Haga Strikes First, But Smrz On Top

Cycle News Staff | October 23, 2009

Haga vs. Spies. Spies vs. Haga. It’s really all that matters this weekend in the final round of the World Superbike Championship. With that being the case, chalk one up for Ducati Xerox’s Noriyuki Haga in the first battle as he emerged from today’s free practice session at the Portimao Circuit in Portugal ahead of his championship rival.But neither of them were at the very top. That spot was taken by Czech Jakob Smrz and his privateer Ducati.In the war for the title, however, it was Haga by .2 of a second over Yamaha’s Ben Spies, with Haga ending up second while Spies was dropped to seventh after leading early on. Haga’s best was a 1:44.934 to Spies’ best of 1:45.118.Spies started strong and was at the top of the session with his 1:45.188, but he didn’t improve and would watch as he dropped to an eventual seventh – five spots behind Haga.But it was Guandalini Ducati’s Smrz who ended up at the top of the heap, though he was only a tenth of a second faster than Haga. It was close all the way down with the top 15 within a second of Smrz.Third fastest today went to Alstare Suzuki’s Yukio Kagayama in his final ride for the team as he’s moving back to the British Superbike Championship in 2010. Behind him came another rider who is out of work with Broc Parkes riding the Kawasaki to fourth, even though he knows he’s already been replaced for next year.Brit Leon Haslam was next, the best of the Hondas in fifth in what will be his final ride with the Stiggy team as he’s set to move to the Suzuki team in 2010. Next up was Carlos Checa on the first of the Hannspree Ten Kate Hondas, with the Spaniard just .017 of a second ahead of Spies.Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio and Checa’s teammate Jonathan Rea were eighth and ninth with Fonsi Nieto rounding out the top 10 on the opening day in Portimao.

Free Practice

1.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:44.855

2.                  Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:44.934

3.                  Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1:44.976

4.                  Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) 1:45.006

5.                  Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:45.078

6.                  Carlos Checa (Honda) 1:45.101

7.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:45.118

8.                  Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:45.165

9.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:45.198

10.                  Fonsi Nieto (Ducati) 1:45.400