The following is from Ben Spies’ publicist…Ben Spies had a promising debut Sunday in the World Superbike Championship opener at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia. After being bumped off the track in the first race and finishing 16th, Spies rallied in race two and won out in a classic battle with Nori Haga, passing the Japanese veteran with four laps to go and pulling away to a 1.286-second margin of victory.It gave Spies a victory in his debut weekend and made him the first American winner in the series since 2002. It also marked the first world championship victory for the new Yamaha R1 Superbike.In the first race pole-winner Spies was caught up in a near crash on the first lap and was forced off the circuit. He came back on the track and was making up ground when a fellow competitor’s motorcycle blew up right in front of Ruben Xaus, who Spies was drafting. Again Spies had to take evasive action and actually clipped Xaus as he ran off the track for a second time. Spies soldiered on to finish 16th and considered himself lucky to just to find the checkered flag.”I just had to put that first race out of my mind,” Spies said. “It was no one’s fault, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time in both incidents. It was frustrating because I knew I had the speed to run up front. Fortunately I had another race and it made me that much more determined.”Redemption for Spies was just a couple of hours away. In the second leg, Spies sprinted to strong start and led the first five laps. First race winner Nori Haga (the rider Spies pegged to win the championship this season) passed Spies. That started an epic battle between the duo that would last the entire race. Not only was Spies contending with a very fast, seasoned veteran in Haga, he was trying also to hold off the likes of Max Biaggi, Leon Haslam, Michel Fabrizio and Regis Laconi who were battling close behind.”As the race progressed Nori and I were trying to work together to gap the rest of the field,” Spies explained. “It worked out well in the final part of the race and it was pretty much him and me going for the win. I think in the end I just hung it out a little more [than Haga] when the tires started going off.”In the closing laps Spies twisted the throttle on the R1 moving past Haga’s Ducati in the sweeping turn one then pulling away to a 1.286-second lead at the flag. That was the largest gap between first and second of the entire race. Haslam finished third.”It’s great to get a win under my belt,” Spies concluded. “It takes a little pressure off. I feel pretty fortunate to come out of here in fourth after what happened in the first race. Now we go to Qatar and see if we can start chipping away at Nori’s lead.”Spies becomes the first American to win in World Superbike since fellow Texan Colin Edwards won the final round of the series in September of 2002, and is one of the few in series history to win in his debut weekend.Spies leaves Australia in fourth place in the World Superbike standings (just a single point out of third) in spite of not scoring a single point in the first leg. Haga holds the series lead as the championship moves to Qatar and the Losail Circuit on March 14.The following is from Suzuki…The opening race of this year’s Superbike World Championship was a tremendous one for Team Suzuki Alstare Brux. Max took a superb second place after a long battle with Noriyuki Haga (Ducati), with Yukio not far behind in third.Both Suzuki Alstare Brux riders experienced grip problems in race two with Max ending sixth and Yukio eighth. Despite the problems in the race two, Max left Phillip Island circuit, second in the championship, behind Haga, with Yukio fifth. It was a great start for the Suzuki Alstare Brux team and one that bodes well for the next race and the season ahead.Max – Race 1: 2nd, Race 2: 6th I was very happy with the first race and thought I could win it, after a big fight with Nori. But I made a little mistake on the last lap and that was enough for Nori to take the chequered flag and push me to second. But for me, second is a great start to the season and it is a good way way to say thank you to my team for all the hard work over the winter. I had some problems with chatter in race two and also got caught up in a lot of traffic and found it not easy to get through it. I lost three seconds on the front group and that was too much to make up. The grip level seemed quite a bit down in race two and it was not possible to go any faster. If I had gone any quicker, I may have crashed and I didn’t want that as Yukio and I have not had a single crash all weekend!Yukio – Race 1: 3rd, Race 2: 8th
