World Superbike "rookie" Ben Spies continued his all or nothing season at Monza in Italy this weekend past, running out of gas while leading on the last corner of the last lap of race one, then handily winning the second race by building a big lead and then easing off to save fuel in the last few laps.
He was helped considerably in the second race when his chief series rival, Ducati ace Noriyuki Haga, suffered his first crash/DNF of the season after colliding with a bird at high speed. "I was hit by a bird on my right arm; it hurt a lot and I lost all sensation, with strong pain and pins and needles in my right arm and hand. I tried to continue to race but it was too difficult to ride and as a result I unfortunately fell."
Haga still has a commanding lead in the series after 10 of 28 races, with 200 points to Spies’ 146.
The first race was a typical Monza thriller, with Spies, Haga, and Haga’s Xerox Ducati team-mate Michel Fabrizio dicing and slicing each other up in a high-speed drafting and out-braking duel. That battle went right to the last corner, when Spies’ Yamaha faltered and Fabrizio beat his team-mate to take his first WSB victory. Third went to Ryuichi Kiyonari on one of the Ten Kate Honda Racing Honda CBR1000RRs; the former British Superbike champion repeated that spot in the second race, moving him up to 10th in the championship.
Fabrizio brought his Ducati home between Spies and Kiyonari, cementing his third place in the series at the one-third point in the championship.
Leon Haslam, who is still the leading Honda rider in the series in fourth place, like Spies ran out of the fuel on the last lap in the first race, scoring no points. He managed a seventh in the second race to keep a bit of a gap back to Tom Sykes, Spies’ Yamaha team-mate. His new Stiggy Honda partner, U.S. racer Jake Zemke (subbing for the injured John Hopkins), had a tough ride in his first WSB event, carding 20th and 18th place finishes.
Max Biaggi was expected to do well at the high-speed Monza track, the new Aprilia having shown a remarkable top end in previous events. However, although he finished third in the first race he was docked 20 seconds for cutting a chicane, and managed a seventh in the second go-around.
Two big accidents in the dumb little chicane shortly after the start-finish line removed several top racers from the mix. Alstare-Brux Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner got by far the worst of it, being torpedoed from behind and ending up with a badly broken leg and ankle, including his femur. He’ll be out for some time. Troy Corser on one of the factory BMWs was a second victim, getting whacked on the head and shoulders by a flying bike, then crashing again on the restart. He elected not to run in Race 2, and Rueben Xaus brought his Bimmer home seventh and ninth, his and the marque’s best result so far this season.
The next event is set for Kyalami in South Africa May 17.
Standings after 10 of 28 races
1. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 200 points; 2. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Santander Yamaha, 146; 3. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 125; 4. Leon Haslam, U.K., Stiggy Honda, 103; 5. Tom Sykes, U.K., Santander Yamaha, 90;
6. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia Racing, 81; 7. (tie) Regis Laconi, France, DFX Corse Ducati and Jonathon Rea, U.K., HannSpree Ten Kate Honda, 77; 9. Max Neukirchner, Germany, Alstare Brux Suzuki, 75; 10 Ryuichi Kiyonari, Japan, Ten Kate Honda Racing, 65.
They really should do something about that chicane. There is *always* banging and bumping or worse there on the 1st lap.