It was a mixed-bag weekend for World Superbike Championship contender Ben Spies, who came into the round at Magny-Cours, France, needing to cut into title rival Nori Haga’s 18-point lead, with only two rounds (four races) left in the series. The first race saw Spies take off from pole position and lead the entire race until the last lap, when Haga made a pass that Spies was fortunately able to counter a few seconds later to cross the finish line ahead of his Ducati rival. The American’s start in the second race wasn’t as good, and after struggling in third behind Aprilia’s Max Biaggi and Haga, Spies found that his softer front tire choice wasn’t allowing him to carry the corner entrance speed he likes, and he soon found himself in fourth after Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea moved past for the final podium position.
Yamaha's Ben Spies won the...
Yamaha's Ben Spies won the first race at Magny Cours, but struggled with a front tire problem and finished fourth in the second race, giving race two winner Nori Haga a 10-point lead heading into the final round at Portimau, Portugal.
“The whole first race had some good parts and bad ones,” recalled Spies. “We made some small mistakes, costing us a tenth here and a tenth there letting the riders come back and not really taking advantage of the lead. I was taking care to take it easy when I had the cushion. I made a mistake on the last lap and let Nori through, so I had to get on the outside and get back past. I knew that with me running wide, he probably went in a little bit tighter than normal and I would get him on the outside. It paid off!” The Yamaha rider’s thoughts on the second race weren’t as good. “Honestly I’m just super disappointed with the second race. We made a rear tire choice that wasn’t better or worse, but the front tire we had on in the second race was hard to go at a pace with. I was consistently half a second off what we were doing in practice. I’m honestly surprised we didn’t finish in tenth with the way the bike felt. Even if we had won today we would still go to Portimao having to win both races so it doesn’t really change too much.”
Ducati's Nori Haga lost the...
Ducati's Nori Haga lost the World Superbike Championship points lead after the first race at Magny-Cours, but regained after winning the second race, with Spies only finishing fourth.
Haga was bummed that he lost the first race to Spies. “If only I had one more lap something would have happened for sure! I made a mistake at the start because there was some problem with the bike. I just gained in the middle of the race in the top 3 and tried to start pushing. On the last lap I was thinking that Ben would make a mistake somewhere for sure and then he did at one corner. I almost passed but we made a good race anyway.” The Japanese veteran took solace in his race two win, that quickly gave him a 10-point lead with Spies finishing fourth. “For sure this is an important win for me. Especially after Nurburgring I don’t sleep every night because I am always thinking about the position in the championship. I’m really happy with this second place and win, my chief engineer made a good setting for race two and the feeling was good for race pace distance. I couldn’t make an advantage from Max and Johnny but concentrated on the last laps to take this win, which gave the Manufacturers’ title to Ducati.”
Biaggi knew he would have a difficult time in the first race. “I give it my best but I saw that Ben could do high 38s in the warm-up and that was very difficult for us. During the first part of the race I pushed hard and had a good tire, I was fast in some parts of the track but not in others. But overall I’m near maximum. Then I made a mistake when Nori came, I put a wrong gear and he overtook me, but overall Aprilia and myself made a very good race.” The Italian thought that he might be able to give Haga a run in the second race, but soon discovered it wasn’t going to happen—he then had to deal with a broken windscreen from track debris. “I’m very happy and it was a very hard race. From the beginning everyone was fast, the top 4 or 5 were at a very similar pace. I had a good rhythm, I followed Nori, he looked very confident, I was wondering if he could keep the pace until the end and I got my answer because he was still lapping well. At the start of the race someone ran off the track and a big stone broke my windscreen and I was worried that the radiator was broken. I started to push again and for me it was a good race.”
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's...
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda's Jonathan Rea suffered from mechanical problems in the first race, but rebounded to finish on the podium in the second leg.
Rea was disappointed at his not meeting the potential he showed in practice. “All weekend we just haven’t been able to put it all together,” lamented the Northern Irishman. “The bad luck we had in race one (technical problems with his Honda forced him to retire from the race) certainly ruined my rhythm and I had a bit of arm pump at the end because it was hard to jump into a race distance straight away. I rode fantastic at the front and was with those guys until five laps to go but couldn’t hold onto the back of them. The package I had was as strong as in Imola, we’ll go back to the workshop and come back strong at Portimao.”
- 1. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
- 2. Nori Haga (JPN) Ducati
- 3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
- 4. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Ducati
- 5. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
- 6. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda
- 7. Yukio Kagayama (JPN) Suzuki
- 8. Shane Byrne (GBR) Ducati
- 9. Troy Corser (AUS) BMW
- 10. Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati
- 1. Nori Haga (JPN) Ducati
- 2. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
- 3. Jonathan Rea (IRL) Honda
- 4. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
- 5. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
- 6. Yukio Kagayama (JPN) Suzuki
- 7. Shane Byrne (GBR) Ducati
- 8. Karl Muggeridge (AUS) Suzuki
- 9. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda
- 10. Troy Corser (AUS) BMW