Noriyuki Haga has scored a stunning third win of the season as he fought off Troy Bayliss – as well as the pain of his injured collarbone – in the opening race of the day at the Nurburgring.
Less than two weeks after Haga underwent an operation to put six pins into his collarbone, which was fractured in at crash at Miller Motorsports Park, Haga showed no ill effects as he prevailed in an entertaining battle with Bayliss, who arguably threw away victory with a late mistake.
With the start delayed following a sudden hailstorm, the race nonetheless began under sunny skies. However, while pole sitter Max Neukirchner breathed a sign of relief at the prospect of a dry race, he bogged down at the start to drop to fourth by the first corner.
That helped Bayliss into the lead, ahead of the Yamaha duo of Troy Corser – up from fifth on the grid – and Haga. However, Haga was the man on the move as the riders entered the second lap, his wide angle into the turn one seeing him surge past Bayliss and Corser on the exit to take the lead.
Making the most of the clear circuit in front of him, Haga sprinted off into a small but comfortable lead in the first few laps, chased gamely by Bayliss and Neukirchner, the home favourite having slipped past Corser at the start of lap four.
However, with Bayliss dropping Neukirchner towards the mid-way stage of the race, he and Haga began embarking on a thrilling tête-à-tête with one another, the Ducati rider making several feigned attempts at getting past the Yamaha before eventually making his move stick at turn one on lap 14.
Almost as quickly as he had moved past though, Bayliss ran wide at the Bit Kurve, allowing Haga to slip back through. Still, with the quicker bike beneath him, Bayliss wasted no time in getting back on Haga's tail though and was back ahead at the end of lap 16 with an impressive manoeuvre at the Veedol Chicane.
Pulling out a small gap over the ensuing lap, the race looked like it would be Bayliss' to lose but that was exactly what he did when he ran off the circuit at turn one with only three laps to remaining, allowing Haga straight back through.
Losing two seconds in the process, Bayliss was left no chance to respond to Haga, who duly kept it neat and tidy to the chequered flag for his third – but probably most satisfying – win of the season.