Noriyuki Haga and Ben Spies look like making the battle for the 2009 World Superbike Championship a two-man shootout after both edged away from rivals in today’s two races in Qatar.
Haga holds onto the lead with 85 points after having to accept two second places on his Ducati Xerox. But Spies has closed the gap to just ten points after his two victories on the Yamaha R1.
The 33-year-old Haga visibly looked dejected as he climbed from his bike at the end of a hot day’s work in the desert, and said later: “Ben is ten years younger than me, and that’s why I lose.”
It was difficult to know whether the Japanese rider was joking or being serious, but it must be irksome to Haga to know that he abandoned the Yamaha ride just before their devastating new R1 engine arrived, and when the factory appears to have solved its previous tyre wear problems.
“In the first race we lacked a bit of acceleration, but I put my head down in race two and tried to close up and keep the same rhythm going,”
Spies said. “I just put my head down for ten fast laps and was able to open up a gap.”
Max Neukirchner holds third place in the championship table on his Alstare Suzuki with 40 points, but Max Biaggi is now close behind him with 38 points on the Aprilia, and Britons Leon Haslam and Tom Sykes hold fifth and sixth places.