With 13 of 14 World Superbike events run, Xerox Ducati’s Noriyuki Haga
has clawed his way back into a narrow lead over Yamaha’s new star Ben Spies.
With only two races left at the Portimao track in Portugal toward the end of the
month, Haga has a slim 10-point lead – both riders will have to be racing for
Haga and Spies scored a win apiece last weekend at Magny-Cours, in
France’s Loire Valley, but Haga recorded a second in race one vs Spies’ fourth
in race two. Haga came oh-so-close to the double – “If only I had one more lap
something would have happened for sure!” – crawling right up Spies’ backside on
the last lap and even getting by just for a second.
However, he’d lost too much time in the middle of the race stuck behind
Max Biaggi, whose Aprilia has both astounding brakes and remarkable off-corner
acceleration, making it very hard to pass. You can bet that Biaggi wasn’t
giving away any favours to Haga either, since the Japanese has the factory
Ducati ride that Biaggi still figures should have been his this year. Once Haga
got past he quickly motored away from the Italian, but caught Spies just a lap
or two too late.
In the second race, Haga made no errors, getting a much better launch,
passing hole-shot expert Biaggi on the first lap, then motoring away with a
safe but not extravagant margin that varied between one and two seconds. Spies,
on the other hand, was in trouble, having guessed wrong on a tire change
for the second race. He was in a solid fourth, but couldn’t stay with the three
leaders and drifted back, nearly falling into the clutches of Stiggy Honda’s
Leon Haslam in the last couple of laps.
The third rider up front was Jonathan Rea on one of the Hannspree Ten
Kate Hondas. Rea was in the mix in the first race until braking problems slowed
him and brought him into the pits, but in race two he and Biaggi had a bang-up
battle for second, Biaggi eventually prevailing after a couple of hair-raising
passes from both riders (neither of these two are fans of the other, to put it
The only other rider with a mathematical chance at the title going into
the weekend, Haga’s team-mate Michel Fabrizio, managed only a fourth and a 13th
(after a fall). Neither result helped his own season or his team-mate, and he’s
now formally eliminated from the chase, although he’s still likely to take
third ahead of Biaggi.
Ducati clinched the manufacturer’s title this weekend, a score that’s
probably as important to the factory as the rider’s crown.
While he wasn’t on hand (being busy with the Moto GP round the same
weekend), it was announced that Chris Vermeulen will be rejoining the WSB
circus in 2010. Vermeulen, who won the 2006 World Supersport (600) title, then
scored two second-place results racing in superbike for Ten Kate Honda, has
signed with the factory Kawasaki squad, replacing Makoto Tamada.
Word was also floating around the paddock that the Stiggy team wouldn’t
be back next year due to funding issues, and that rider Leon Haslam, who
greatly impressed this season, will be taking over one of the Alstare Corona
Suzuki bikes in 2010.
The next and final date on the calendar is the weekend of October 25 at
Portimao in Portugal. Current top 10 standings look like this:
1. Noriyuki Haga, Japan, Xerox Ducati, 436; 2. Ben Spies, USA, Yamaha,
426; 3. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Xerox Ducati, 346; 4. Max Biaggi, Italy,
Aprila, 293; 5. Jonathon Rea, Ireland, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda. 279; 6. Leon Haslam, UK, Stiggy Honda, 241; 7. Carlos Checa, Spain,
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, 200; 8. Tom Sykes, UK, Yamaha, 176; 9. Shane Byrne,
U.K., Sterilgarda Ducati, 166; 10. Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Guandalini
The manufacturer’s points look like this: 1. Ducati 534; 2. Yamaha 469;
3. Honda 395; 4. Aprilia 303; 5. Suzuki 167; 6. BMW 126; 7. Kawasaki 67.