Title contenders Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) and Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) scored a win apiece in the penultimate round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Superbike in front of a record 81,000 spectators at Magny-Cours but it is the Japanese rider who now has the advantage
in the points table.
The Texan dominated race 1 but Nitro-Nori responded in the second encounter with a lights-to-flag victory, as Spies was unable to go any higher than fourth.
Ten points now separate the two as the series heads for its final round in Portugal in three weeks time. Max Biaggi scored two more podium finishes for Aprilia Racing, a third and a second, Jonathan Rea grabbed a third for Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, while Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) had an off day.
Spies and Haga predictably set the first race alight as they fought for the win.
At the flag it was the Texan who took the maximum points with his 13th win of the season after leading from the start, but he was made to fight for it by his Japanese rival. Haga was the quickest man on the track at the end but paid the price of a slow start and being held up behind Biaggi for too long, thus losing touch with Spies. The Italian did take the final podium slot however, confirming the RSV4's competitiveness at the French circuit.
Fourth place went to Fabrizio, who lost touch with the leading group in the early stages, losing out on any chance of the podium. Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing) was the leading Honda man to the finish with a positive fifth place, ahead of the Hannspree Ten Kate machine of Carlos Checa. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki Alstare) had a good run in seventh, the Japanese rider finishing ahead of Shane Byrne (Ducati Sterilgarda) and the BMW of Troy Corser. Jonathan Rea had a technical problem and was out on lap 7, and another problem also brought a halt to the debut race for Leon Camier (Aprilia Racing).
Ben Spies: I had some good parts of the race and some bad ones. We made a lot of very small mistakes, but I was taking care to make it easy when I had the cushion. I didn't take advantage of it and almost ruined the lead because they all came back to me. On the last lap I made another mistake and I knew that with me running wide, he probably went in a little bit tighter than normal and I would get him on the outside. It paid off!
Noriyuki Haga: If only I had one more lap something would have happened for sure! I made a mistake at the start because there was some problem with the bike. I just gained in the middle of the race in the top 3 and tried to start pushing. On the last lap I was thinking that Ben would make a mistake somewhere for sure and then he did at one corner. I almost passed but we made a good race anyway.
Max Biaggi: I give it my best but I saw that Ben could do high 38s in the warm-up and that was very difficult for us. During the first part of the race I pushed hard and had a good tyre, I was fast in some parts of the track but not in others. But overall I'm near maximum. Then I made a mistake when Nori came, I put a wrong gear and he overtook me, but overall Aprilia and myself made a very good race.
Haga made amends in the second race, the Ducati Xerox man dominating almost from start to finish after a much better start.
Haga got the better of Biaggi on the opening lap and then held the pace right until the end for his eighth win of the season.
Spies this time could only struggle to fourth after encountering tyre problems. Biaggi had a great scrap with Rea for second, while Haslam put in another solid performance to take his Stiggy Racing Honda to another fifth.
The two Suzukis went quite well at the French circuit, with both riders finishing in the top 10, Yukio Kagayama sixth and Karl Muggeridge eighth, but BMW could only bring their men home in tenth (Corser) and twelfth (Xaus). Fabrizio had another rather unconvincing run, the Italian crashing out while trying to pass Byrne and then remounting to finish in thirteenth place.
Noriyuki Haga: For sure this is an important win for me. Especially after Nurburgring I don't sleep every night because I am always thinking about the position in the championship. I'm really happy with this second place and win, my chief engineer made a good setting for race 2 and the feeling was good for race pace distance. I couldn't make an advantage from Max and Johnny but concentrated on the last laps to take this win, which gave the Manufacturers' title to Ducati.
Max Biaggi: I'm very happy and it was a very hard race. From the beginning everyone was fast, the top 4 or 5 were at a very similar pace. I had a good rhythm, I followed Nori, he looked very confident, I was wondering if he could keep the pace until the end and I got my answer because he was still lapping well. At the start of the race someone ran off the track and a big stone broke my window and I was worried that the radiator was broken. I started to push again and for me it was a good race.
Jonathan Rea: All weekend we just haven't been able to put it all together. The bad luck we had in race 1 certainly ruined my rhythm and I had a bit of arm pump at the end because it was hard to jump into a race distance straight away. I rode fantastic at the front and was with those guys until five laps to go but couldn't hold onto the back of them. The package I had was as strong as in Imola, we'll go back to the workshop and come back strong at Portimao.