Ben Spies will begin his MotoGP career with four consecutive Superbike titles, three in the AMA and now WSBK.
Ben Spies defied the odds to become World Superbike champion at his first attempt with a win and fifth place to take the crown from Noriyuki Haga. At the end of the 14-round, 28-race series, Spies won out by six points and made it a day Yamaha will never forget after being joined by Cal Crutchlow in World Supersport and Valentino Rossi in MotoGP as world champions.
“I feel like a 50-pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It’s been a great year and a year of firsts. It’s my first year in the series and to win Yamaha’s first title is huge. I’ve come from an 88-point deficit but we just kept plugging away and it’s been the same for Yamaha – we never gave up. There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes that people haven’t seen.
“It actually hurts my head when I think about all the race wins, the pole positions and winning the championship. The team has worked with me hard the whole year – I’ve pushed them and they’ve pushed me. At times I probably wasn’t the nicest guy to be around, but I had goals and we achieved them. It’s been a hell of a weekend, we’ve done everything we needed to and I think I might have a couple of drinks tonight to celebrate,” Spies said.
“In the first race Nori unfortunately had an accident and that gave me control in the second race. I didn’t have a problem and I think I actually had the pace to fight for and maybe win the race, but I didn’t need to. I watched my pit board, I knew what I had to do and brought it home. At one point I was dicing with Biaggi and he kept coming up the inside of me and then running wide. I was there saying to myself ‘dude don’t you know I’m trying to win a world title!”
Luckless Haga Second Again
Noriyuki Haga was forced to be the WSB bridesmaid once again after being beaten by Spies in the final round showdown. It was the third time in his illustrious career that the Japanese star has finished runner-up and it all went wrong from first practice on Friday when the Xerox Ducati man was unable to get his 1198 to turn.
“We couldn’t find a good tire this weekend so it was difficult to get the right suspension setting. Normally we have a good feeling with this bike at every track. This morning the temperature was up and we decided to use a harder front and rear tire. From the start of the rear tire didn’t work so I could not control the bike even under braking. I new that there was a chance I could crash and I did,” Haga said.
In Race 2, Nitro Nori did manage to get his bike working but it was too little, too late, and with Spies in such dominant form, any hopes of being crowned champion had long disappeared. “I changed to my second bike for Race 2. I had the same setting just new tires and I finished second. This weekend I never had a good rear tire until Race Two and then it was possible for me to get a good result. It’s disappointing but race is race. I will be back next year to fight for the title.”
Byrne Proves Real Pace
Shane Byrne claimed two impressive fourth-place finishes at Portimao despite being on exactly the same spec Ducati as he first tested one year ago. Byrne led Race 2 and looked set for a podium finish until he was overhauled by a resurgent Noriyuki Haga.
“That was my absolute maximum; I can’t do any more than that. I hung on in there for a long time, well as long as I could. Rea passed me a couple of times but he made a few mistakes so I was able to get back. He got me on the straight and I didn’t have an answer to that. I was trying to make up all my time under braking and eight times out of ten I could, but those two times cost me 1/10th and that was enough to lose the tow,” Byrne said.