WSBK: 2009 Imola Results

Haga takes lead with Spies held off the podium

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Sep. 28, 2009
Noriyuki Haga has regained the lead in the World Superbike Championship with a pair of podium results at the Imola, Italy round. Meanwhile, Aprilia also scored a pair of podium spots with Max Biaggi and guest rider Marco Simoncelli.

Biaggi took the early advantage in Race One, leading the first nine laps before Ducati Xerox’s Haga briefly took the lead in lap ten. Biaggi regained the lead for a few more laps before Haga took over once again on lap 18, this time for good.

Haga’s victory was his first since pulling the double at the May 17 Kyalami, South Africa round. Since Kyalami, Haga suffered from various injuries and lost te lead to Yamaha’s Ben Spies.

“It’s great to have won again, having not been in this position since Kyalami and having had some tough rounds after the Donington accident,” says Haga. “It was a very long race, I thought it would never end, and with all that happened, I don’t even remember when I overtook Max! Over this weekend we have gradually improved and I am especially happy with the result because my father has travelled to Europe for the first time to see me race.”

Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio split a pair of victories for Ducati Xerox at Imola.

Biaggi settled into a battle with Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio for second with the Aprilia rider pushing ahead on the final chicane.

“In the final chicane with Fabrizio, I thought ‘you never know’, I saw him there a little bit on the side and I stick in my bike, stayed in there. I could pass him and this is a good result,” says Biaggi.

Fabrizio says he suffered from cramping in his left arm that made it difficult to change gears.

“From the sixth lap onwards I had a problem with my arm and I couldn’t pull the clutch very well, so I got used to changing gear without the clutch, but unfortunately the engine braking feel my hand anymore and in the last five laps I was holding on wasn’t quite right for that,” says Fabrizio. “As the laps went on I couldn’t with two fingers, I could hardly keep my hand on the bars.”

(From left) Ducati's Noriyuki Haga, and Michel Fabrizio and Aprilia's Max Biaggi helped their two manufacturers ensure an all-Italian presence on the Imola podium.

Between races, Fabrizio received some treatment from a trainer to relieve the cramps, and the treatment appeared to help as Fabrizio jumped out to an early lead in Race Two. Fabrizio lost the lead in lap four to Haga but regained it in lap 13 and held on for the win.

Haga followed in second to leapfrog over Spies to the top of the championship standings.

Spies found himself in a battle for the final podium position with the two Aprilia riders Simoncelli and Biaggi. Simoncelli made a move on Biaggi on the final chicane, forcing Biaggi wide and into Spies’ line. Spies was forced off the track on the incident but recovered to finish fifth.

Simoncelli, the 2008 250cc Grand Prix World Champion, held off Biaggi for third. Signed on to race for the Gresini Honda team in the 2010 MotoGP season, Simoncelli was given the opportunity to race in Imola in place of Biaggi’s usual teammate Shinya Nakano.

“If I finish the race in the first five I am very happy,” says Simoncelli. “In the first race I was fifth but crashed, while in this race I started better than in the first and after some laps I keep a very good pace. In the chicane with my teammate I didn’t want to pass him, but I braked too hard and I think ‘either I hit him and we crash or I try to pass’. I succeeded and I am very happy, a big thanks to Aprilia and my team. Today was a great big experience for me here in Superbike.”

With his fourth and fifth place results, Spies was held off the podium for the first time this season. Spies had appeared on the podium at least once in each of the first 11 rounds of the season. The Texan now trails Haga in the season standings by three points.

Ben Spies missed the podium in both races at Imola, the first time he's failed to score a top three finish in a WSBK round.

“The second race we had the pace for sure to battle for the lead but a combination of things held us up,” says Spies. “(Ten Kate Honda rider Jonathan) Rea got pretty greedy early in the race, passing me in the gravel trap three different times. I felt bad for him as I knew he had the pace to run up front but you’ve got to know when to calm down and when to take it easy for a couple of laps and let the race come in, you can’t push on every corner. I had a couple of laps where I wasn’t riding well at all then I got myself together and caught up to Simoncelli and Biaggi. They bumped and Biaggi ran off the track, when he came back on it was either hit him or go off into the gravel. I got back on and caught up to Bryne and then almost ran into the back of him and had to run off the track again. It was a messy race. There were a lot of mistakes, a couple from me and some from others. If you would have told me after the first race that we would only be losing the championship by three points I’d be happy because there were a lot of guys who could beat me this weekend.”

Spies will have an immediate chance to regain the championship lead at the Oct. 4 round at Magny-Cours, France.

2009 WSBK Championship top five standings (after twelve rounds)
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1st Noriyuki Haga Ducati 1198R 391
2nd Ben Spies Yamaha YZF-R1 388
3rd Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1198R 330
4th Jonathan Rea Honda CBR1000RR 263
5th Max Biaggi Aprilia RSV4 257