I am so happy to be on the podium again because the last time was a very long time ago – Brno in 2007. I am a racer and I like to win, so the first race was a good feeling for me. The bike was almost the same in race two, but the grip level was much different and I had some chattering and many slides. Also, I had a problem with my left boot and it was not so easy to use the shifter. If I didn’t have that problem, I’m sure I could’ve caught and passed at least two riders in front of me. But, it’s a good feeling to be on the podium again and also good because I didn’t crash this weekend. The following is from Honda…Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) first took a sixth, and then a third place finish, in the 22-lap World Superbike Races at Phillip Island to leave the opening round third in the overall championship standings. Haslam had qualified sixth on the grid and rode with patience until the last laps of race two to secure his podium, the best single performance by a Honda Superbike rider today.Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) finished race one as top Honda rider, taking fifth place after a strong early performance from his front row grid slot of third. He led for three laps, from the first to the third. In race two he could not get away with the leading group and finished ninth.Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR), Roby Rolfo (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) and Tommy Hill (Hannspree Honda Althea Honda CBR1000RR) finished their opening race of the year in 12th, 13th and 14th places respectively, with Checa doing well to overcome the shoulder injury he suffered last week in testing. He had qualified impressively, in seventh place. In race two Checa was 13th, experiencing serious traction issues from the start. Hill was 14th again and Rolfo finished just out of the points,16th.Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) was taken out of the first race at Honda corner, on lap one, and was unable to restart, His luck got little better in race two, as he could only finish in 23rd place after losing rear grip early on.Race one was taken by Ducati rider Noriyuki Haga, with race two won by WSB rookie Ben Spies on his Yamaha, some 4.213 seconds up on Haslam.Rea had been fastest of all in regulation qualifying, before Superpole started. The new Superpole contest had been a highlight of the weekend before the races started, with Rea, Haslam and Checa playing a strong hand to make it through the final three stages of qualifying. Kiyonari secured 10th place in Superpole,In the championship standings, Haslam is a strong third, with Haga on 45 points, Max Neukirchner second on 30, Haslam on 26 and Spies on 25. Rea is eighth, on 18 points, and Checa 12th. Hill and Rolfo have four and three points respectively.SOFUOGLU HEADS A HONDA PODIUM SWEEP
Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) started his 2009 championship campaign in perfect form with a remarkable win in a remarkable Supersport World Championship race at Phillip Island.The podium three, comprising 2007 champion Sofuoglu, 2008 champion Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) and new Honda WSS rider Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) finished within 0.153 seconds of each other, in a race which featured as many as 15 riders in an unbroken leading pack for most of the race.Only in the latter stages did the big three make any kind of break from the last of the chasing riders, and even after 21 laps of intense action the fourth and fifth placed competitors, Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) were just over a second from a podium challenge. In a photo-finish, Laverty was classified fifth, by only one thousandth of a second.The slightly damp track that appeared this morning, after two days of warm weather, played havoc with final race preparations, but the top Honda riders overcame the potential for confusion and filled six of the top ten placings on a dry track surface.Mark Aitchison (Hannspree Honda Althea CBR600RR) rode to sixth at his home circuit, and was part of the leading bunch throughout. Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda CBR600RR) was ninth, two places ahead of Aitchison’s team-mate, Matthieu Lagrive.Gianluca Vizziello (Hannspree Honda Althea CBR600RR) failed to finish due to a technical problem and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda
CBR600RR) was on target for a strong finish until he fell on lap three, shortly after setting the fastest race lap in the early stages.The next race, for Superbike and Supersport classes, is in Qatar, on Saturday 14 March.Jonathan Rea – Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 5th – 9th.
“I managed to get the holeshot in race one and led for three laps, but I was very conscious about preserving the rear tyre so tried to ride as gently as I could. In race two, the pace was just that much quicker and I probably wasn’t aggressive enough in the early part. After I dropped back, I was just eating the rear trying to keep with the others and a couple of mistakes meant I had to ride even harder.”Carlos Checa – Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 12th – 13th.
