At Phillip Island
World Superbike rookie Ben Spies proved to be an unstoppable combination with the new 2009 YZF-R1, having qualified on pole position, he powered to a flawless victory in the second race of the opening round at Phillip Island yesterday.
the front from the outset and fighting for top position with Ducati rider Noriyuki Haga, Spies rode a perfect race, the new R1 performed impressively as he kept the pace up to the very end for a well deserved victory.
Spies goes to Qatar sitting fourth in the championship standings (only a single point from third), after the Phillip Island race weekend, he is also the first American to win a World Superbike race since fellow American Colin Edwards in 2002.
It was a dramatic start to the first race when a late entry into turn two by rider Leon Haslam, forced Max Biaggi to sit up, in turn pushing Spies wide and off the track. Having dropped back several positions he then had to again avoid a coming together between Ruben Xaus and another rider, and in doing so went off track again. The American pole position starter found himself in 26th position with a lot of work to do. Spies put his head down and put in consistently fast laps, finishing the race one position off the points in 16th, and lapping at the end of the race at a similar pace to the race leaders Haga and Neukirchner.
"The first race was pretty rubbish for me, but I knew I could come back in race two and fight it out”, he said.
“Unfortunately the incident with Biaggi and Haslam left me no option and forced me off, a double blow to be forced off again shortly after with the Xaus incident! I almost made it into the points and had the pace to do it. Congratulations to Nori for that one. The second race was really tough, I had a couple of attempts to break the lead, and watched Nori as much as possible to see where the opportunities were, we were both keeping the pace really high. I tried to stay as close as possible to him and waited for his grip levels to come down. With four laps to go I felt it was the right moment so I put my head down and charged and just kept going! The Pirelli tires were really good and as it was the first weekend for the new R1 it was really great. We got it done in the end, it was a really clean race and Nori was excellent to race against. There are a few more of these to go so looking forward to the next one in Qatar."
Spies team mate Tom Sykes was forced back to 14th in the opening scrum for the first corners of race one but recovered well, making his way up to tenth position. He held the place for the majority of the race and was closing on ninth at the chequered flag. Race two and British rookie Sykes displayed the same consistency that won him the points in race one, dropping initially to 19th before getting his head down and working up steadily to take tenth position and more points for the Yamaha team in his first World Superbike race of 2009.
"It's not easy in the first couple of turns with the whole pack! I got off line going in to turn one in the first race and got pushed wide, there were people everywhere! Then going into the Honda hairpin, I was just going underneath Xaus and someone came up the inside and took him out and that pushed me back. The incident lost me three or four seconds, I couldn't believe it, I guess that's the nature of Phillip Island!”, he explained. “The most positive thing for me was that we made changes with the bike this morning and found a really good setting so I know now I can run race pace and keep at the sharp end, the bike is awesome, especially down the start finish straight. Because the bike was working so well I felt really fresh and able to keep pushing on, I was sure I could get to eighth but I ran out of time. The second race was much of the same, a frustrating start for me, dropping back to 19th place initially, but I got my head down and stuck to my pace and worked back up, taking nine places to finish tenth. I was forced to overuse the tires for the first few laps which meant my race distance suffered a bit. On a positive note I know I'm capable of running consistent times for the front of the pack."