So far this year, the World Superbike races have followed an almost clockwork pattern: If Noriyuki Haga doesn't win the race, then the man chosen as Troy Bayliss' heir apparent at Xerox Ducati comes second to Ben Spies. And if the Yamaha Motor Italia rider doesn't win, then he either comes second to Haga or is involved in some bizarre incident which sees the American crash out or finish out of the points. With Haga and Spies having dominated the races so completely so far this year, the World Superbike paddock arrived at Monza expecting little to change.
Haga's team mate Michel Fabrizio had other ideas, though. The Italian was quickest in every session of practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday and was clearly the man to beat. Only another masterful qualifying performance during Superpole saw Ben Spies take his 5th pole in a row, a feat never before equaled in any form of motorcycle racing. With Haga only qualifying on the second row, the Japanese/American stranglehold on race wins looked like being broken for the first time at Monza.
Monza's notorious first chicane wreaked havoc at the start of the first Superbike race. Someone, most probably Makoto Tamada, clipped the back of Brendan Roberts' Guandalini Ducati as the bikes braked for the chicane, pushing the Australian off track and onto the grass, which flung him off the bike. His bike then slid onto the track and into the Suzuki of Max Neukirchner, breaking the German's femur and dislocating his foot, and putting the likable Neukirchner out of action for at least four weeks. Elsewhere in the mayhem, Troy Corser and Tommy Hill came together, flipping both Hill's Honda and Corser's BMW up in the air, causing Hill's CBR1000RR to catch fire.
World Superbikes Monza race 2 result and recap:
Ben Spies took a comfortable victory in the second World Superbike race at Monza, despite hitting birds going through the woods. The Texan went into the first corner in 2nd place, behind Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese Ducati rider hit a flock of pigeons exiting the Curva Grande, which held him up and left him finish the first lap down in 15th, only to crash out on the third lap at high speed through the Parabolica.
The first corner mayhem at Monza has proven very expensive for the talented young German, Max Neukirchner. Neukirchner entered the first chicane in 3rd place, but a pile up behind him meant that Brendan Roberts' bike slid across the track and slammed into the side of the German's Suzuki. Worse news was to follow, for after examination in the Clinica Mobile, Neukirchner was found to have a twisted ankle and a broken femur.
Neukirchner is likely to undergo surgery this afternoon to remedy the situation, but despite the rapid treatment, the German is likely to be out until the Misano round on June 21st, six weeks from today, and forced to miss the races at Kyalami in South Africa, and Miller in Utah, USA.
Makoto Tamada and Brendan Roberts were also injured in the crash. Tamada fractured a hand, and will miss next week's race in Kyalami. The extent of Roberts' injuries are as yet unknown, GPOne.com is reporting a suspected fractured leg, but no official word has been released. A leg fracture would be a major setback for the reigning 1000cc Superstock champion, as rumors have been swirling around the paddock that Lorenzo Lanzi could replace Roberts on the Guandalini Ducati.
Bikesportnews.com is reporting that Roberts is only badly battered and bruised. The Australian did not take part in either the restart of race 1 or the delayed race 2, but with only bruising to deal with, Roberts may be able to race at Kyalami next weekend.
Result of World Superbikes race 1 at Monza:
Max Neukirchner was fastest in Superpole 1, finishing ahead of Ben Spies and Michel Fabrizio. Leon Haslam was the surprise loser, being ruled out of Superpole early, despite having been on the podium in Assen.
Riders out: Leon Haslam, Luca Scassa, Karl Muggeridge and Jakub Smrz.
Xerox Ducati's Michel Fabrizio made it four sessions out of four during the second free practice session. Ben Spies stood atop the timesheets for most of the session, looking like he might finally break Fabrizio's hegemony, but the Italian put in a flying lap with just a couple of minutes to go to reaffirm his authority. Spies ended the session in 2nd spot, ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari and Noriyuki Haga.
Results of World Superbikes FP2 session at Monza:
Michel Fabrizio continued his reign of terror at Monza, the Italian setting out his intentions in no uncertain manner. The Ducati man has topped all three sessions so far, and there are few challengers to stop him. The morning qualifying saw Max Neukirchner finish 2nd fastest, ahead of Johnny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda, Rea finally looking like a contender again.
Michel Fabrizio was once again fastest during the first official qualifying practice at Monza this afternoon. But unlike in free practice earlier today, Fabrizio's hegemony went completely unchallenged. Fabrizio was up to half a second faster than his nearest rivals for most of the session, only surrendering a couple of tenths towards the end. Fabrizio is in sparkling form at Monza, and with an advantage of over 0.3 seconds over the 2nd place man, is very much the rider to beat at Monza.
Xerox Ducati team mate Noriyuki Haga was the nearest rider until the final few minutes, when British Yamaha rider Tom Sykes jumped in to take second place. Sykes has been in the shadow of his team mate so far this season, but the cheery Brit took a big step out forward at Monza, consistently near the top of the timesheets. Sykes' fast lap pushed Haga down into 3rd, just 3/100ths off Sykes' time.
The Hondas had been mostly invisible throughout qualifying, until Johnny Rea put in a fast lap in the dying seconds of the session to take 4th place. Rea's position was at the expense of the two Suzukis, Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama forced down to 5th and 6th, though both the German and the Japanese rider had been fast earlier in the session.
Ben Spies finished uncharacteristically far down the field, only managing to set the 7th fastest time on his Yamaha Motor Italia YZF-R1. But given the tiny difference between 4th and 9th, Spies could have been further forward or further back if he had been just a couple of hundredths faster or slower. Spies did finish ahead of Max Biaggi, which will have disappointed the Italian veteran. Leon Haslam, the man who has been the fastest Honda rider so far this year, could only manage the 12th quickest time, while the privateer Ducatis are pretty far down the field, Shane Byrne the first of them in 10th, and Jakub Smrz just managing 13th.
Michel Fabrizio finished top of the timesheets in the first session of Free Practice at Monza for the World Superbike class. Fabrizio and Ben Spies swapped places for the lead throughout the session, both men much faster than the rest for most of practice, but Fabrizio pulled a gap that proved to be unbridgable with 8 minutes of the session left.