Haga battles Spies to the bitter end

Noriyuki Haga lost the World Superbike title by just six points to the American Ben Spies. And if his teammate, Michel Fabrizio, would have given up his position in Race 2 to Haga, Haga would have lost the championship by only one point. Haga’s talent has never been questioned and he has worked so brilliantly to improve his image and work ethic after the doping charge lost him the title a few years back. A true modern day Shakespearean tragedy.

Nori Haga entered the final race weekend with the points lead over Ben Spies despite Ben’s all-time Superpole record and fast pace all season long. But race 1 did not go at all to plan for Noriyuki Haga. Although Haga made up three positions off a strong start and progressed immediately up to seventh place, Spies was out in front leading the race.

During the fifth lap, Haga was followed closely by his teammate Michel Fabrizio who seemed to be pushing Haga and maybe ready to block any opponents looking to pass Haga. This is what a talented teammate can do you for but only in unique points position scenarios. With Fabrizio following, Haga was able to catch-up to both Haslam and Byrne. Unfortunately on the very next lap Haga applied too much brake, lost the front-end of his Ducati 1198 and fell mid-corner. Haga was unable to restart his Ducati to continue the race and thereby surrendering the points lead to Ben Spies.

In the second race, having changed both his motorcycles and the tires, Noriyuki Haga made a better start and after two laps moved up to 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, Michel Fabrizio 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 riders through and Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga then closed in on first and second, with another double win for the team at this final WSBK race of 2009.

Already winners in the constructors championship, the Ducati team of Haga and Fabrizo fought until the final lap of the last race but unfortunately they couldn’t do enough and it was Yamaha’s Ben Spies who took 6th place and enough points to lift the World Superbike Championship trophy in just his rookie year.

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. Ben Spies won the riders championship by 6 points while Ducati won the constructors title with an advantage of 67 points over second-placed Yamaha.

Noriyuki Haga Speaks… (2nd to Ben Spies with 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."