At Phillip Island
Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) took his 1098R to the win in his first race for the factory Ducati squad in the opening round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island, Australia.
The Japanese rider got the better of German
Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) on the final lap to score his 34th win. The second race saw a sensational maiden triumph for WSB rookie Ben Spies from Texas, who took his Yamaha R1 to the win over Haga.
The Australian Round of the championship was watched by a record 69,300 spectators, 6% up on last year's figure.
The first race, declared ‘wet', was held on a totally dry track, and all riders opted for slicks but a few drops of rain did fall in the final stages. The potential of the K9 Suzuki GSX-R was confirmed with third place for Yukio Kagayama, who finished ahead of Michel Fabrizio on the second Ducati Xerox machine.
Spies, who started from pole, ended up on the gravel at the second turn, but returned to the track to finish just outside the points in sixteenth. Max Biaggi, second on the grid with the brand-new Aprilia RSV4 machine, finished in eleventh place. The other rookie manufacturer BMW, also had a positive debut after Troy Corser recovered from the fifth row to finish eighth, the Australian setting fastest lap of the race.
Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) : "One thing that I have is great experience because in 2005 I was in 16th and won a race, so now everybody knows it doesn't matter where the start position is, we don't need qualifying! I'm very happy for the win, I have just switched to Ducati, I already had four crashes with the bike, but our team did a great job. In the last two laps it started to rain a bit then on the last lap Max passed me but I put big pressure on him thinking where to pass him. He made a mistake and I won."
Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) : "On the last lap I made a little mistake and that probably cost me the win. The last five laps Nori was in front and I could see that he had a bit better traction on the last corner but I caught him on the last lap and I said ‘I win, I win' but it was too much and I had a small slide and that was it.
Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki Alstare) : "I'm happy to get the podium, my last one was in 2007! Both for Max and me our starting positions were not so good, and too many riders caught me in the early laps. But I did a steady ride to third."
The second encounter was all about Haga vs Spies as the Yamaha rider unleashed the R1's potential. The duel went on until a few laps from the end when the Texan pulled out a slight advantage and powered to the flag. The runner-up slot put Haga, who turns 34 tomorrow, into the lead of the championship on 45 points.
Britain's Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda) had a great race for the final podium place, beating the two Ducatis of Règis Laconi (DFX) and Fabrizio to the line. The group also included Biaggi, who ran third for much of the race; on the final lap however the Italian slid off into the gravel, recovering to finish fifteenth. However Aprilia, on their return to SBK after six years, are already looking a competitive force.
Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) : "The first race was not picture perfect for us. The second one was really tough, we had a couple of goes in the lead and tried to break but couldn't do it so I sat and watched Nori. We were strong in the first half but really slow in the back two corners and I couldn't stay with him, then when the tyres went off we just went to the front with four to go and I put my head down. WSB was rough but good in the end, the new R1 was great in the first weekend for the big-bang motor. It's such a new machine for the team, hopefully we can get more out of it but for sure it's a front-running bike. WSB is so tight, people don't understand how many fast riders there are here, and it was really great out there today."
Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) : "I did a nice start again and then during the race I really enjoyed fighting with Ben. It was hard to pull away from him but in the last five laps my tyres were finished and I couldn't push anymore and I just kept the second position. I think this weekend we did a good job except for qualifying and now I'm in the lead of the championship."
Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda) : "It's a big credit to the team, three months ago they were just building the bike. It's the first round and we're already on the podium. There's been a big effort and we've kind of repaid all that effort. There was a bit of argy-bargy with Fabrizio, I had a tyre mark from him from the first lap and later on in the race we had a bit of a tussle but that's what World Superbike is all about, it's a fantastic result."
FIM Supersport World Championship
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) won a superb opening World Supersport race in a three-way sprint to the line.
The Turk, 2007 champion in the category, took the flag ahead of Australian riders Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda). Honda, winners of the mid-range Supersport category for the last seven years, begin the new season with four CBR-RR machines in the top 4 places, with fourth going to Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) of Ireland. For 24 year-old Sofuoglu, the win is his eleventh in the series, while Honda celebrate their 63rd win out of 117 Supersport races.
The Yamahas, which looked good in qualifying, finished fifth in the hands of Cal Crutchlow and seventh with Fabien Foret, who raced with a partially dislocated right shoulder following his crash on Saturday. Spain's Joan Lascorz made his debut for Kawasaki with an encouraging seventh place. The new Triumph 675 also had a positive start, with Gianluca Nannelli finishing tenth and Garry McCoy fourteenth.