World Superbike Insider – Sunday

May 31, 2009
Steve Atlas
Steve Atlas
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Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas is the new blood at MotoUSA. Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

Ben Spies made the American crowd proud today in Utah.

There’s no doubt in my mind that someone at Suzuki is really kicking themselves now. What a mistake it was to lose Ben Spies. The talented young Texan once again proved Suzuki’s loss is Yamaha’s gain, and did so in a big way. He took Superpole, led every lap, set the new lap record and won both races today at Miller Motorsports Park just outside Salt Lake City, Utah.

This marked his sixth and seventh wins of the season, as well as his seventh-straight pole and second double-win weekend in his rookie year. While most knew he was talented and would do well, it’s doubtful most thought he would do this well. Especially considering this was the first track all season he has previously raced at. Just wait until next year when he’s seen them all…

But while it looked easy today, we caught up with the double-winner at the end of the day  and he said it was anything but.

“Michel Fabrizio was right there, not far back the whole race (two),” said Spies. “I knew he was going to be strong, but he was even better than I anticipated. I had to push the entire way so hats off to him. We had another gear we could have pulled out there at the end if needed but by no means was it easy. I actually got lucky there at the end when his tire went off cause I really didn’t want to go there unless I had to.”

Haga had a tough weekend in Salt Lake City  which is exactly what Spies needed to chip away at his Championship lead.
Haga had a tough weekend in Salt Lake City.

On the other end of the spectrum was Haga, who toughed out the pain of a massive highside yesterday, one which put his back in knots, to finish down the order with a ninth in race one and eighth in race two. Still quite impressive finishes considering we saw the Japanese rider getting suiting up and his upper back looked like it had been run over by a dump truck. No doubt he rode through massive amounts of pain.

As such, Spies took a sizable chuck out of Haga’s massive pre-existing 88-point championship lead to cut it down to 53, as well as moved back in front of Fabrizio for second spot in the championship. And while 53 points is a lot, there’s still half a season left to go. Can the soft-spoken Texan come back and win the title in his rookie season? If he does it will be the biggest points’ deficit made back up in World Superbike history.

As for the rest of the American clan, Hacking had a great showing in the first race, although the red flag on lap 6 did hurt the Hacker. He had worked his way up to fourth after a great start and looked on pace for a possible podium, but a less-than-perfect start after the red flag saw him further back and having to claw his way through the field. At one point the always-aggressive Hacking collided with his own teammate for the weekend Broc Parkes, not making any friends en route to an impressive seventh-place finish. Parkes would retire shortly after from a broken shifter…

Race two then saw Hacking and his teammate Parkes both have trouble off the line, coming across the stripe for the first time at the very back of the field. Once again Hacking was on a terror, muscling his way through the field, though he collided again with another Kawasaki, this one piloted by privateer Italian Luca Scassa. Both riders ran off track and Scassa crashed heavily, with Hacking keeping it on two wheels. He would then run off again later in the race en route to finishing 19th.

Michael Jordan was in Utah to root for Spies and check out WSBK.
Michael Jordan was in Utah to root for Spies and check out WSBK.

The third and final American in the field, Jake Zemke, struggled to get to grips with the Stiggy Motorsports Honda CBR1000RR. Some said gearing issues plagued the team throughout the weekend, with the best finish Zemke could muster being a 15th in race two.

On a side note, there has been a lot of speculation floating around the paddock as to where Spies would be racing next year considering his amazing start to his rookie World Superbike season and the fact he only has a 1-year deal with Yamaha.

“I’m thinking about being a magazine writer,” he joked, “that sounds fun.”

In all seriousness he’s staying pretty tight lipped about it, though he has said they have begun talking to Yamaha that he’s quite happy with the brand and that his first choice, be it in MotoGP or World Superbike, would be to stay with Yamaha. Like I said, Suzuki’s loss has quickly become Yamaha’s gain.

The BMW team had a weekend to forget. While it was big news that the U.S. market got to see the S1000RR in the flesh for the first time, on track the boys from Munich didn’t fair very well. After qualifying 21st and 22nd, there wasn’t much they could do considering the current depth of the field.

“It’s just too tough when you start that far back,” said Corser, when we caught up with him between races. “We went better in that race than we did all practice, but it’s still not on the pace needed, especially if you are starting at the back of the grid.”

Attendance at Miller was lackluster at best.
Attendance was lackluster at best.

15th in race one was as good as the German team could muster at the hands of Corser, as they visibly struggled to get the massive power of the BMW-built engine to the ground. But as they say, it’s better to have too much power than not enough. Now they just need to learn to harness it and they should be a consistent contender.

To wrap things up, we must say, the crowd was pretty thin. Maybe it’s MMP’s fairly secluded location or maybe it’s the economy, either way it wasn’t impressive at all. They claim a weekend total of 47,000-plus, but from my point of view it didn’t look like much more than 10,000 or so today tops, and far less on Friday and Saturday, so I’m not quite sure where their numbers are coming from. It’s a shame too, as this could be the best racing series in the world right now and an American is running at the front week-in and week-out. Good thing SBK and Miller have agreed to extending the track’s participation in the championship through the 2013 season…