The suspense goes up two notches in Imola…
At the head of the Superbike and Supersport championships, Spies and Crutchlow had to drive the point home this weekend at Imola for the 12th round of the World Superbike … but the first was dominated by the Italians and the second fell ! Reports.
Second Superbike race
Fabrizio takes the best start and passes the first corner in the lead ahead of Haga, Biaggi, Byrne, Spies, Rea, Haslam, Smrz and Simoncelli.
The two official Ducatis then try to separate from their pursuers. But apart from Biaggi, Fabrizio and Haga’s opponents are instantly left behind. In fourth position, Byrne’s private Ducati gives up a little ground while Jonathan Rea places his Honda ahead of Ben Spies’ Yamaha !
In the last chicane of the 1st lap, Spies defended himself: in a plume of smoke – he rolled over the white powder placed at the exit of the turn – n ° 19 regained his 5th place. Just behind him, in the next straight line, rises Marco Simoncelli !
The three leading Italians – the No.84 and 41 Ducati and the No.3 Aprilia – quickly widened a gap on Byrne. Even Biaggi must let go the two 1098F09s placed in front of his RSV4 … It is also from the 2nd lap of this round that Haga beats – by three tenths in 1 ‘48.982 – the race record posted by his teammate during the previous round.
Behind, in the peloton, Johnny Rea makes a straight ahead but rejoins the track while limiting the damage: after a short passage in the gravel pit, his Pirelli immediately regain their grip and the Englishman can start again. !
Against all expectations, at the start of the fourth round, Biaggi joined Fabrizio and Haga. Byrne remains in 4th place, just ahead of Spies unable to attempt anything. Simoncelli must remain focused: the hot Rea is already back in his wheel! Further still, Haslam is ahead of Smrz and Kiyonari.
Haga takes control in the middle of the 4th lap and tries to pack himself up. Attentive, Biaggi instantly overtakes Fabrizio … But the young Italian has resources and recovers his 2nd place in the next turn.
Another young Italian stands out: Marco Simoncelli brakes Ben Spies and takes his 5th place! The American, for whom every point counts, should not look very favorably on the exploits of this "simple" freelance writer.
Corser returns to the pits on the 6th lap! The BMW rider already had to face big braking problems in the first race – he will consider himself lucky to have finished 11th – but these problems did not get better in the second round, on the contrary !
"Brembo and the team changed the braking system for the second race but it was worse", will regret the Australian Crocodile."After going off the track several times and nearly falling, I decided it was safer to re-enter". With Xaus’ 12th then 13th place, BMW leaves Italy disappointed.
On the track, we realize that Rea’s Honda is no longer in the chase group! "Rea was enraged at the start of the race, he passed me three times while going out in the gravel "", tell Ben Spies after the race.
"I felt bad for him because I saw that he had the pace to be in front but you have to know when to calm down, take it easy for a few laps and let the race come to you … You can’t attack in every turn", concluded the Texan, much more patient than the Irishman !
"I made some mistakes", will admit Johnny,"but something also happened with the brakes: they vibrated and their power was inconsistent". However, the n ° 65 is still on the track, in 9th position, and he has certainly not said his last word.
Shane Byrne, Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies remain inseparable, just like the top three! Despite all his motivation, his experience and his talent, Nitro Nori does not manage to outrun Hurricane Mich ‘and the Roman Emperor. The latter even engage in nice passes of arms, but which do not benefit Haga…
Behind, Simoncelli hoists his Aprilia to 4th place! Shakey Byrne passed, Marco can guess the silhouettes of the three pilots placed in front of him. The reigning 250 Grand Prix World Champion will have to spit in the gloves to join them … without falling !
On lap 9, Ryuichi Kiyonari lost the lead in Tosa, a large left uphill: "i think i got a little inflamed", admits the Honda rider … But how not to be when you hold Ben Spies in his viewfinder !
