Neukirchner, Haga duel in Monza

Duo trades victories in pair of close SBK finishes

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, May. 12, 2008
Max Neukirchner made history by becoming the first German to win a World Superbike Championship race with a victory in the first race at Monza, Italy, May 11.

The Team Alstare Suzuki racer beat out Noriyuki Haga of Yamaha Motor Italia by 0.058 seconds for the win in front of a record crowd of 112,000 spectators. Troy Bayliss of Ducati Xerox team finished 0.6 seconds behind Haga, edging out Neukirchner’s teammate Yukio Kagayama for the final podium spot.

“I am so happy to win my first ever World Superbike race and proud and happy to be the first German rider to do so,” says Neukirchner. “It's a great feeling and I'm sure that there'll be much more interest in Germany now.”

Neukirchner had come close to victory before: in the first race at the Valencia circuit April 6, Neukirchner started with the pole position and led up until the last corner on the final lap when he was clipped by Carlos Checa of Hannspree Ten Kate Honda. The crash knocked him out of both Valencia races and broke his collarbone.

At Monza, Neukirchner led after the preliminary qualifying session but was edged out by Troy Bayliss on the Superpole.

“Although I was a bit nervous before the race, I was not nervous in it or at the end. It was easy to be in front in race one and my bike felt very fast on the straights and good in the corners. I knew exactly where Haga was and knew what I had to do to beat him.”

But Haga would have his revenge in the second race. Haga won in a mere 0.009 seconds to deny Neukirchner the double victory. Ryuichi Kiyonari was third, finishing 0.051 seconds off the lead for the first podium finish in the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider’s career.

“In the first race I tried to ride 100% but the feel was not really there. We had a team meeting and weMax Neukirchner (76) stayed ahead of Noriyuki Haga (right) and Troy Bayliss (21) in a close race one at Monza. altered the chassis settings and suspension for race two,” says Haga. “We got a better feeling and I could push everywhere. I could not calculate for the last few laps I just knew I had to keep in front of everyone. On the last lap I tried to brake hard into the last corner and then passed Kiyonari.”

Haga created a bit of a scare for his team when his bike started to produce some smoke.

“His fender was touching his wheel and that was why we saw smoke coming from his machine a couple of times,” says Massimo Meregalli, team manager of Yamaha Motor Italia. “We made the machine shorter between races and it seemed that the tire was rubbing, but only sometimes.”

Neukirchner was right behind him when smoke started coming from Haga’s machine.

“I thought his engine had blown up and waited for him to slow down or pull over, but he kept on going!” says Neukirchner.

With their split one-two finishes, Haga now sits third in the championship standings at 112 points with Neukirchner a point behind in fourth. Checa is in second at 116 points.

Bayliss maintains his hold on the championship with 194 points. He managed to increase his lead to 78 points despite pulling out of the second race with an oil leak.

“My compliments to Max who takes his first Superbike win, both him and Nori rode a great race and there was nothing I could do to get past them,” says Bayliss about the first race. “Race two? Let’s just say I’m happy to leave Monza with a bigger points lead than I had when I arrived.”

In World Supersport action, Fabien Foret of Yamaha World Supersport earned his first win of the season, coming back from a poor start to edge out Joshua Brookes of Hannspree Stiggy Motors Honda and Broc Parkes of Yamaha World Supersport.

Alstare Suzuki rider Xavier Simeon survived a multi-bike crash at the first chicane that eliminated most of the top contenders in the Superstock 1000. Matej Smrz of MS Racing Honda and Alex Polita of Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati followed for the other two podium spots.

In the Superstock 600 race, YZF Yamaha Junior Team rider Loris Baz regained the series lead with a win ahead of Marco Bussolotti of Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team while Daniele Beretta of Cruciani Suzuki earned the third podium spot.

The World Superbike championship returns to the US in its next stop, June 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

WSBK: Monza Race 1 Top Five Results

Pos. Rider Bike Time (s)
1. Max Neukirchner Suzuki GSX-R1000 32:02.851
2. Noriyuki Haga Yamaha YZF-R1 +0.058
3. Troy Bayliss Ducati 1098 F08 +0.672
4. Yukio Kagayama Suzuki GSX-R1000 +0.771
5. Max Biaggi Ducati 1098 RS 08 +3.869

 

WSBK: Monza Race 2 Top Five Results

 

Pos. Rider Bike Time (s)
1. Noriyuki Haga Yamaha YZF-R1 32:07.576
2. Max Neukirchner Suzuki GSX-R1000 +0.009
3. Ryuchi Kiyonari Honda CBR1000RR +0.051
4. Fonsi Nieo Suzuki GSX-R1000 +4.489
5. Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1098 F08 +10.272