WSBK: Couragious Haga Loses Title By 6 Points in Portimao
Haga struggles to get the bike set up in Portugal
A bittersweet finale for Noriyuki Haga and the Ducati Xerox Team today when they lost the World Superbike riders title by just six points, after the Japanese rider crashed out of Race 1, to then finish on the podium, second, in Race 2. Already winners in the constructors championship, the Ducati factory team fought until the final lap of this last race but unfortunately they couldn’t do enough and it was Yamaha’s Spies who lifted the trophy. Michel Fabrizio, fifth in the first race, made a great recovery from eleventh position at the start of Race 2, to eventually win the race ahead of his team-mate, thus consolidating his third position in the final championship standings.
Race 1 did not go at all to plan for the Ducati Xerox Team. Japanese rider Noriyuki made up three positions with a strong start, progressing immediately up to seventh place, from where, in the space of four laps, he was able to catch up to both Haslam and Byrne. In the course of the fifth lap, Haga, followed by his team-mate Michel, was able to pass Haslam but unfortunately on the very next lap Haga unfortunately lost control of his Ducati 1198 and fell going into a corner, unable to restart his machine to continue the race. Michel, registered the fastest lap of the race before witnessing Nori’s accident from behind. He then maintained his fifth position for the remainder of the race, suffering from a lack of rear grip from the fourteenth lap onwards which meant he was unable to make up time to catch the leading pack.
In the second race, having changed both his bike and the tyres, Noriyuki made a better start and after two laps was positioned fifth. A couple of laps later Michel passed him, aiming to catch Byrne and Rea up ahead. Fighting the two British riders for several laps, the Italian finally got ahead of both of them during lap thirteen, only to lose the lead once more to Rea a few laps later. Haga in the meantime caught the leading group, passing both Biaggi and Byrne to move up to third position. An error by Rea during the very last lap allowed both Ducati Xerox riders through and Michel and Noriyuki thus closed in first and second, another double win for the team at this final event of 2009.
During the 2009 season, Noriyuki Haga has achieved an impressive collection of 8 race wins, including 2 double wins, in Valencia and Kyalami, and 19 podiums in all. Michel clocked up 15 podiums, 3 of which were race wins, and together the two riders have amassed a total of 838 points. Ducati has won the constructors title with an advantage of 67 points over second-placed Yamaha.
Noriyuki Haga (2nd in classification, 456 points)
“All weekend I have had problems with the set up of the bike, mainly with the tyres that didn’t give me total confidence. Usually we have a package that works well at every track and here too we didn’t change so much with regard to the setting, only really tyres. In Race 1 we mounted two hard tyres and they didn’t perform as we’d hoped, they didn’t give me the necessary grip so it was hard to brake and unfortunately I fell even though I wasn’t pushing so hard. We changed bikes for Race 2, just to be sure, as well as changing tyres of course. This time I had more grip and was able to make a good race. Unfortunately second in the race was not enough to take the title and it’s a real pity, but I must say that I have had a great first year with this fantastic team that always provides me with a good bike. I thank my whole technical team, Ducati, the sponsors and the Clinica Mobile who have taken good care of me throughout the season. My compliments go to Ben who has been such a strong rival this year and even though he is going to MotoGP next year, I am sure we will remain friends. This week we’ll start testing in preparation for next year. This year was a new adventure with Ducati and we’ll continue to give 100% in 2010.”
Michel Fabrizio (3rd in classification, 382 points)
“The first race was very difficult. I didn’t make the best start but immediately started to push to make up time. Then, following behind Nori, I lost concentration for a minute when I saw him go down. I then tried to catch the leading group but I didn’t have great feeling with the front tyre and then, about eight laps from the end, the rear tyre started to drop off too. In Race 2 on the other hand I was able to fight hard against Rea. The last time we raced together, at Misano, he got past me so it was my turn to do the same to him today. It was only for the fact that Rea made a mistake on the last lap that I was able to pass him as he was very strong today. I am very sorry for Nori of course but we demonstrated that we are strong and, for me, both Ben and Nori are winners because they have given us a fantastic season’s racing, fighting until the very end for the title.
RESULTS: Race 1 – 1. Spies (Yamaha); 2. Rea (Honda); 3. Biaggi (Aprilia); Race 2 - 1. Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox); 2. Haga (Ducati Xerox); 3. Rea (Honda)
Riders– 1. Spies (Yamaha) 462; 2. Haga (Ducati Xerox) 456; 3. Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) 382; 4. Biaggi (Aprilia) 319; 5. Rea (Honda) 315; 6. Haslam (Honda) 241….
Manufacturers – Ducati 572; Yamaha 505; Honda 431; Aprilia 329; Suzuki 173; BMW 141; Kawasaki 76