A tough Imola race weekend saw fortunes change for WSBK title rivals Nori Haga and Ben Spies. While Haga saw his point lead evaporate at the previous race at the Nurburgring, Spies was forced to do the same this weekend in Italy, as bike problems in the first race and errant riding (admittedly by himself, as well as a few others) kept him off the podium. Haga managed to fend off teammate Michel Fabrizio for the race one win, but Fabrizio returned the favor in race two for his first World Superbike victory, made all the more sweet by doing it in front of fans and Ducati brass.
Ben Spies had an off weekend,...
Ben Spies had an off weekend, suffering from bike problems in race one, and then some errant riding by other riders (although he admitted some mistakes by himself as well) to finish fourth and fifth for the weekend.
Race one saw Spies in fifth off the start line, chasing Haga, Fabrizio, Jonathan Rea and Max Biaggi. As the second lap drew to a close, Rea overshot the entrance to the Rivazza corners, narrowly missing Haga as he headed off into the gravel. As the Italian bikes continued to fight for the lead, Spies was left with a two second gap to close. He managed to close down to 1.4 seconds, but was unable to stay with the front-runners, holding on to fourth for the checkered flag. Changes in the set up to the bike saw Spies hit race two with a faster pace and a consistent speed to challenge the leaders. Simoncelli barged past early on, causing Spies to pull up for safety and allowing Shane Byrne to get past as well, but Spies was soon back on the pace. He caught and took Byrne on lap 10 for fifth and started closing down on Simoncelli and Biaggi. Unfortunately as he caught them on the last chicane before the start line, Simoncelli passed Biaggi, forcing Biaggi off the track; he came back onto the track directly in the path of Spies, forcing Spies to run off into the gravel. He rejoined but was again forced wide to avoid an early braking Byrne and had to settle for fifth at the flag.
“In race one we ruined our chances with the electronic side of the bike, we didn’t have enough power coming out of the bike and we struggled with grip a bit as well, it was a rough race,” said a disappointed Spies. “The second race we had the pace for sure to battle for the lead but a combination of things held us up. Rea got pretty greedy early in the race, passing me in the gravel trap three different times. I felt bad for him as I knew he had the pace to run up front but you’ve got to know when to calm down and when to take it easy for a couple of laps and let the race come in, you can’t push on every corner. I had a couple of laps where I wasn’t riding well at all, then I got myself together and caught up to Simoncelli and Biaggi. They bumped and Biaggi ran off the track, when Biaggi came back on it was either hit him or go off into the gravel. I got back on and caught up to (Shane) Bryne and then almost ran into the back of him and had to run off the track again. It was a messy race. There were a lot of mistakes, a couple from me and some from others. If you would have told me after the first race that we would only be losing the championship by three points I’d be happy because there were a lot of guys who could beat me this weekend.”
By virtue of his race one...
By virtue of his race one win and runner-up finish in the second race (in addition to title rival Spies' struggles), Ducati's Nori Haga regained the championship points lead with four races to go.
“It’s great to have won again, having not been in this position since Kyalami and having had some tough rounds after the Donington accident,” said race one winner (and new championship leader) Haga. “It was a very long race, I thought it would never end, and with all that happened, I don’t even remember when I overtook Max! Over this weekend we have gradually improved and I am especially happy with the result because my father has traveled to Europe for the first time to see me race. For race two, I unfortunately had to go out on the second bike as we had problems with the first and we couldn’t get it fixed in time. It was a hard race and I am very tired at the end of it all. Congratulations to Michel in race two of course, and also to Marco (Simoncelli), and thanks to my engineer Ernesto, to my team and to Ducati. We are now back in the lead with a three point advantage but there are still four races to go so there’s still a fight ahead. We need the best possible bike for Magny-Cours and Portimao!”
Michel Fabrizio picked a good...
Michel Fabrizio picked a good place to win his first World Superbike race— at Imola in front of Italian race fans and Ducati brass.
“What races!,” exhaled Fabrizio afterward. “I really wanted a win today so I am extremely happy. In race one, the problem was that after just a few laps I was having problems with my left arm and it was hard to change gear, I had kind of cramps in my hand. By the end I was really hanging on by two fingers with no feeling in my arm. So all things considered third place was a good result. After the first race I got my trainer to do some work on my arm and it obviously did the trick because it wasn’t a problem in race two, and when I got past Noriyuki I knew I could win. I’m happy also for my son, who is here and always asks me why I don’t win more! Thanks to the whole team, to my trainer Leigh “Rok” Bryan, to Ducati, to Xerox and to the spectators who have been amazing this weekend. All of Ducati’s top management were here today too so I hope that our results demonstrate that Nori and me deserve to have had our contracts renewed for next year.”
Although he looked strong...
Although he looked strong in practice and qualifying, Jonathan Rea had a disappointing weekend, finishing seventh in race one and sixth in race two.
“It’s been a disappointing day, as I felt we were in good shape for a win here,” lamented Rea. “At the start of race one, the pace seemed quite slow and as I drew alongside Fabrizio to line him up for a pass he must have hit a curb or something. He sat up suddenly and pushed me wide, and I had to run straight into the gravel. Race two was not so good. I got a bad start and it turned into a bit of a dogfight, with people chopping me off and letting the brakes go again when I’d passed them. I made a few mistakes after that, but something also happened with the brakes, which had a bad vibration and the power was inconsistent. I had my heart set on a win but the results aren’t the end of the world. I’ve been fast here and the package was good.”
Race One results
- 1. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Ducati
- 2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
- 3. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Ducati
- 4. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
- 5. Ryuichi Kiyonari (JPN) Honda
- 6. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
- 7. Jonathan Rea (IRL) Honda
- 8. Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati
- 9. Tom Sykes (GBR) Yamaha
- 10. Broc Parkes (AUS) Kawasaki
Race Two results
- 1. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Ducati
- 2. Noriyuki Haga (JPN) Ducati
- 3. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) Aprilia
- 4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
- 5. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
- 6. Jonathan Rea (IRL) Honda
- 7. Shane Byrne (GBR) Ducati
- 8. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
- 9. Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati
- 10. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda