World Superbike racing action this weekend in South Africa saw both Fabrizio and Haslam scored wins in the Kyalami thrillers.
It was two very different races that delivered two types of riveting spectacle for the enthusiastic fans at Kyalami.
World SBK race one was taken by a rejuvenated Michel Fabrizio on the Ducati 1198 Xerox machine in front-running style.
Race two went to Leon Haslam on the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Alstare race bike who battled it out right to the end, with the top four riders all within a second of each other after 24 intense laps of racing.
The net result is an extended championship lead for Haslam, now on 222 points while Aprilia RSV4 Alitalia rider Max Biaggi trails with 207.
Leon Haslam says: "What an amazing day! The second race was one of the best races I’ve ever been involved in and definitely one of the hardest. Jonny and I had a real ding-dong and it was bar-to-bar stuff for almost the whole race. I passed him a few times, but he always got me back and the longer the race went on I could feel him working out where I’d pass and how he’d stop me. In the end, I had to pass at a different place and this time I made it stick and held on to the flag. To win a race like that is quite an emotional thing and I have to give a big thank you to the whole team for all their work this weekend."
"The bike in the second race was an improvement over race one. We had a few issues in race one, so changed the balance by making a bit lower in the front and higher in the rear. I still had some issues with it, but it was better and allowed me to fight for the win. After the drama of race two, it’s hard to remember what happened in race one. I didn’t get a good start and had to make up a lot of ground as best I could. I wasn’t completely confident in the front end, so could not push hard enough to catch Michel Fabrizio and Carlos Checa, but I was happy to get on the podium. Today was a tough day, but I’m very happy to have extended my Championship lead and I’m looking forward to the next round in America."
Sylvain Guintoli says: "Well today should’ve been a lot better than it turned out and I am very disappointed. The first race was not so bad, except that I lost a lot of time in two particular corners and could not catch the front guys. Ok, this is new track for me, but I think I should’ve been able to cope with it better. The second race was a disaster! I had no grip and no feeling in the brakes. I had made a good start, but Sykes touched me and I lost position. Then I started having problems with the brakes. It felt as if they had no power and that’s not a good feeling to have when you racing at high speed at a track like this. It’s been a weekend to forget and I hope that I will be able to get on the pace at the next race, though it will once again be a new track for me."
Michel Fabrizio says: "I’m really happy with the win in the first race, happy for Ducati of course but above all happy for myself. I really needed a result like this after several difficult race. It wasn’t easy however, I had to make an intelligent race, doing all I could to maintain the second of advantage that I had over Carlos. It was a great race but also a very tiring one! Race 2 went very differently; the level of grip immediately began to drop after only three or four laps and it became impossible to catch the leading group that continued to gain on me. Anyway with the points taken in race 1 today I’ve gained a position in the overall standings and now I’ll turn my attention to the next event at Salt Lake, a track I really like."
Noriyuki Haga says: "In Race 1 after about ten laps the performance of the rear tyre dropped dramatically. There wasn’t much I could to improve. I’m disappointed of course because with no grip you don’t really get anywhere. In the second race, having made some small changes to my bike but deciding to go with the same tyre, I had a better overall feeling and, from more or less mid-race, unlike race 1, I was able to push increasingly hard. The problem was that those ahead of me had already built a significant lead; I needed a few more laps to be able to catch some of them."
Max Biaggi says: "It was a great race in the places that counted. Haslam, Rea and I overtook each other, which I think made for a great show. Both from second and third place I tried several times to overtake but it is really very difficult here – there is practically one line, which everyone has to follow. Haslam was very fast and raced well, keeping to his lines. But for me a podium is really a good result, this third place on a circuit which is really very very complicated for us is to be accepted with satisfaction."
"In light of the two races, considering the fourth place in race 1, I’d say that one of the transfers we feared the most came out well. The gap from the top moves a bit back and forth, but the championship is still very long. I think we can be satisfied with this weekend in Africa and now I can’t wait to arrive at the next races to show our true potential. The guys on the team have done a great job, but tracks like this one bring out the best experience in our competitors. In particular we still need to work on acceleration which makes things a bit difficult for us coming out of the mid-slow turns".
Jonathan Rea says: "I got a good start in the first race but just couldn’t hold the other guys as I didn’t find any grip. But even when I dropped down to ninth with quite a gap in front, I didn’t give up on a single corner or a single straight. I was able to maintain pretty consistent laps which allowed me to catch and pass the others at the end. We made a small change for race two and then I got a blinding start. From there I found it easy to go to the front but it was really difficult to make a break. In the end, Haslam made a lunge and I had to settle for second. All in all, I would have taken your arm off if you’d offered me those results this morning and I’d like to thank the team for keeping my spirits up – it wasn’t looking too clever after warm-up. I’m really looking forward to Salt Lake City now that we’re back on the podium."
