Oz Racers around the World – March 2009


World Superbikes, Phillip Island

Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) took his 1098R to the win in his first race for the factory Ducati squad in the opening round of the Hannspree FIM Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island, Australia. The Japanese rider got the better of German Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) on the final lap to score his 34th win. The second race saw a sensational maiden triumph for WSB rookie Ben Spies from Texas, who took his Yamaha R1 to the win over Haga. The Australian Round of the championship was watched by a record 69,300 spectators, 6% up on last year's figure.


Race 1: The first race, declared ‘wet', was held on a totally dry track, and all riders opted for slicks but a few drops of rain did fall in the final stages. The potential of the K9 Suzuki GSX-R was confirmed with third place for Yukio Kagayama, who finished ahead of Michel Fabrizio on the second Ducati Xerox machine. Spies, who started from pole, ended up on the gravel at the second turn, but returned to the track to finish just outside the points in sixteenth. Max Biaggi, second on the grid with the brand-new Aprilia RSV4 machine, finished in eleventh place.


The other rookie manufacturer BMW, also had a positive debut after Troy Corser recovered from the fifth row to finish eighth, the Australian setting fastest lap of the race.


Race 2: The second encounter was all about Haga vs Spies as the Yamaha rider unleashed the R1's potential. The duel went on until a few laps from the end when the Texan pulled out a slight advantage and powered to the flag. The runner-up slot put Haga, who turns 34 tomorrow, into the lead of the championship on 45 points.


Britain's Leon Haslam (Honda) had a great race for the final podium place, beating the two Ducatis of Règis Laconi and Fabrizio to the line. The group also included Biaggi, who ran third for much of the race; on the final lap however the Italian slid off into the gravel, recovering to finish fifteenth. However Aprilia, on their return to SBK after six years, are already looking a competitive force.


Points (after 1 round of 14): 1. Haga (Ducati) 45; 2. Neukirchner (Suzuki) 30; 3. Haslam (Honda) 26; 4. Spies (Yamaha) 25; 5. Kagayama (Suzuki) 24; 6. Fabrizio (Ducati) 24; 7. Laconi (Ducati) 22; 8. Rea (Honda) 18; 9. Smrz (Ducati) 16; 10 Sykes (Yamaha) 12.


Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 45; 2. Yamaha 31; 3. Suzuki 30; 4. Honda 27; 5. Bmw 13; 6. Aprilia 9.


World Supersport

Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) won a superb opening World Supersport race in a three-way sprint to the line. The Turk, 2007 champion in the category, took the flag ahead of Australian riders Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda). Honda, winners of the mid-range Supersport category for the last seven years, begin the new season with four CBR-RR machines in the top 4 places, with fourth going to Eugene Laverty of Ireland.


For 24 year-old Sofuoglu, the win is his eleventh in the series, while Honda celebrates their 63rd  win out of 117 Supersport races. The Yamahas, which looked good in qualifying, finished fifth in the hands of Cal Crutchlow and seventh with Fabien Foret, who raced with a partially dislocated right shoulder following his crash on Saturday. Spain's Joan Lascorz made his debut for Kawasaki with an encouraging seventh place. The new Triumph 675 also had a positive start, with Gianluca Nannelli finishing tenth and Garry McCoy fourteenth.