Miller World Superbike… A Look Back
2009 – Last year Ben Spies took revenge for his Kyalami setback in his home World Superbike race at Miller.
The American set the absolute record of seven straight World SBK poles, beating the previous best set by Doug Polen back in 1991 and put half of a second between himself and Checa in second.
The WSBK front row was completed by Kiyonari and Fabrizio, who was over one second behind Ben. On Saturday morning there was an episode that influenced the rest of the weekend: Haga high-sided his Ducati, landing on his back.
The Japanese rider apparently lost confidence with his set-up and suffered from pain, which prevented him from performing at his best.
Spies rocketed away at the start and at the end of the first lap he was already two seconds clear of the rest, led by Nakano, Haga and Kiyonari, while Fabrizio started poorly and by the end of the first lap was only ninth. Kiyonari on lap 2 passed Haga for third and on the following lap tried to get rid of Nakano, but out-braked himself into turn 1, dropping back to third, while Haga was passed by Checa for fourth place.
On lap 4 Kiyonari tried again to make his move on Nakano, ended up wide again, but was able to have a good line for the second turn and eventually went past, while Haga continued to fall behind and was passed by his team-mate.
On lap 6 Checa attacked Nakano for third, he went past ending up a bit wide, and the Japanese rider behind him lost the front, ending up on the escape road. A few moments after all this, there was just enough time to see Hacking charge through the field passing Biaggi, Haga and Parkes before the race was stopped after Muggeridge high-sided his Suzuki and was stationary in the middle of the track.
At the restart Kiyonari was able to take the lead, but Spies was already past on the back straight and started to pull away again.
On lap 2 the positions settled as Checa passed Kiyonari for second and Rea passed Biaggi for fifth, while Spies put the hammer down recording the fastest lap: he was already six seconds clear in the seven-lap aggregate race. He went on to dominate until the chequered flag.
Second was Checa and third Fabrizio, the only one to have a pace similar to Spies in the final stages as he was able to pass Kiyonari and Biaggi to claim the lower step of the podium.
The second race was even more straightforward, as Spies took the lead in front of Fabrizio, Checa, Haga and Biaggi: Ben and Michel pulled away from the rest and set similar lap times for the entire race until the Italian had to slow down in the final stages because he overcooked the front tyre trying to keep Spies’ pace.
Behind them Haga recorded another dismal performance: after ninth place in race 1 he was able to finish only eighth; a truly unexpected slump in form, considered that one year before he was able to finish sixth with a broken collarbone.
Behind Spies and Fabrizio, Checa occupied the third spot in the first lap before falling on the fourth lap, his place was taken by his team-mate Jonathan Rea after a race-long battle with Leon Haslam, who slid off the race a few turns from the end giving fourth place to Biaggi.
Thanks to his performance and Haga in trouble in both races, Spies reduced his gap to the Japanese to 53 points in the standings.
2008 – Right from the start of qualifying Carlos Checa made it clear that he was the rider who adapted better to the new circuit and he set pole with three tenths of an advantage over Max Neukirchner; Bayliss and Fabrizio filled the front row with the two works Ducati. Haga during free practice suffered a broken collarbone, he nevertheless participated in qualifying, where he was tenth.
At the start of race 1 Bayliss was the fastest off the line and was first into the first corner in front of Neukirchner and Biaggi, who had a rocket start from ninth in grid.
The man who didn’t get such a good start was Fabrizio, who was down in fourteenth at the end of the first lap.
Biaggi’s luck however was short-lived as he was passed by Checa and Corser in the space of a couple of turns, then on the second lap he was touched by Haga, went wide and came back on track only seventeenth; in the meanwhile Neukirchner passed Bayliss for the lead.
Checa was the man on the move and he didn’t stay long in third as on the very next lap he passed Bayliss, latched onto Neukirchner’s tail; one more lap and he took the lead and started to pull away. Behind him Bayliss caught Neukirchner.
On lap 5 however two major crashes affected the race: first was Bayliss, who lost the back end of his bike on the final turn and high-sided, landing in the middle of the racing line, with bikes screaming past him.
There were scary moments before the Australian managed to gain a safe place on the outside. Bayliss had just come to safety when another rider was on the ground: Haga, who lost the front and slid off. The Japanese rider got to his feet but was clearly suffering on his right arm, the one with the collarbone broken in practice.
Bayliss’ accident scattered Checa’s rivals and Carlos gained momentum to pull away. At the end of the following lap he was over two seconds clear of the rest and from that moment on he would be uncatchable until the flag, when he took his first ever Superbike win.
Behind him Neukirchner seemed to be a safe second until the final stages, when first Corser and then Fabrizio overtook him and left him fourth.
In race 2 Max Neukirchner seemed to be fired up to win as he moved from the third place he occupied on the first turn behind Bayliss and Corser to the lead on lap 3 and started pulling away.
Checa however was having none of it and after a cautious approach in the early stages started to fight back and on the fifth lap passed both Corser and Bayliss, setting after Neukirchner, who already had more than a second’s lead over him.
On the very next lap another drama: Bayliss slowed down because his gear lever went loose, leaving him with no gears. The disappointed Australian reached the pits, where the problem was fixed, but when he regained the track he was two laps down.
Checa in the meanwhile closed up on Neukirchner, while behind them there was Biaggi, leading the two Yamahas of Corser and Haga, the latter always suffering and nonetheless giving it all as usual.
On the ninth lap Checa passed Neukirchner and soon pulled away to his second win, while behind Neukirchner there was a big battle, because Biaggi had problems in keeping Corser at bay and behind them Michel Fabrizio was charging and catching up.
Troy managed to pass the Italian on lap 15, while Fabrizio set his sights on Haga and passed him on the next lap, but on lap 17 the situation changed completely as Biaggi went wide and Fabrizio snatched fourth position, which became third after a couple of turns when Corser slid off track all alone and was out of the race.
The remaining laps were a piece of cake for Checa: Neukirchner had a good margin over Fabrizio and the trio finished in this order.