Max Neukirchner says: "Race one was just a continuation of the problems we’ve have had all weekend but we were able to improve the bike a little for a better feeling in the second race. However, I still couldn’t push hard enough to pass the guys in front of me. Over the last few laps, we also had a bit of a problem with weight transfer on the bike, which we also had in race one. Now we have to hope we have learned something that we can take to Miller in America, which I missed last year, but I got two podium finishes there in 2008."
Ronald ten Kate (Ten Kate Team Manager) says: " Well, its been an interesting day – that’s the very least we can say! We knew we had a good race pace with Jonathan but in race one he just lacked the outright speed for the opening laps. He had to fight his way through and, for most of the second half of the race he was the fastest guy on the track. His strategy of immediately taking the lead in race two was a bit of a surprise to everyone in the garage, but it worked out well!. Kyalami was where he took his first Superbike podium last year, which really kick-started his season, but we have to be strong in every single race now if we are to close the gap on the leaders. Max had more problems today – problems that have plagued him all weekend here. We know it’s a difficult circuit to get right though, so we’ll move on to Miller, where we know our bike can work well."
Cal Crutchlow says: "We did the best job we could today at a track that the bike is not best suited to. Like a lot of riders today I seemed to lose a lot of grip very early in the races making it a struggle to keep on the pace. Having said that I was pleased overall with the second race, we were battling for a win and showing good pace throughout to hold on for points. It’s a difficult circuit and we’ve done well, the team did a really good job and we’re looking forward to getting to Salt Lake City. The track at Miller will suit our bike a bit better so I’m confident we can achieve some good results."
James Toseland says: "The team are a bit bewildered after today, we lost grip on the tyres so quickly in the two races it was a challenge to keep up race pace. Considering I had my big crash only a week ago, getting a sixth and seventh finish is not bad for the championship for me. The differences that people have had today in grip level is incredible, some riders seemed to lose performance dramatically between the two races. I am a little frustrated but I certainly haven’t had as bad a day as some riders. Over the weekend my neck got better and better, it was a bit sore still on Friday but it was fine today. A big thank you to the team who did a fantastic job this weekend, we’re looking forward to a rest now before Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks."
Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team Manager) says: "We had a very strange weekend here in Kyalami. We had all good practices and then some problems during the races with grip level with both riders. We are a little disappointed and for sure we need to try and understand the reasons why the tyre behaviour changed so much today. Having said that, the team and the riders worked really hard all weekend, so we will head to the next round in America and look to improve on this weekend with better results."
Carlos Checa says: "The races took place on a difficult circuit", said Carlos. "In Race 2 I wasn’t immediately able to find grip and the four cylinders started to get away. It’s difficult to catch those guys because in acceleration they have the advantage. In Race 1 on the other hand everything went well, and with good grip we were able to make up some points to Haslam. My performance was the same in both races but the position was different. We need to improve in our acceleration and hope that the regulation gives us a hand in this respect. It’s evident that our bikes are inferior and we hope a solution can be found. However it was overall a positive weekend."
Genesio Bevilacqua (Manager of the Althea Racing Team) says: "Great racing from Carlos who made the best possible use of our technical package. In race 1 Carlos rode a fantastic race, seeing as his times were the same as those of Fabrizio. Shane did what he could with the set-up he was provided with. In Race 2 we were worried in the first corners when Carlos lost some time but he then fought back. On the uphill, however, the four cylinders stretched away from him and to make up what was lost in the braking and in the corners was almost impossible. We will have a technical meeting with regard to Shane in order to help him out of this dark period. I would like to thank Carlos, the team and Ducati for having allowed us to experience this great weekend."
Troy Corser says: "In the first race I really had zero grip after only five laps. I had no confidence to attack any more, and I literally just rolled around the track till the end of the race. We changed the bike’s set-up a little bit between the races, and we used the Diablo B rear tyre spec instead of the A spec as we had over the entire weekend. The consistency of this tyre was much better than in the first race. I am quite happy with the changes, in the second race I was able to ride the bike. Unfortunately I lost a little of the initial grip in the middle of the corner. I was really quick in the first sectors, but could not really follow the other bikes at the top of the hill. This was a little frustrating. I tried to adjust over the course of the race and rode the bike completely differently to how I had over the whole weekend."
Ruben Xaus says: "My start today in both races was not great. I was hoping to make up some more positions early in the race and that didn’t happen. I had to work really hard to get through the field and passing is not easy here. In race two the bike was a lot better, we made some changes to the set-up, and that allowed me to run consistent lap times. I had a hard battle with Noriyuki Haga and I worked really hard to defend my position. I tried my best today. It was another step forward for me and the team and I am confident for the next race in the United States."
