WSBK: Haga scores double in Vallelunga

Error in judgment foils Bayliss’ chance of clinching title

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Sep. 22, 2008
Noriyuki Haga scored a double while teammate Troy Corser took two third-place spots at the Sept. 21 World Superbike stop at the Vallelunga Circuit near Rome, Italy.

The successful weekend for the two Yamaha Motor Italia riders keeps their championship hopes alive as series leader Troy Bayliss remains within reach with two rounds and four races remaining in the season.

Bayliss took an early lead in race one, jumping ahead from the pole position. The Ducati Xerox rider’s lead lasted only a lap however as a poor choice in tires allowed the pack to catch up.Noriyuki Haga (left) keeps ahead of Max Biaggi on his way to his first of two wins at Vallelunga. Haga assumed the lead on the second lap with Sterilgarda Go Eleven Ducati’s Max Biaggi and Corser close behind.

The three riders continued in close formation up to the end. A final sprint to the finish saw Haga finish just 0.129 seconds ahead of Biaggi while Corser finished 0.535 seconds back.

“It was a nice race and a nice start and I tried to keep up with Haga in front and then when Corser arrived he was really trying hard,” says Biaggi. “Then I got back to Nori (Haga), but he was riding very good and it was tough for me, I was always behind him, I couldn’t attack because I lost too much time going out of the curve.”

Bayliss finished the first race in sixth place to score ten championship points. That set the stage for the second race, with Bayliss needing to finish just five points ahead of Corser to clinch the 2008 Championship.

Bayliss took another early lead in race two. He held onto the lead until the sixth lap when Haga overtook him. The two traded the lead up until the final lap when disaster struck for Bayliss.

Michel Fabrizio (left) did his job as Troy Bayliss' teammate by overtaking Troy Corser (right) in race two.A second place finish would have earned Bayliss 20 points, but with Corser sitting in third place with a potential 16 points, Bayliss would still be a point short of clinching his third WSBK title. Bayliss made the decision to make a final push to pass Haga on the final lap to wrap up the championship, only to crash rounding a slow-speed chicane.

Bayliss’ aggressive move proved to be ill-chosen, as shortly before his spill, his Ducati Xerox teammate Michel Fabrizio passed Corser, bumping the Yamaha rider into fourth. Bayliss remounted and finished the race in a point-less 16th place, but if he had taken a more conservative approach, the championship would have been his.

“I gave it everything I had in the second race and was fighting to pass Haga,” says Bayliss. “As I didn’t know what was happening behind me, and so had no idea that Michel was about to pass Corser, I’d already decided in the closing stages, with six laps to go, that I was going to try and take Nori and either win or crash because I knew that me finishing second and Corser third wouldn’t be enough to take the title and I really wanted to finish the job here today. I got close enough but then riding so close to the limit, it only took one tiny thing, either a little bit too much brake or too much lean, and I went down. It didn’t end the way we had hoped but we move on, there are still two rounds to go and I have a good points advantage still.”

Troy Bayliss (right) and Noriyuki Haga battled for the lead throughout race two.The mistake allowed Haga to coast to victory ahead of Fabrizio in second and Corser third.

“In race two I had a very big fight with Troy Bayliss, and I am sorry for his crash. But I enjoyed our battle while it lasted,” says Haga, who leaped into third place in the championship with the two wins.

Bayliss, who has already announced that he will retire following the end of the 2008 season, will have another chance to wrap up the championship on Oct. 5 when the WSBK series continues in Magny Cours, France.

World Superbike top five standings
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1st Troy Bayliss Ducati 1098 F08 369
2nd Troy Corser Yamaha YZF-R1 290
3rd Noriyuki Haga Yamaha YZF-R1 280
4th Max Neukirchner Suzuki GSX-R1000 280
5th Carlos Checa Honda CBR1000RR 262