WSBK: 2009 Valencia results

Spies crashes out for first time in his Superbike career

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Apr. 06, 2009
Noriyuki Haga scored the double while Ben Spies rebounded with a race two podium after a rare crash in race one at the April 5 World Superbike Championship round in Valencia, Spain.

Spies started with his third consecutive pole for Yamaha but it was Suzuki Alstare’s Max Neukirchner that jumped to the early advantage. Neukirchner traded the lead with Ducati Xerox’s Haga before the Japanese veteran took control on lap three.

Meanwhile, Spies worked his way up among the leaders after dropping down to fifth after the first lap behind BMW’s Troy Corser and DFX Ducati’s Regis Laconi. By lap six, Spies was in third place behind Haga and Neukirchner.

Spies made a challenge at the first turn of lap ten on Neukirchner but lost his front and spilled into the gravel. Spies was unhurt but his R1 was in no shape to continue. Ben Spies has been a perfect 3-for-3 in WSBK's Superpole qualifying.The episode was the first time in Spies’ Superbike career, both WSBK and four season of AMA Superbike, that he was unable to finish after a crash.

“Race one was unfortunate for me, I was pushing really hard to make up for an electrical issue going into the corner and crashed,” says Spies.

With his main championship rival out of the race, Haga held onto the lead the rest of the race. His teammate, Michel Fabrizio finished a hair ahead of Neukirchner for second to earn his first podium of the season.

“We were always in the top 10 this weekend but didn’t find perfect set-up,” says Neukirchner. “But during the practices we changed some things and in the end we found a very good way and I am so happy to finish on the podium. I was in second place for so long, but even with this result I’m so glad for my team and our new sponsor.”

Race two began in similar fashion with Neukirchner leading the first four laps before Haga assumed the lead. Spies again found himself in fifth after lap one after coming in contact with Haga. The incident bent Spies’ brake lever but the three-time AMA champion managed to work his way up to second by lap six.

Haga was uncatchable however and finished with a five-second lead over Spies. Fabrizio came third for another podium finish

A pair of wins in Valencia gives Noriyuki Haga a 36-point lead in the rider standings.“We tried as hard as we could in race two to make it up,” says Spies about returning from his crash. “For the first couple of laps I had a couple of small problems and just didn’t quite get rolling and by the time we got into second position I would have needed to be right on the back of Nori to challenge for it as he was riding at a very good pace. I guess I just didn’t have the speed today. We’ll come back at Assen and try to step it up.”

The two victories gave Haga 36 for his career, but more importantly, a 40-point lead over Spies in the championship standings.

Former MotoGP racer John Hopkins finished 11th in his WSBK debut and followed it up with a 12th place finish in race two. The Stiggy Honda pilot qualified 16th but worked his way up to 7th after the first lap of race two. Hopkins stayed in eighth for most of the race until a problem with his fuel system with three laps remaining dropped him down a few spots to 12th.

“It definitely was a challenging first round after not riding a bike and dragging a knee since November and then moving straight in and doing two races on one day was a great experience,” says Hopkins. “I want to say thanks to Stiggy for giving me this ride. We experienced a technical problem with our fuel consumption but it is something we really need to improve.”

John Hopkins finished 11th and 12th in his first two WSBK races.Hopkins says he still has some work ahead of him to adapt to WSBK racing. His teammate Leon Haslam has been competitive on the Stiggy Honda CBR1000RR, with a hold on fifth place in the rider standings after a pair of fifth-place finishes in Valencia.

“This weekend was supposed to be a learning curve and I proved that I can do the lap times,” says Hopkins. “We’ll have to work on the setup and get it working right. Leon is definitely setting the standards right now and I will have to try and chase him down.”

Hopkins will have three weeks to prepare as the WSBK season continues April 24-26 at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands.

2009 World Superbike Championship top five standings (after six races)
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1st Noriyuki Haga Ducati 1098R 135
2nd Ben Spies Yamaha YZF-R1 95
3rd Max Neukirchner Suzuki GSX-R1000 65
4th Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1098R 60
5th Leon Haslam Honda CBR1000RR 58