Berthold Hauser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director) says: "Today was a positive finish to a really tough weekend for our team. We had to deal with a track that does not really suit our bike. Nevertheless, the entire team – riders, engineers, mechanics and everybody involved – proved to have the right attitude. We had ups and downs over the course of the weekend, but the team never gave up. We came back after a disappointing first race. A big Thank You to the team. Although today was a tough day for us, there is reason to celebrate for BMW: Congratulations to BMW Motorsport for winning the prestigious 24 hours race at the Nürburgring with the BMW M3 GT2."
Jakub Smrz says: "I made a good start in both races, but I lost a few positions in the first laps. I stayed with the leading pack, but I couldn’t close the gap to the riders battling for the podium and lost ground. I’m nonetheless satisfied; we were among the fastest all weekend long. I just hope I’ll be able to improve my results at Miller Park in the U.S.".
Marco Borciani (Smrz Team Owner): "I’m happy with the performance, but I was expecting better results. Both races were wide open and the first few laps were very important. The only issue I have about the race is the fact that the rider couldn’t keep the door closed on his rivals. However, if we look who finished behind Smrz, I have to congratulate him".
Roger Lee Hayden (Pre-Race) says: "Kyalami Grand Prix circuit is another track that I don’t know at all, so again we will have to learn as we progress through the weekend in order to arrive at the best set-up for the races. I haven’t heard too much about the track but the layout looks good and after my good performance in Monza’s second race I’m fully fit and ready for South Africa".
Superbike – Race 1
1st – Michel Fabrizio says: "I am very happy for Ducati and so happy to win for myself as well. I needed it. We tried our best from the very start and I rode an intelligent race to control the gap to the rider behind."
2nd – Carlos Checa says: "We started with a very strong pace; 1’38 low was very fast. I was focused to be behind Fabrizio and we kept a good pace early on. Then the tyres dropped down and I thought maybe at that point I would have been able to manage the tyre better, but Fabrizio did very well. On some laps I could improve one tenth but then I would lose it. The bike is working well here."
3rd – Leon Haslam says: "It was pretty tough out there, a long race doing 24 laps round here. It is really key to make the start but the biggest thing round here is that it is hard to pass, so you definitely have to get the start done. I was feeling pretty good in that race but I was having a little bit of chatter every time I pushed to try and get on the back of the front two."
1. 84 Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 39’48.343 (153,602 kph)
2. 7 Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1.098
3. 91 Haslam L. (GBR) Suzuki GSX-R1000 5.049
4. 3 Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 6.974
5. 65 Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 13.710
6. 2 Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 13.848
7. 52 Toseland J. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 16.064
8. 35 Crutchlow C. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 16.231
9. 96 Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 16.580
10. 50 Guintoli S. (FRA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 23.100
11. 99 Scassa L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 24.561
12. 11 Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 25.504
13. 32 Morais S. (RSA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 27.073
14. 111 Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 27.273
15. 67 Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 30.692
Superbike – Race 2
1st – Leon Haslam says: "Racing is all about winning and I felt I was in a position where I was strong in a few places and I had to go for it. And it worked out. It was a high risk last few laps with the front and rear moving about but we didn’t make too many mistakes and we won."
2nd – Jonathan Rea says: "It seems we now have a base with the bike that works everywhere. I really enjoyed the race, it was good fun but I wanted to win so badly. Leon rode well and every time he passed me he would run deep and I was able to cut back inside. With two laps to go I thought maybe it would be mine if I just covered myself, but Leon made a lunge three corners from the end of the penultimate lap."
3rd – Max Biaggi says: "A nice and close race. In race two I made a good start and that was maybe 50% of the final result. In race one I was held up and could not go through but in race two I went away with top two guys and could match their pace. At the end I tried but my attack did not come off."
1. 91 Haslam L. (GBR) Suzuki GSX-R1000 39’52.870 (153,312 kph)
2. 65 Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 0.522
3. 3 Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 0.601
4. 35 Crutchlow C. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 0.991
5. 7 Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1.479
6. 52 Toseland J. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 13.324
7. 11 Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 13.740
8. 84 Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 14.250
9. 96 Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 15.190
10. 41 Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 16.790
11. 111 Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 21.101
12. 99 Scassa L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 22.670
13. 67 Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 24.506
14. 66 Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX 10R 31.301
15. 50 Guintoli S. (FRA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 31.836
Pirelli Race Tyre Selection (Front/Rear): All riders on same solutions with the exception of Corser: A front and B rear, Toseland: A rear, Haga: B front, and Baiocco/Hayden: B rear for Race 2.
World Superbike Championship Standing (after 6 Round of 13): 1. Haslam 222; 2. Biaggi 207; 3. Rea 141; 4. Checa 141; 5. Toseland 125; 6. Haga 106; 7. Corser 105; 8. Fabrizio 95; 9. Crutchlow 86; 10. Camier 82
Manufacturers Standing: 1. Suzuki 222; 2. Aprilia 213; 3. Ducati 185; 4. Honda 150; 5. Yamaha 135; 6. BMW 108; 7. Kawasaki 39