Spies shines in WSB


Haga leads Biaggi and Spies www.superbike.it

Two race weekends, two pole positions, one fastest lap and three victories — you can’t say that Ben Spies is exactly hiding his light under a barrel in his World Superbike debut season. At the Losail Circuit in Qatar, second of the 14 WSB events on the schedule for 2009, he was untouchable despite it being his first time at the track. He led every practice session, took Superpole, and comfortably won both races.

Before race one, when asked for a prediction Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi threw up his hands and said, "Everything is okay except for Spies! What can you do?"

A bald look at the two race results — Spies, Haga, Biaggi in both runs — doesn’t begin to touch the drama of both contests. Noriyuki Haga on the factory Ducati and Max Biaggi on the new Aprilia V-4 both led many laps. Biaggi in fact got the holeshot in both races, with Haga soon chasing him down and Spies coming up from behind. Spies’ ride on the new Yamaha R1 was particularly impressive in the first race, as he got a relatively poor start and had to scythe his way forward to catch the two leaders — "It was important for me to get up to Max and Nori and fast as I could. You don’t want to let those guys get away."


Same riders, different order www.superbike.it

Despite the size of the track, Losail isn’t an easy circuit on which to pass, and many hair-raising attempts came at the end of the pit straight, where most bikes were travelling more than 300 km/h into a corner requiring hard braking and several downshifts. Max Neukirchner’s Suzuki registered 322 (200 mph)!

Behind the top three, the order was mixed up with a considerably different look in the rest of the top 10 in each race. Aprilia’s RSV4 continues to impress, not only with Biaggi’s results but also Shinya Nakano, who carded a seventh and fourth on the day. The new BMW is also coming good, with Troy Corser getting two ninths — after running as high as fourth in race two — and his team-mate Ruben Xaus took a 10th in the second go-round.

Honda and Suzuki had a pretty crappy weekend, with Ryuichi Kiyonari in fourth in race two on one of the Ten Kate Hondas the only bright spot for the world’s biggest motorcycle company, while Max Neukirchner managed a sixth in race two on his Alstare Brux Suzuki after crashing out of the first race.

Tom Sykes, Spies’ team-mate on the factory Yamaha team, showed that Spies’ results weren’t just the Texan’s skills, as he took a fifth in race two, running lap times the same as the leaders, but he couldn’t overcome the time he lost getting up to the front in the early laps.

With the teams heading to Europe for the next round at Valencia in Spain on April 5, after four of 28 races in the season Haga/Ducati lead the series, with Spies/Yamaha second and Neukirchner/Suzuki third. Biaggi on the Aprilia and Britain’s Leon Haslam on the Stiggy Honda round out the top five.

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