Despite Texan Ben Spies’ dominating performance at the Donington, U.K. round of the World Superbike series — taking pole, setting fastest lap, and winning both races by leading from start to finish — the big story was the huge crash that championship leader Noriyuki Haga suffered in the second race of the day.
With a broken wrist and unspecified shoulder damage after getting whacked at least twice by his flipping Xerox Ducati, Haga isn’t going to be a factor in the rest of the championship hunt. That’s a shame for the competition in the series, since nobody else has been able to consistently match Spies and his new Yamaha R1.
The nearest rider recently has been Haga’s team-mate Michel Fabrizio, who’s now going to find the Ducati factory’s main hopes on his young shoulders. Fabrizio had an up-and-down weekend, suffering shifter problems in the first race that slowed him but then having a strong second race, finishing a close third to Stiggy Honda’s Leon Haslam.
Haslam was the best of the many Brits in the field and was ecstatic over his second position in front of his home crowd, and fourth in the first go-around wasn’t too shabby either.
Perhaps the ride of the weekend award should be given to Haslam’s team-mate John Hopkins, who badly dislocated his hip only a few weeks ago. Despite intense therapy and limited bike time, Hopkins swallowed his pain to finish a superb eighth in the first race, and was so drained (and his leg was so swollen) he couldn’t even get off the bike after the race and wasn’t able to start the second round. He’s looking forward to a few weeks of rest and five chances to test the bike before the next race.
The Aprilias were incredibly fast, both Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano loving the Donington track and the bike clearly suited to it. Biaggi shadowed Spies the whole way in the first race, often looking close enough to try a pass but never quite there. Then two corners from the end the Aprilia suddenly sputtered and quit; Biaggi wildly weaved back and forth and the bike picked up and got him to the finish to keep his hard-earned second, while Nakano got sixth for the new-for-this-year bike and team.
Between races, the crew diagnosed a fuel pump problem.
In race two, it all went very CMG for the Aprilia team, as first Nakano suffered a huge high-side (fortunately without injury), while Biaggi quietly lost the front end chasing Spies and slid off the track, re-entering in a seriously dangerous fashion and colliding with a back-marker who had no way to avoid him. The guy can ride, but he’s still a bed-wetter.
The series now takes a bit of a summer holiday, reconvening at Brno in Czechoslovakia July 26. After nine of 14 events (18 of 28 races), the top 10 looks like this:
1. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 308 points; 2. Ben Spies, USA, Sterilgarda Yamaha, 294; 3. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 257; 4. Jonathon Rea, UK, Hanspree Ten Kate Honda, 177; 5. Leon Haslam, UK, Stiggy Honda, 167; 6. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia, 155; 7. Tom Sykes, UK, Sterilgarda Yamaha, 141; 8. Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Guandalini Racing Ducati, 115; 9. Carlos Checa, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 114; 10. Shane Byrne, Sterilgarda Ducati, 113.