Haga still leads the way in his 1098F09, ahead of his teammate Fabrizio’s and Biaggi’s RSV4. The second RSV4, that of Simoncelli, points to less than 6 seconds. She slowly but surely moves away from Byrne, who also rides an Italian, and from Spies, who rides a Yamaha certainly, but prepared in Italy near Monza…
When the R1 n ° 19 finally overtakes the 1098 n ° 69, the halfway mark is about to be crossed. Ben Spies is currently in 5th position: it does not allow him to keep the lead of the championship against a Haga who parades in front.
The leader Ducati is however followed like his shadow by his second. But Fabrizio said it when arriving at Imola: he is running this weekend for the victory, regardless of the situation of his teammate in the provisional !
Biaggi has given him back his arms … and lets Simoncelli catch up! Did the Roman Emperor have any concerns? We are entitled to wonder because in just two laps, young Marco finds himself in Max’s aspi.
At the heart of the peloton, Jonathan Rea tries to clear his way by attacking as generously as ever … Leon Haslam will testify: "Johnny took me out in the grass about four times and it cost me time" !
With nine laps to go, Fabrizio takes the lead! Simoncelli attacks Biaggi at the entrance of the chicane: the n ° 3 must straighten slightly … and cut the second half of the chicane, just in front of the Spies wheel who has no other choice but to widen and to roll in the gravel !
"I did not want to pass in the Variant Bassa ", affirmed Simoncelli,"but I came too long in the straight line and not to end in the gravel, I still took the chicane and it ended well".
The American who could hope for a podium was forced to produce a superb finish to move up the standings. But as he got back on Byrne under braking, Ben goes off the track again: self-control is never easy ?!
In front, Fabrizio still dominates Haga. With 5 laps to go, Michel is one second ahead of his teammate. At Aprilia, too, the "second" is ahead of his superior: Simoncelli is a good second ahead of Biaggi.
Behind, Spies whips his R1: he is the fastest on the track but if the men in front of him don’t make a mistake, the young Texan should not be able to improve his result.
Our Matthieu Lagrive meanwhile, is fighting for 15th place against Parkes, Baiocco … and dizziness and severe migraines! To his great regret, n ° 14 prefers to return to the pits: "I am obviously disappointed, but I could not take any risk, I was no longer holding on to the bike and I was no longer focused: in this case there is no question of continuing the race for me and the other riders !".
We can bet that next Sunday, Matthieu will have regained his full health to compete in "his" test at Magny-Cours … Let us hope that David Checa will also be able to shine during the French test: 17th in the 1st round, the Spanish had to give up in the second because of a defective rear brake.
With three laps to go, Jonathan Rea took 6th place … time for braking! A few meters further, in the middle of a curve, the pilot Ten Kate must widen, goes off the track and lets Byrne slip away.
In the last lap, Fabrizio rushes to victory, Haga to the championship lead and Simoncelli to his first World Superbike podium! Biaggi has grabbed a few tenths of a second on Simoncelli but he cannot attack the reigning 250cc world champion.
Behind, Spies must be content with 5th place. Further still, Rea finally manages to validate his overtaking on Byrne. Johnny was aiming for victory today, in the end he got a 7th place in the 1st round then a 6th place in the second: "This is not the end of the world", will announce the young pilot, who will race again for Ten Kate next year.
"After the first race my coach worked on my arm and apparently it did", finally rejoices Fabrizio! The young Roman is also happy for his son, present with him this weekend:"he always asked me why I didn’t win anymore !"exclaims Michel.
On the other side of the Ducati garage, Noriyuki Haga is just as satisfied: "I am particularly happy because it is the first time that my father comes to Europe, to see me run", reveals Nitro Nori.
"All my congratulations to Michel of course, as well as to Marco (Simoncelli) and thank you to my engineer Ernesto, my team and Ducati", concludes the Japanese driver, again leader of the championship … for three small points !
Spies, in fact, showed lucidity: "it was a dirty race, with a lot of mistakes, on my part and on others. If I had been told after the first race that we would only lose the championship lead by 3 points, I would have been happy because a lot of guys could beat me this weekend".
The last two meetings of the World Superbike will therefore be decisive. First stop next weekend at Magny-Cours, before joining Portimao at the end of October, where the grand final of the SBK World Cup will take place and where the Superbike and Supersport titles will certainly be played … !
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