Haga holds Checa at bay for superb win
11 April 2010
Noriyuki Haga has taken a stunning first World Superbike victory of the season after overcoming a poor start and an aggregate deficit to edge the win in Valencia.
The race was being run under aggregate conditions following an earlier restart meaning the battle for victory was being played out on the timesheets, rather than directly on the circuit.
As such, while Haga was comfortably ahead on track, the margin between himself and Carlos Checa – who led on aggregate at the restart but finished third on the road – was considerably closer.
What transpired was a thrilling final lap with Haga entering it just 0.120secs ahead of Checa, the Spaniard attempting to find little more than a tenth to swing the pendulum back in his favour. However, despite going quicker on the final lap, it wasn't quite enough, the timesheets refreshing to reveal Haga as the winner by 0.025secs.
An outstanding end to what had been a fairly average weekend thus far for the factory Ducati operation, Haga played himself into contention with a good getaway at the beginning of the first start, the Japanese rider settling in fifth from 11th on the grid when the red flags were deployed.
The reason for the stoppage was a nasty accident involving Simon Andrews and Vittorio Iannuzzo down the home straight, with Andrews looking particularly battered and bruised as he was thrown into the pit wall while his Kawasaki broke up around him. Both riders were taken to the medical centre, but are reported to not be seriously hurt.
With the decision to start the race on aggregate, rather than restart it as a whole, Checa held a 0.658secs advantage over Jonathan Rea, followed by Max Biaggi, Sylvain Guintoli, Haga and Leon Haslam, the race one winner having been shuffled down the order initially. Haga, at this stage, had a deficit of 1.2secs to make up on Checa.
At the restart it was an Aprilia whitewash, with Biaggi going in front followed by team-mate Leon Camier, who made an outstanding getaway from seventh to leap into second initially before grabbing the lead from the Italian at turn three.
With Camier leading on the road, he took full advantage of the clear circuit ahead to jump from seventh to third on aggregate too, although he still remained over a second adrift of Checa – running third – and Biaggi, second on the road and on the timesheets. Haga, meanwhile, had moved into fourth at the expense of Rea and Guintoli, the Frenchman slipping back after a poor start.
From here, the trio began to establish a gap over their rivals – including Haga -, Camier dictating a strong pace as Biaggi and Checa disputed behind them.
Frustratingly for Biaggi, his inability to get past Camier – thus potentially putting a useful buffer between himself and true race leader Checa - was instead allowing his rival to keep watching brief and maintain his overall gap.
Checa went on to capitalise further on lap seven by passing Biaggi, although the Aprilia rider snatched it back on lap ten as he resumed putting pressure on his rookie team-mate.
However, Camier's hopes of a dream result came to a shuddering halt on lap twelve when he lost control of the RSV-4 over the brow of turn twelve, the reigning BSB champion suffering his second big off of the day in the process.
His demise opened up the chance for Biaggi and Checa to forge ahead and cement their top two positions, but they were now being hounded by Haga, who found a remarkable amount of mid-race pace to catch the leading group.
Despite this, he needed to get ahead of the pair if he stood any chance to pulling out a gap big enough to claim victory, the 2009 runner-up wasting no time by diving past both Checa and Biaggi on the same lap to snatch the lead on the track.
It took him just three more laps to bridge the 1.2secs disadvantage he had from the start to light up the timesheets with him in the lead, while Biaggi remained second and Checa had slipped to third.
However, Haga was not quite able to put much more air between himself and his rivals, who were still chasing knowing they didn't need to actually pass the Ducati in order to beat him overall.
This seemed particularly true of Biaggi initially, the Italian getting to within just a few thousandths of the lead at one stage. However, as they entered the final two laps, it was Checa who was getting a second wind, edging the gap down to just over a tenth of a second as they entered the last revolution.
Needing just a slightly faster lap than Haga to win the race from third on the road, there was a collective holding of breaths as they came across the line to reveal that Haga had done enough by the merest of margins.
Whilst not quite the fairytale victory Checa had hoped for on home ground, the thrilling end to the race was enough to prompt a rapturous reception for Haga, whose victory comes after what has been a tough start to the year so far.
Almost forgotten in between the two, Biaggi had to settle for third overall, himself just 0.3secs away from claiming a third win of the year.
His failure to quite get ahead of his rivals was good news for Haslam, who battled his way to fourth after a poor start in Heats 1 and 2 left him fighting through the order on both occasions.
Eventually, he forged his way to the front of a 'British bundle' on the track before a series of fast times saw him climb the timesheets to an eventual fourth. Although it is the first time he has finished off the podium this season, he still leaves Spain with a slightly larger championship lead of 18 points over Biaggi.
The battle for fifth down to ninth went to the wire as Shane Byrne came through to finish fifth on the road, ahead of Rea, James Toseland, Guintoli and Cal Crutchlow. However, the close proximity of the riders at the finish meant that it was Rea who emerged fifth overall, followed by Guintoli, Toseland, Byrne and Crutchlow.
Jakub Smrz completed his first double finish of the season in tenth, ahead of Ruben Xaus, who capitalised on Troy Corser's problems on the BMW to leapfrog him in 11th, the Australian – who finished fourth in the first race – left in 12th.
Lorenzo Lanzi and Luca Scassa were 13th and 14th, while Tom Sykes added another point to his Kawasaki tally in 15th.