“It’s been a very frustrating day and the problem that I thought would give me the most difficulty, my shoulder, was not a problem after all. I had a bad start in race one and struggled to get back to the leaders without using my tyre. In race two, the start was better but there was no side grip from the start and I just couldn’t do anything about it.”Ryuichi Kiyonari Ten Kate Honda: dnf crash – 23rd.
“There’s not very much I can say. I race one, I got T-boned by Ruben Xaus at the Honda turn and that was the end of my race. In the second, I just had no grip from the start, went into the gravel early on and could not do anything. I’m very disappointed because the simulations we did in practice were very promising for the races.”Leon Haslam – Stiggy Racing Honda: 6th – 3rd.
“The first race was really good, the bike was working well and got into a good rhythm. I was up in 4th place on the first lap of the race and had some really good battles throughout. On the last lap, whilst in 6th place, I got past Jonathan but was unable to keep him behind me. I finished sixth which was a good start of the day for us.
It’s our first time out there racing and to be able to bring home a podium finish is just fantastic! The team and myself have made good progress throughout, and even though I know we still have more to come, the bike and the team is obviously just great.”Roby Rolfo – Stiggy Racing Honda: 13th – 16th.
“I made a bad start and got touched by a rider in the Honda hairpin, lost my rhythm and some positions. For the remainder of the race I tried to catch up what I had lost and the bike felt good. In race two I got a much better start, but again on the first lap in the same corner I got hit by another rider and was forced to run onto the gravel. I re-joined, but in last position. I lost over 10 seconds and all I could do was to get in a good pace and push my way up thorough the pack.”Tommy Hill – Hannspree Honda Althea Honda: 14th – 14th.
“We had a really good start to race one, even though I could not do a practice start in the damp conditions this morning. I hadn’t done even one practice start before, so I was happy to have got away as well as I did. This is my first real race back for a year and half. I got straight into the row in front and changed my line in the first few corners. So I went from 20th to 9th!
Halfway through, grip dropped off, mainly in the rear, so I had to adapt my style.”The following is from BMW…Despite starting from 17th place on the grid, BMW Motorrad Motorsport rider Troy Corser stormed through the field to take a
tremendous eighth place in the opening race of this year’s Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island. In so doing, he
also set the fastest lap of the race – with a time of 1:32.726 – and showed the huge crowd that BMW Motorrad Motorsport
are not in the championship just to make up the numbers. In race two, tyre problems forced him out of the reckoning and he
should’ve retired. He had numerous lurid slides, but somehow managed to bring his S 1000 RR home, even though he
nearly crashed on several occasions. His team mate Ruben Xaus finished 19th in race one, but improved considerably in
the second race to finish just outside the top ten. All in all, a great start to BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Superbike World
Championship debut and a portent of things to come.Race one was won by Noriyuki Haga (Ducati), with Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) second and Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) third.
In race two, Haga was in contention for a double, but was beaten by America Ben Spies (Yamaha), with Briton Leon Haslam
in third place.Troy – Race 1: 8th, Race 2: 22nd
A mixed day, but an absolutely great result to start our 2009 campaign. I am happy to get eighth after starting from the fifth
row of the grid – my worst ever WSBK position – and I am happy to have set the fastest lap of the race. I rode race one as
hard as I have ever ridden before and really had to work for my 8th after my poor grid position. But I had made a good start
and I just tried to catch the leaders. The result (and fastest lap) proves that the bike has potential and I can’t wait for it to
Race two was a disaster from the start, but it wasn’t my fault. After just one lap the tyres were sliding around and it was like
trying to race on a wet tyre in the dry! I don’t know why there was a problem at all, because the bike was the same, the
settings were the same and the only thing that was different were the tyres. It was frustrating and dangerous, and I
should’ve pulled in, but I wanted to keep going, finish the race and give as much information to the team as possible. I had
two really big ‘moments’ when I was well out of the saddle, but somehow I stayed onboard. How I’m not sure, but it certainly
gave the crowd a fright on the last lap! This is the first time that we have done so many laps in one go and now the
technicians will have race information to analyse for the first time and from this I am confident that the progress will continue
and continue.Ruben – Race 1: 19th, Race 2: 11th
For me the results today were not important, but what was important was that Troy and I have given the team a lot of
information and data to analyse. Today was the first time either of us have done a race distance and we have learnt a lot
more about the bike today. We made the rear sprocket longer for race two and I was much more happy with the bike. I had
told the team yesterday that I wanted three teeth longer, but they told me that two was enough. Now I think they owe me a
beer because I believe I was right!
