25 October 2009
Ben Spies crowned World Superbike Champion
Ben Spies finishes fifth in the final race of the season to win the 2009 World Superbike Championship
Ben Spies will go to MotoGP as the new World Superbike Champion after doing exactly what he needed to do in order to secure the title in the final race of the season at Portimao.
Having dominated the opening race to open out a 15 point advantage over Noriyuki Haga heading into the decider, the American produced a comparatively tentative performance to simply ride for the chequered flag in fifth place.
Finishing within where he needed to, regardless of where Haga finished, the Ducati rider rallied hard in the latter stages to finish in second, but it wasn't enough to deny Spies, the two rivals and friends concluding their epic season-long battle separated by just six points.
An outstanding weekend for Yamaha having secured the MotoGP and World Supersport titles on the same day, Spies' win is also a first for the Japanese manufacturer at World Superbike level.
The race itself was won Michel Fabrizio, the Italian taking his third victory of the season, but the focus from the start was entirely on Spies and Haga.
Following Haga's failure to finish in race one, Spies went into the season finale requiring simply a sixth place finish, but his hopes of controlling the race from the front were scuppered at the lights when he was beaten down to the first corner by Shane Byrne.
Despite a couple of nervy moments through turns two and three, Byrne held it together to lead Spies, Jonathan Rea, Max Biaggi, Leon Haslam and Haga, the 'hunter' already up to sixth from his tenth place starting position.
Desperate not to get embroiled in a fight for position, Spies was certainly favouring a safe approach as he defended from Rea, the Northern Irishman getting through on lap three when the American looked over his shoulder, only to find his rival surprising him by passing on the other side. Biaggi briefly followed through before Spies snatched the position back, Italian going on to overtake again on lap five before promptly running off the circuit and dropping to sixth.
It meant, for the first time this weekend, Spies and Haga were together on track, Haga having overtaken Haslam on lap three himself. Also joining them was Fabrizio, who was recovering from a terrible start that had left him outside the top ten through the opening bends.
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