American Ben Spies didn’t get a great start into race 2, edged out by a barnstorming Max Biaggi into turn one. Steaming into the long, looping left hander at Phillip Island’s turn 2, he must have been thinking about the disaster that happened to him here in the first race, getting pushed out wide and off the track. But if we expected Spies to go easy and find a rhythm before attacking, we were looking at the wrong guy. Nobody goes around the outside at turn 2, especially not around a rider like Max Biaggi - nobody but Spies. He went the long way around the Roman Emperor and made it stick.
Biaggi might have been maintaining an impressive pace to hold second through lap 2, but race 1 winner and last year’s runner-up Noriyuki Haga was on a furious charge to the front. Nori had no luck in qualifying, but loves a race day - and by the end of lap 2 he’d dispatched no less than 10 riders to get behind Biaggi. Haga took less than a single lap to barge past Max Biaggi to set up the race we’ve been dying to watch - a high-speed mano a mano with rookie Spies.
The pair delivered. Biaggi losing ground in third place, Haga and spies spent the next ten-odd laps at each others’ throats. Haga bombed into the lead at the end of Gardner straight, Spies hugged his fender and responded in kind a few laps later. Haga made a daring pass around the outside into the Hayshed, Spies grabbed the lead back with a death-or-glory late braking move into turn one with just three laps to go.
From there, Spies pulled a gap and clinched his maiden World Superbike win, in his first international race, at a track he’s never ridden before, on a new Yamaha R1, with a new team, cementing our expectations that he’ll be a very tough contender this year. Haga’s second place ensured that he’d come out of round one with a tasty points lead in the championship, and showed that he can ride a twin just as aggressively as his old inline fours.
The battle for third went right down to the wire, with Max Biaggi, Regis Laconi, Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio covered by less than a second going into the last lap. The lead changed hands like a juggler’s balls until the pack came screaming into the penultimate turn. Max Biaggi saw a chance to grab a place from Laconi, but Laconi was lining up Michel Fabrizio’s Ducati on the same corner. When Laconi dived in for the pass, Biaggi was left with nowhere to go, and speared off into the grass to the delight of many Aussie spectators, who love to hate him. He rejoined in time to take 15th place.
Leon Haslam reaped the benefits of the carnage behind him to clinch third place and his first World Superbike podium in what is also his debut weekend.
The Alstare Suzukis of Neukirchner and Kagayama that took second and third in race one were well off the pace in the second race, finishing 6th and 8th. Also suffering in race 2 were BMW’s Troy Corser in 22nd, and Sterilgarda Ducati’s Shakey Byrne, who slid off his 1098R at low speed in the turn 4 hairpin and was unable to rejoin.
We’ve had a ball covering this event from Phillip Island and will be looking forward to the rest of the season.
Official race results: 2009 World Superbikes Round 1 race 2, Phillip Island, Australia.
1 19 Spies B. (USA) Yamaha YZF R1 34′20.457 (170,857 kph)
2 41 Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 1.286
3 91 Haslam L. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 4.213
4 55 Laconi R. (FRA) Ducati 1098 RS 09 4.490
5 84 Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 6.045
6 76 Neukirchner M. (GER) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 9.947
7 96 Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 10.174
8 71 Kagayama Y. (JPN) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 12.100
9 65 Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 12.742
10 66 Sykes T. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 20.061
11 111 Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 24.854
12 56 Nakano S. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 25.192
13 7 Checa C. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 27.162
14 33 Hill T. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 29.737
15 3 Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 30.036
16 44 Rolfo R. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 38.458
17 100 Tamada M. (JPN) Kawasaki ZX 10R 44.453
18 23 Parkes B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX 10R 45.486
19 24 Roberts B. (AUS) Ducati 1098R 46.198
20 99 Scassa L. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX 10R 57.921
21 31 Muggeridge K. (AUS) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 57.989
22 11 Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1′00.093
23 9 Kiyonari R. (JPN) Honda CBR1000RR 1′07.820
24 15 Baiocco M. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1′21.224
25 25 Salom D. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1′21.276
RET 67 Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R
RET 77 Iannuzzo V. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR