World Superbike Portimao Saturday Insider

October 24, 2009
By Peter Thomas
Spies Ready to Fight After Record-Breaking 11th pole – Looking for Fairytale Ending

Ben Spies is in perfect shape to get the double win he so desperately wants to become WSB champion with another emphatic qualifying performance. The factory Yamaha man made history to take his 11th pole of the season and declared himself ready to race in what promises to be an intriguing battle for supremacy tomorrow.

Ben Spies wins his eleventh superpole start for the final round at World Superbike.
Winning his 11th pole during the final round of World Superbike puts Sterilgarda Yamaha‘s Ben Spies that much closer to the championship title.

“I’ve got a tire picked out and we’ve done some long runs and I’m comfortable when it goes off. I’ve had ups and downs this year so tomorrow I need to keep my nose clean and get down to business. I need to be fast every lap and try and stay out of trouble,” Spies said.

With title rival Noriyuki Haga qualifying down in tenth place, Spies has a clear advantage, but having seen Haga win races from the fourth row in 2009 knows that he can take nothing for granted.

“Nori is Nori so he’s going to turn the switch on in the races. It’s going to be tough but I’m going to give it some gas and see what we can do.”

With just one day remaining of his year in WSB before switching to MotoGP in 2010, Spies is hoping for a fairytale ending to his incredible rookie season.

With two races and 50 points available, the 25-year-old Texan trails season-long rival Haga by just ten points.

During the year Spies has endured more than his share of bad luck with crashes, mechanical failures and even running out of fuel on the final lap at Monza. Despite the setbacks he has a very real chance of winning the title at a track he loves.

He said: “Everything up until this point doesn’t matter anymore; it’s all down to who can get it done on Sunday. Nori can walk away with both races and the title and so can I and that’s what makes it fun.”

“It’s our first year so I shouldn’t even be fighting for it and with the problems we’ve had I shouldn’t be in this position. It’s either going to be a Cinderella story where we become world champion or just a case of us doing a lot of pretty good things during the year, but with no title.”

Despite remaining confident that he can beat Haga around Portimao in a straight fight, Spies knows that there can only be one winner come the end of the weekend.

“It’s going to be hard for either one of us come Sunday after the races, but there will be no hard feelings. There is nobody else that I’d rather see win the title other than me. We get along fine, but on Sunday I’m pretty sure the two of us are going to going ballistic, we won’t be giving each other an inch. We’ll just have to see what happens and who can stay up on two wheels for those two races,” Spies added.

Haga Unfazed by Third-Row Start, Philosophical About Title Chances

Noriyuki Haga maintains that he isn’t worried about tomorrow’s WSB showdown despite qualifying in tenth-place and starting on the third row of the grid. Haga spent the final free practice session and subsequent Superpole sessions struggling to get his 1198 to turn, a problem that didn’t improve when

Noriyuki Haga  41  is the current leader on the 2009 World Superbike season.
Noriyuki Haga is still confident about his chances of taking the wins aboard his Xerox Ducati machine.

he fitted a qualifying tire.

“Of course it is a disadvantage to be on the third row of the grid but I’ve won races from that position in the past and I know that anything can happen on race day. The problem is that all day today I’ve had trouble turning and, at the same time, I’m not happy with the level of rear grip,” Haga said.

The experienced Xerox Ducati team, headed by WSB project leader Ernesto Marinelli, have been in this position before with Haga in 2009 and Troy Bayliss before that. Time and time again the experienced team have made key changes to the bike in time for Sunday’s races and they will need to deliver again to have a chance of race and championship glory on Sunday.

A philosophical Haga added: “We will start the races tomorrow with a ten point lead, which is almost zero. It is important that I finish in front of Ben because otherwise I will not win the championship. Now there are no tactics – just go. I know either way I will finish in first or second in the championship, but there is a big difference between them. Everyone is saying to me that I have to win the title but they are not out there racing. I am on the bike – not them. I want the title, but I can not control the situation. I have to push 100% and if I can not win then maybe this is down to luck.”

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Max Biaggi survived a monster high-side exciting the final fourth-gear corner onboard his factory Aprilia RSV4. Biaggi was able to walk back to the garage, but had to complete the remainder of the session on his less-favored number two bike. He finished the day in sixth spot.

Sterilgarda Ducati man Shane Byrne secured his best qualifying performance of the year in second place ahead of factory Ducati man Michel Fabrizio in third and fellow Brit Jonathan Rea in fourth.

Eugene Laverty and Miguel Praia gave the Portuguese fans something to cheer about by qualifying the circuit-sponsored Parkalgar Honda’s in first and seventh position in World Supersport Qualifying. Laverty was in dominant form around the team home track and still has a mathematical chance of being crowned world champion. He sits 19 points behind factory Yamaha man Cal Crutchlow who qualified in second place on the grid. 

Shane Byrne at Portimao during the final round of World Superbike.
Sterilgarda Ducati pilot Shane Byrne will get his shot at a win from a second-place start on the grid.

World Superbike Superpole Qualifying:
1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’42.412
2. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1’42.996
3. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1’43.015
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’43.126
5. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1’43.523
6. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1’43.526
7. Fonsi Nieto (Ducati) 1’43.553
8. Troy Corser (BMW) 1’44.719
9. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1’43.240
10. Norikyuki Haga (Ducati) 1’43.377
11. Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki) 1’43.406
12. Carlos Checa (Honda) 1’43.461
13. Leon Camier (Aprilia) 1’43.671
14. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1’43.717
15. Makoto Tamada (Kawasaki) 1’44.050

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