Noriyuki Haga

WSBK: Magny Cours Notes -- Eye of the Tiger

Motorcycle racers, journalists and fans tend to talk about the sport in terms of a physical struggle. Riders and teams are always fighting or battling for the lead, championship or what have you. To be sure, there are parallells between the sweet science and racing; fighters and racers both spend endless hours training to be in top condition and both have to ply their trade hurting as often as not. Strategy is important too, as the combatants look to defend their position or deliver a knock-out blow that will defeat their opponent.  The two men that are left in the ring in the 2009 World Superbike series championship, Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga, came into the next to last round at Magny Cours, nearly too close to call on points, each looking for the advantage that would KO their rival or serve to let them live to fight another day.

Race 1: Don't Look Back, Something Might be Gaining on You

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WSBK: Magny Cours Superpole Notes - Just Another Day at the Office

It's been an awfully busy week for Ben Spies. If one admires anything about the young Texan other than his blinding speed, it's the the forthright, no worries way he goes about conducting his business.  One imagines that he has a list of tasks to be accomplished and then checked off when done, rather like shopping for groceries or some such other mundane task. This week those tasks have included fielding enquiries from hundreds of journalists,  finally being able to talk about his appointment to the Tech Trois Yamaha MotoGP team and making sure that his travel plans to Valencia are changed to a few days earlier than anticipated so that he can participate as a wild card in the season-ending MotoGP race. On top of that extracurricular stuff, Spies still has his day job to do, which this weekend involves qualifying well, winning two Superbike races in France and regaining his lead in the World Superbike championship.

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Haga And Fabrizio Retained At Ducati WSBK Team

The contrast between the factory Ducati seats in World Superbikes and MotoGP could hardly be greater. In MotoGP, Livio Suppo has been offering all of the top riders multimillion euro sums to come and ride the Desmosedici, and has been turned down by everyone that counts. In World Superbikes, by contrast, the line at Davide Tardozzi's door stretches a couple of times around the block with riders keen to have a go on what remains the best-run team and arguably the most competitive bike on the grid.

Despite having his pick of the cream of the current World Superbike crop, as well as a selection of outstanding MotoGP refugees, Ducati have today announced that they will be staying with what they know. Ducati issued a press release stating that current riders Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio have both signed new 1-year deals to stay at the factory Xerox Ducati squad for the 2010 season. Haga was brought in with the specific goal of winning the World Superbike championship this season, an objective he probably would have achieved with ease if it had not been for a pesky Texan on a Yamaha, and will be given another chance to take the WSBK crown in 2010. Team mate Fabrizio hung on to his seat by the skin of his teeth at the end of last year, but this season has finally started to realize the potential he had previously shown in flashes, winning his first race and running a relatively close 3rd in the championship. The title will remain a clear objective for both men in 2010, and Haga has still not given up on the 2009 championship.

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Haga Has Broken Arm Plated, Likely To Race At Brno

Noriyuki Haga seems to have had a lucky escape at Donington, after his huge crash at Coppice Corner saw him being slammed multiple times by his tumbling Ducati 1198F09. The cracked vertebrae he was suspected of suffering turned out to have been older injuries which had already healed, and scans in the local hospital in Derby revealed just a broken arm and a fractured shoulder blade. The Japanese star had surgery today to fix his arm, and looks set to rejoin the series at Brno to defend his championship lead against Ben Spies. The silver lining to Haga's crash is the four-week break between the Donington round and Brno, which should allow his injuries to heal sufficiently for Haga to race well enough to limit any points damage to Spies in the Czech Republic.

The details of Haga's surgery and expected recovery were released in a press release from Ducati, which follows:

At 5pm this afternoon Ducati Xerox rider Noriyuki Haga underwent successful surgery at the Derby City Hospital. Having fractured the ulna in his right arm in yesterday's crash at Donington Park, Noriyuki today had a plate and screws inserted to set the bone. The surgical team deemed the surgery a success and there were no unforeseen complications.

Prior to the operation, medical staff took a closer look at his right shoulder blade and an x-ray unfortunately confirmed that he has multiple fractures to his left scapula. The scapula will not necessitate surgical intervention and the bone should knit itself back together in time; this complication should not prolong Noriyuki’s recovery time. The Japanese rider should be discharged from hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) and he and his family will fly back to Italy so that Noriyuki can begin the necessary physiotherapy treatment.

The Ducati Xerox rider will not participate in the next tests at Imola but it is foreseen that he will compete in the next round at Brno.

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Haga Narrowly Escapes Fractured Vertebra At Donington

So far this year, Noriyuki Haga has been praised for his consistency, finishing every race but one until Donington, his one DNF so far down to a bird strike rather than rider error. But in the UK, his run of consistency came to an unfortunate end. Haga scored good points in race 1, unable to match the pace of Ben Spies and Max Biaggi, but in race 2, Haga was not so lucky. The Japanese Xerox Ducati rider crashed out in race 2, falling at Coppice in a crash which was all too reminiscent of Troy Bayliss' horrific crash there two years before. But Haga's crash was even worse than Bayliss', as Haga's Xerox Ducati tumbled through the gravel with him, landing on top of him at least once before coming to a standstill.

After the incident, Haga was seen walking away, and was thought to have come away relatively unharmed, though clearly very beaten up. Sadly, this was not to be the case: Examination at the trackside medical revealed a suspected fractured vertebrae, and Haga was immediately airlifted to a nearby hospital in Derby. At the hospital, Haga was stabilized and had fluid drained from around the injury as a preventative measure. Initial reports indicated that the Japanese rider had indeed suffered a fractured vertebra, and would be out for at least 2 to 3 months.

A CAT scan later revealed more promising results. The scan did not find any indication of recent fractured vertebrae, meaning that the worst of the danger has probably passed for Haga. However, the scan confirmed the results of earlier examinations, which showed that Haga had fractured his left shoulder blade and broken his right ulna, one of the two long bones in the forearm. Haga is due to have surgery to fix the broken arm, while the fractured shoulder blade is still being examined at the time of writing (10pm CET, Sunday 28th June).

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Haga Suffers Big Crash at End of First Superbike Session

 Noriyuki Haga's crash at Miller during qualifying

 

As Saturday's first Superbike session came to a close, Noriuki Haga crashed heavily in turn 11. As the huge cloud of dust cleared, Haga lay motionless while track marshals rushed to his aid, placing a medical safety barrier in front of the prone rider. It took several minutes for Haga to rise and enter the ambulance. Fifteen minutes later, a WSBK official announced in the Media Center here at Miller Motorsports Park that Haga had suffered some bruises, but had returned to his garage. He has approximately two hours to recover before the pre-Superpole practice session.

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Friday Images from WSBK at Miller Motorsports Park

Friday started out sunny and clear, but by the end of the day we had huge clouds and even some lightning in the distance. Fortunately, no rain arrived before the final session, but there is a chance of thundershowers tomorrow. Miller is set in a valley surrounded by mountains, and even in late May some snow remains on the highest spots. As the clouds gathered in the distance, the setting grew more and more spectacular.

 

 

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Videos Of The Final Laps From Three Thrilling Races At Assen

Infront Motor Sports, the company that runs the World Superbike series, does an outstanding job for the most part of making the races it organizes available online for fans who haven't been able to see the races on TV. Not only do they stream the races live on the internet (though tragically, not to all territories in the world), they also have a Youtube channel where you can find highlights from the recent races.

And the highlights from Assen are worth watching again. Three of the five races of the day were decided on the very last lap, Assen's infamous GT chicane determining the outcome of two of them, so here's the last lap from World Superbike race one, the World Supersport race and the European Superstock 600 race. Enjoy!

Ben Spies' courageous last lap dive up the inside of Noriyuki Haga at the horribly fast  Hoge Heide corner:

Eugene Laverty's perfect last corner lunge past Joan Lascorz into the GT chicane:

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Assen Gets A Street Circuit Back - Solex Style!

As a rule, the official pre-race media events on both World Superbike and MotoGP tend to be rather bloodless, even dull affairs. A select group of big name riders participate in a local tradition in a picturesque setting, as a tribute to the culture of the country the series is visiting, and to help publicize the race. In Valencia the riders helped cook a giant Paella dish, and in Qatar, they rode camels. 

Normally, when visiting Assen, the organizers would try to do something typically Dutch and eminently forgettable, such as visit a wooden shoe factory or a windmill, or go and watch cheese being produced. Fortunately, this year the organizers of the World Superbike round at Assen came up with something a little less obvious, and far more entertaining: They organized a Solex race through the streets of the city of Assen. The Solex - a type of moped with a small petrol engine mounted directly over the front wheel, which it drives using a rubber wheel - has a cult following in Holland, after becoming vehicle of choice for Holland's first '60s youth cult, the Nozems. So the bikes are still hugely popular, and a surprisingly common site on the streets and cycle paths of Dutch cities.

The atmosphere of the Solex race was heightened by dressing the riders - Noriyuki Haga, Ben Spies, Johnny Rea and local Supersport men Barry Veneman and Arie Vos - in 1960s helmets and full-length leather overcoats. And luckily for us, the Dutch motorcycling blog Oliepeil was there to capture the whole occasion on film:

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2009 World Superbike Test, Monza, Day 2 - Spies Strikes Back

Times from the second day of the World Superbike test at Monza: 

Pos Rider Bike Time
1 Ben Spies Yamaha 1'45.3
2 Noriyuki Haga Ducati 1'45.5
3 Michel Fabrizio Ducati 1'45.6
4 Max Neukirchner Suzuki 1'45.8
5 Tom Sykes Yamaha 1'45.8
6 Karl Muggeridge Suzuki 1'46.0
7 Yukio Kagayama Suzuki 1'46.3
8 Ruben Xaus BMW 1'46.8
9 Troy Corser BMW 1'47.1

 

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