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.
First Superbike race
Max Biaggi sets off faster than his little comrades and negotiates the first chicane at the head of the race ahead of Fabrizio, Rea, Haga, Spies, Corser, Byrne and Smrz. In the first loop, the first five pilots move away from the rest of the peloton.
Haga goes on the attack in the last long curve of the circuit, just before the last chicane, and passes Rea. In front, the two Romans – Biaggi and Fabrizio – take the opportunity to grab a few lengths but Haga gets back on them in no time and takes 2nd place !
Behind the three Italians and the Irish, Ben Spies procrastinates: the competition is far behind, there is no point in attacking excessively. Johnny Rea on the other hand does not spare himself and does too much: on heavy braking, the pilot Ten Kate tries to pass Fabrizio by taking a particularly tense trajectory….
Johnny realizes very quickly that he will not be able to lay his motorbike down towards the rope point: he traces straight ahead and crosses the track just in front of Haga’s wheel! At the Nurburgring, the Honda n ° 65 had already mown the Ducati n ° 41 but this time, Noriyuki is safe…
On the 5th lap, Biaggi leads ahead of Haga and Fabrizio. Spies and his R1 gave way to the three leading drivers, whose order changed a few turns later: Fabrizio passed Haga in a pif-paf. As a reminder, Michel can still win the championship this year … and he runs at home: neighborhood ace therefore within the Ducati Xerox team !
The public also applauds Marco Simoncelli: the Aprilia rider has just stolen from Troy Corser – double World Superbike champion all the same – his 6th place and is now aiming for the 5th place occupied by Leon Haslam. Two seconds separate the Aprilia n ° 58 from the Honda n ° 91.
Matthieu Lagrive is already out of the race: after finishing in 22nd position the first two laps, the Honda Althea team rider fights the following lap for 18th place against Scassa when he loses the front … "I am very disappointed, because despite my start, I was starting a great comeback as I like them and I am convinced that I could have finished in the points again"said Matt..
In front, Max moves away from Michel. Immediately, Nitro Nori leaves his reserve and pursues Aprilia n ° 3. The Roman Emperor’s beautiful escape is also short-lived: in a few turns, Haga erases the few steps ahead that Biaggi had built up..
On the 10th lap, Simoncelli surprises Haslam coming out of the corner and devours the Englishman on the next long curve, passing him on the outside. Unfortunately for Marco, he lost the front end of his RSV4 moments later in Tosa and must give up.
"When I arrived in Imola, my goal was to enter the Top 5", will recall Super Sic … No doubt that in the second round, the rookie will try to stay there until the checkered flag is lowered !
Noriyuki Haga takes the reins of the race in the middle of this 10th lap but Max Biaggi passes it again in the first chicane of the 11th lap. Behind, Michel Fabrizio remains conscientiously hanging on the pots of his teammate … and Ben Spies returns !
Two laps later, the four men find themselves in the same second. Biaggi whips his RSV4 so well that he keeps the lead of nothing against Haga, glued to his rear wheel. Fabrizio plays yoyo but never loses contact with the two veterans who do not leave each other with one sole.
"In the first run, I had problems with my left arm and I had trouble changing gears, I had some kind of cramps in my hand", Fabrizio will note."In the end I was holding on with two fingers and I couldn’t feel my arm anymore"… Will his coach find a way to eliminate this inconvenience in the second round and allow Michel to fight 100%? ?
Six laps from the end, Haga threatens Biaggi with acceleration in the – almost – right line of the pits but the Italian holds up under braking. Fabrizio is a few lengths behind but Spies seems unable to threaten him. Two laps later, Michel finds himself again at his teammate’s aspi … The final promises !
In this 18th lap, Haga overran Biaggi on the outside under braking and finally passed in front of the Roman Emperor. Nose in the bubble, the Japanese dig a slight lead over his pursuers, who must imperatively react.
Fabrizio tries to make the inside to his eldest but Max retains the advantage … Haga grabs a few extra lengths! It was on the next pass in front of the pits that Fabrizio passed Biaggi in acceleration. Behind the two Romans, a Texan is biding his time: could it be that Mad Max, after leading the entire race, finishes off the podium ?
In front, Haga applied and started the last lap with a lead of more than a second. Fabrizio and Biaggi attack to the maximum and neutralize each other while Spies releases the pressure: his 4th place allows him to keep the championship lead.
"The race was very long, I thought it would never end and when it happened I couldn’t even remember where I had passed Max !", testifies Haga who had not won a race since his double at Kyalami, last May !
Noriyuki Haga therefore crosses the finish line as a boss, ahead of Max Biaggi who took advantage of the very last chicane to put the brakes on Fabrizio! Behind Spies, Kiyonari took 5th place "Biaggi style" from Leon Haslam. Johnny Rea finished in 7th place despite his fall, ahead of Smrz, Sykes and Parkes !
"It was a great race from start to finish", said Max Biaggi, delighted to have resolved the majority of the problems encountered during the previous tests on this difficult Imola track."I tried to set the pace but the Ducatis were faster in the second half of the circuit"… Will Aprilia’s revenge take place in the second round? ?
Ben Spies also plans to make up for it: "we ruined our chances with electronics: we didn’t have enough power and we struggled with the grip", will reveal the rookie, still leading the championship, but 6 small points now…
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