Haga moves on, Spies falls back


Haga leading Fabrizio

Noriyuki Haga continued his march toward his first World Superbike title, as his Xerox Ducati team dominated at the South African round at Kyalami this past weekend. Haga took both wins, while his team-mate Michel Fabrizio came second twice, both riders fighting for the lead throughout both races. Fabrizio’s score moved him into second place in the series, ahead of Yamaha’s Ben Spies.

Haga was delighted with his double win, and said that he’d really enjoyed the close, nearly paint-trading race with his team-mate, adding, "I must say I was very glad to see there are less birds here at Kyalami than at Monza!" in a wry comment about his aerial collision at the Italian round that caused him to crash.

Despite scoring his sixth pole of the year, Spies had another up-and-down weekend, coming a close third in race one but retiring early in race two with a shifter problem. The apparently unflappable Texan still has half the season ahead in his debut WSB year, but with Haga’s massive lead and the Japanese rider’s consistency it’s going to be hard to catch up. That’s particularly true given Fabrizio’s sudden new turn of speed and consistency.

The other podium finisher in South Africa was Irishman Jonathon Rea, taking his first WSB podium with a third in race two aboard one of the HannSpree Ten Kate Hondas. That plus a fourth in the first race moved him up to fifth in the championship, just behind the Stiggy Honda of Leon Haslam. Haslam crashed out of the first race at Kyalami but rode his backup bike to fourth in the second round.

Aprilia had a good day as well, with Max Biaggi carding a pair of fifths and his team-mate Shinya Nakano two sevenths, by far Nakano’s best result of the year. The ex-Moto GP rider said, "This time it went much better, even if I still need to improve my feeling with the bike in the first five laps where I lose quite a lot. Anyway, I’m happy to have come back up front!"

The other brand-new manufacturer’s team, BMW, had a lousy outing. Troy Corser stayed home in Monaco nursing the injuries he received at the last race, while Ruben Xaus crashed out twice and fill-in rider Steve Martin (BMW development rider and usual TV colour commentator for the WSB rounds) scored no points.

Injuries and replacement riders were a big factor at Kyalami. Corser was missing, as was Max Neukirchner from the Brux Alstare Suzuki team, with a broken femur. Regis Laconi, eighth in the series, crashed heavily in early practice and was airlifted to hospital where he was placed in an induced coma.

After 12 of 28 races, the top 10 are:

1. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 250 points; 2. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 165; 3. Ben Spies, USA, Santander Yamaha, 162; 4. Leon Haslam, U.K., Stiggy Honda, 116; 5. Jonathon Rea, HannsSpree Ten Kate Honda, 106; 6. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia, 103; 6. Tom Sykes, U.K., Santander Yamaha, 103; 8. Regis Laconi, DFX Corsa Ducati, 77; 9. Max Neukirchner, Germany, Brux Alstare Suzuki, 75; 10. Carlos Checa, Spain, HannSpree Ten Kate Honda, 73.
The next race is May 31 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.

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