Ben Spies: World Champion

Cycle News Staff | October 25, 2009

Ben Spies gave Yamaha its first-ever World Superbike title today at the Portimao Circuit in Portugal, the Texan riding the factory R1 to a calculated fifth in the second of two races to earn the title in his first season in the series and on the team.The World Superbike Championship goes into Spies’ trophy cabinet next to the three AMA Superbike titles he earned as a long-time Suzuki rider, and it puts a close on his short but amazingly successful World Superbike career as he heads to Spain in a few weeks to start the third phase of his career in MotoGP. Spies’ debut season in World Superbike was stunning as he won 14 times in 29 races, earned 11 pole positions and 17 podium finishes.Spies needed only to have finished sixth or better in this one, though, to earn the title if his championship rival Noriyuki Haga took the victory and it was obvious that was the Texan’s goal from the get-go. Spies started out second behind Brit Shane Byrne, dropped to third, then fourth, before dropping into a comfortable sixth and watching the proceedings from there. He would end up fifth late in the race after passing Aprilia’s Max Biaggi, taking the title by six points after coming into Portugal 10 points behind Haga.Haga, meanwhile, had to come from the third row. He moved in behind Spies on the 7th of 22 laps and passed him a lap later. From there the Ducati man kept pushing forward until finally getting to third place on the 15th lap, trailing the heated battle at the front between his teammate Michael Fabrizio and Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea. With one lap to go, Haga was a second adrift of the lead duo, but he took advantage of Rea’s last-lap miscue to finish second – 1.1 seconds behind Fabrizio, the Italian earning his third career World Superbike victory.After crashing out of race one and finishing second in race two, Haga ended up the bridesmaid in the championship for a third time as Spies crossed the line some four seconds later in fifth place to earn the title in his rookie season.Rea held on for third place, .3 of a second adrift of Haga and some four seconds clear of Byrne, who’d matched his fourth-place finish from race one after having led some 10 laps of this one.Spies was fifth, a few seconds clear of Aprilia’s Max Biaggi, with Biaggi’s replacement teammate Leon Camier seventh, the British Superbike Championship having two good rides today on the RSV. Eighth place went to Czech Jakub Smrz with Troy Corser riding the factory BMW to ninth – well clear of 10th placed Sylvain Guintoli in his debut on the Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000.Fabrizio ended up third in the title chase, 63 points ahead of Biaggi, the Italian just holding off Rea by four points for third.

Race Two

1.                  Michael Fabrizio (Ducati)

2.                  Noriyuki Haga (Ducati)

3.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda)

4.                  Shane Byrne (Ducati)

5.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha)

6.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia)

7.                  Leon Camier (Aprilia)

8.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati)

9.                  Troy Corser (BMW)

10.                  Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki)