WSBK: Spies wins at Phillip Island

Haga wins race one, second in race two

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Mar. 02, 2009
Ben Spies earned his first World Superbike victory, March 1 in Phillip Island, Australia, the first win in the series by an American since Colin Edwards won in 2002.

The Yamaha factory rider led from start to finish in the second Phillip Island WSBK race and may have had a chance for the double if he hadn’t run into the gravel on the second turn of race one.

Spies qualified in the pole position under WSBK’s new Superpole format and lined up at the front for race one. Stiggy Racing Honda’s Leon Haslem made a late entry into the second turn, forcing Aprilia’s Max Biaggi to straighten up, pushing Spies wide and off the track. As he returned to the track, Spies was again forced off to avoid BMW’s Ruben Xaus. When Spies was able to resume he had dropped back to 26th.

“The first race was pretty rubbish for me, but I knew I could come back in race two and fight it out,” says Spies.

Ben Spies attempts to hold off Noriyuki Haga.
Retired WSBK champion Troy Bayliss shares a laugh with Noriyuki Haga.
“Unfortunately the incident with Biaggi and Haslam left me no option and forced me off, a double blow to be forced off again shortly after with the Xaus incident.”

Meanwhile, the man Spies picked as the favorite for the 2009 season, Noriyuki Haga had jumped into the lead after starting the race 13th. The Ducati Xerox rider led for most of the race and fought off a final challenge by Alstare Brux Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner for the win. Neukirchner finished second, and his teammate Yukio Kagayama followed in third.

“One thing that I have is great experience because in 2005 I was in 16th and won a race, so now everybody knows it doesn’t matter where the start position is, we don’t need qualifying,” says Haga. “I’m very happy for the win, I have just switched to Ducati, I already had four crashes with the bike, but our team did a great job. In the last two laps it started to rain a bit then on the last lap Max passed me but I put big pressure on him thinking where to pass him. He made a mistake and I won.”

Spies finished the first race just out of the points in 16th, 0.062 seconds behind Aprilia’s Shinya Nakano. That set the stage for Spies’ redemption in race two.

The Texas native led for the first five laps before Haga made another charge to take the lead. The two riders continued to duel throughout the race until Spies grabbed the advantage to win by over a second.

“The second race was really tough, I had a couple of attempts to break the lead, and watched Nori as much as possible to see where the opportunities were, we were both keeping the pace really high,” says Spies. “I tried to stay as close as possible to him and waited for his grip levels to come down. With four laps to go I felt it was the right moment so I put my head down and charged and just kept going.”

Haga took second place and leaves Phillip Island with the lead in the championship standings with 45 points.

Haslam outran DFX Ducati’s Regis Laconi and Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio for the final podium position.

Max Biaggi came close to earning the first podium position for the new Aprilia WSBK team.
Noriyuki Haga spots Troy Corser coming up alongside him on a BMW S1000RR.

Aprilia and BMW were both competitive in their WSBK debuts. Riding the Aprilia RSV4, Biaggi qualified second and held onto third place for most of race two before sliding into the gravel on the final lap, dropping him to 15th. Troy Corser set the fastest lap in race one on BMW’s new S1000RR on his way to an eighth-place finish. Tire problems nearly caused Corser to crash on several occasions in the second race but the veteran maintained control to finish 22nd.

“Race two was a disaster from the start, but it wasn’t my fault,” says Corser. “After just one lap the tires were sliding around and it was like trying to race on a wet tire in the dry! I don’t know why there was a problem at all, because the bike was the same, the settings were the same and the only thing that was different were the tires.

“It was frustrating and dangerous, and I should’ve pulled in, but I wanted to keep going, finish the race and give as much information to the team as possible. I had two really big ‘moments’ when I was well out of the saddle, but somehow I stayed onboard. How I’m not sure, but it certainly gave the crowd a fright on the last lap! This is the first time that we have done so many laps in one go and now the technicians will have race information to analyze for the first time and from this I am confident that the progress will continue and continue.”

The 2009 WSBK Championship continues March 14 at the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar.

2009 WSBK top five standings
Pos. Rider Team Points
1st Noriyuki Haga Ducati Xerox 45
2nd Max Neukirchner Suzuki Alstare 30
3rd Leon Haslam Stiggy Honda 26
4th Ben Spies Yamaha WSBK 25
5th Yukio Kagayam Suzuki Alstare 24