It’s hard to think that we have made so much progress that we’re battling with the top guys already and when you consider
our grid positions, I think we’ve done really well. I’m not happy with 11th, but I’m happy with our performance in the race and
know that it could’ve been even better – if it were not for the grid positions. This is just our first step, but already we can see
that our future looks promising.Berti Hauser (Director -BMW Motorrad Motorsport)
I am happy that we have started at last and I am proud of all the hard work the riders and team have put in these past
months. The results today were very different, but we know the reasons for the poor ones and we are confident that we can
improve a lot. Troy’s result in race one was overwhelming. He showed what he can do by going from 17th to 8th and setting
the race’s fastest lap and it just leaves us to wonder what kind of result might have been possible if he had started from
higher up the grid.
Ruben improved throughout the weekend. He knew what he wanted changed from race one to race two and in the second
race he showed that he can be a top ten rider for sure. Both riders are working well together and that, together with the
team’s strength of commitment, means that our goal of the top ten is achievable.The following is from Ducati…In a Race 1 that was declared wet but remained dry, Noriyuga Haga (Ducati Xerox) took his first victory on board his new Ducati 1198 today at Phillip Island. Having started from thirteenth on the grid, Noriyuki made a blistering start in Race 1 and was immediately up among the front runners in second place by the end of the opening lap. He remained at the head of the pack for the rest of the race, battling for the lead against Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner who eventually awarded the win to Noriyuki when he made a tiny mistake in the very final lap. The second race came close to being a repeat of the first for Noriyuki as another flying start moved him quickly up to fifth and then first by lap six. This time he had Yamaha’s Spies to deal with and it was a close-run thing, with Noriyuki eventually forced to relinquish the win due to tyre-wear in the final stages.Italian Ducati Xerox rider Michel Fabrizio also took home solid points from the first race of the 2009 season, battling against Brits Rea and Haslam and Australia’s Corser, but just missing out on a podium spot and finishing in fourth.Race 2 saw Michel run a similar race, holding fourth place for most of the race before a tussle with Haslam and Laconi finally left him in fifth position at the race’s conclusion.After the opening round of the championship it is Noriyuki that tops the rider’s classification sheets with 45 points, followed by Neukirchner and Haslam. Ducati is the leading constructor chased by Yamaha and Suzuki.Noriyuki Haga (Race 1 winner; Race 2 – 2nd )
“My qualifying was not so good but in Race 1 my start was strong, and I started to fight with Max up at the front almost immediately. There was the possibility of rain so I started attacking right from the first lap. On the last lap Max got past me again but I kept trying and then on the last corner he made a mistake and I was able to pass him. In Race 2 I was again fighting, this time with Ben (Spies) but he was very fast and by the last five laps my rear tyre was finished, so I had to settle for second. I really enjoyed the race and I am very happy; my team has done a great job this weekend and I am feeling very comfortable on my 1198. A fantastic day, thanks to Ducati and thanks to the fans and I’m very happy that my move to Ducati brings my first win in the first race of the 2009 season.”Michel Fabrizio (Race 1 – 4th; Race 2 – 5th)
“All in all, it hasn’t gone so badly. Race 1 was the better of the two for me and the bike and tyres were performing fairly well, I just couldn’t match the pace of Nori and the Suzukis in front of me. In Race 2 I began to suffer rear tyre-wear in the closing laps and couldn’t hold my position ahead of Biaggi and Haslam. We saw today just how tough a championship this will be! Anyway I’ve taken some good points and now we move on to Qatar where I will aim to be on the podium.”