in a practice crash, although Haga soldiered on to a sixth place finish, it is team-mate Fabrizio who actually came away with the better results. The Italian is very much on a high at the moment, his win at Monza unleashing a run of three second place finishes. Taking on – and very nearly beating – Haga at Kyalami, Fabrizio is on an upward trajectory at the moment, although he faces a tough task of keeping Spies behind him in the standings.
The event that Spies has no doubt been looking forward to, for once he will not have a circuit to learn during free practice – not that it was harming his progress in the first place -, and will in fact probably ride there with more experience than anyone else.
The American round couldn't come at a more important time for Spies following his run of indifferent luck, his strong speed being peppered by various problems, some self-inflicted, some not. Even so, despite Haga's advantage, he arrives at Miller Motorsports Park as the favourite well beyond the fans in the stands…
Behind those at the sharp end, the battle for fourth in the standings is beginning to garner some attention, not least because it being disputed by a privateer (Leon Haslam), a rookie (Jonathan Rea) and an entirely new team (Max Biaggi on the Aprilia). With Haslam falling a little into the clutches of Jonathan Rea and Max Biaggi at Kyalami, this is one tussle that is destined to go the distance.
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