Vallelunga: Haga wins it as Bayliss bins it
21 September 2008
Noriyuki Haga has won his second World Superbike race of the weekend at Vallelunga, but the big news was Troy Bayliss' failure to score when he came down just three corners from the chequered flag – and the title!
Up to that point, Haga and Bayliss had been embarking on one of their legendary tussles, potentially a fitting final fight that these two will enjoy before Bayliss retires four races from now.
Just as he had done in the first race, Bayliss got the better start, sweeping in front of his fellow front row starters, but the first few seconds were marred by a horrifying accident involving Max Biaggi and Kenan Sofuoglu.
Although it isn't clear what caused Biaggi to get out of shape around the sweeping left-hander that follows the home straight, the Sterilgarda Ducati dramatically high-sided, spitting the Italian off the bike but also collecting Sofuoglu at high-speed, the Turk being catapulted over the handlebars of his Ten Kate Honda.
While race one podium sitter Biaggi was seemingly unharmed as he hobbled away, marshals attended Sofuoglu, already carrying a shoulder injury this weekend, at the side of the track before taking him away to the medical centre. We will have more on his condition when we receive it.
Bayliss, eager to put in a better performance than he did in the first race, continued to lead, ahead of Haga and Corser, all three riders putting in lap record breaking pace as they pulled away from the remaining pack.
Despite Corser's continued presence, the race was always about Haga and Bayliss, the Japanese rider making his first move for the lead on lap five when he drafted past on the home straight and into the sweeping left-hander, a thrilling high-speed move made all the more spectacular by the minimal distance between them.
Bayliss eventually snatched it back, but Haga assumed the lead again on lap six when he slipped past on the back straight. Despite dropping back slightly, Bayliss kept the pressure up and was soon back on the Yamaha's tail.
Line-astern lap after lap, Bayliss was back through at the final turn on lap 12 when Haga ran ever so slightly wide, before resisting his attempts to come back at him straight afterwards.
The pair weren't done yet though, Haga passing again on lap 15, but while Bayliss dipped beneath him at the hairpin, Haga switched back up the inside to re-take it.
With Corser third, Bayliss needed to win to secure the title, as second place fell just one point short of what he needed for victory on Ducati's home turf.
However, his cause was being aided by team-mate Fabrizio, the Italian having battled his way up to fourth before putting in a series of superb lap times to catch Corser with only a couple of revolutions to go.
By this point, Haga and Bayliss had passed and re-passed each other again, but Fabrizio's crucial pass on Corser coming down the back straight on the final lap was all Bayliss would need to call himself champion once again.
However, this was unbeknown to him and as he continued to push over the final few bends, the bike came away from him at the slow hairpin, sending him crashing to the ground. A surprising end to what had been a stunning head-to-head between himself and Haga, Bayliss got going again but would cross the line 16th and out of the points.
As a result, Haga crossed the line for his second win of the day and his sixth victory of the season, a result that even keeps him in with a shout of the title.
Corser's third place, behind a jubilant Fabrizio, ensures that he remains Bayliss' closest competitor, although the 79 point gap between himself and his countryman means the title remains very much in Bayliss' hands.
Beyond the excitement going on at the front of the field, Max Neukirchner came home with his second fourth place finish of the day, which means he too can still mathematically win the title.
Carlos Checa also made it a double fifth place just behind, ahead of Alstare Suzuki duo Fonsi Nieto and Yukio Kagayama, the team enjoying a better day than of late.
Just as he was in the first race, Shinichi Nakatomi was in superb form to claim an eighth place finish from 19th on the grid, while Regis Laconi produced Kawasaki's first top ten result for some time in ninth.
Roberto Rolfo completed a pair of top ten finishes in tenth, ahead of Jakub Smrz, Ruben Xaus and Ryuichi Kiyonari, the Japanese rider having to recover from a collision between himself and Karl Muggeridge at the beginning of the race. Sebastien Gimbert and Chris Walker completed the points.