Yamaha ace Ben Spies went into the third-last event on the World Superbike calendar with an 18-point lead over Xerox Ducati’s Noriyuki Haga. An almost all-Italian weekend worked to his disadvantage, and Haga now has a nearly meaningless three point lead with two weekends (four races) left on the calendar. An excellent season of racing is definitely coming right down to the wire.
The Ducati team split the wins at Imola and took four podiums, with Haga taking the first race and Fabrizio third, while Fabrizio cleared off to win the second race with Haga second. The best that Spies could do in either contest was a fourth and a fifth. The other Italian contingent, the Aprilia RSV team of Max Biaggi with Moto GP 250 rider Marco Simmoncelli drafted in for the weekend, collected the other podiums, with Biaggi second in race one after leading most of the race and Simmoncelli getting a hard-fought third in race two.
Those four riders were the fastest on track all weekend, the only rider coming consistenly near their pace being Jonathan Rea on the Ten Kate Hannspree Honda. Rea, however, seemed to have either brake or head problems, as he ran off the track several times in both races.
Spies was lucky to finish as high up as he did in race two, as he nearly crashed when Simoncelli pulled a slightly questionable move on his team-mate Biaggi at the chicane, pushing Biaggi wide, who in turn nearly hit Spies as he came back onto the track. Spies was off in the gravel but managed to collect things up, then shortly after ran off again when trying to pass Shane Byrne’s Sterilgarda Ducati; once again he didn’t crash but lost more time.
It would have been interesting to be in the Aprilia and Ducati pits after the racing was done. For sure, Biaggi was seriously p*ssed at his one-time team-mate upstaging him for a podium in the second race, let alone by forcing him off the track to do it. Simoncelli, on the other hand, was clearly out for a lark in this one-time appearance (he has a Moto GP ride for 2010) and was no doubt happy to upstage his fellow Italian.
Over at Ducati, on the one hand the team had to be delighted with their double victory, but if I was team manager Davide Tardozzi I’d be furious at Michel Fabrizio for finishing ahead of his team-mate Haga in the second race, taking five points from him. Fabrizio can win the title only if neither Haga nor Spies scores again this year, which isn’t going to happen, and giving the fast Texan any help at all is not a good idea.
The next get-together is October 4 at Magny-Cours in France, with the series wrapping up October 25 at the wonderful new track of Portimao, in Portugal.
Top 10 in the standings at this point are:
1. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 391 points; 2. Ben Spies, USA, Yamaha Japan, 398; 3. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 330; 4. Jonathon Rea, Ireland, Ten Kate Hannspree Honda, 263; 5. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia, 257; 6. Leon Haslam, Great Britain, Stiggy Honda, 219; 7. Carlos Checa, Spain, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 183; 8. Tom Sykes, Great Britain, Yamaha Japan, 176; 9. Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Guandalini Racing Ducati; 10. Shane Byrne, Great Britain, Sterilgarda Ducati, 149.
Go Marco :grin