Monday, May 17

HASLAM STRETCHES LEAD AT KYALAMI

By MICHAEL ESDAILE

ALSTARE Suzuki's Leon Haslam showed tremendous maturity in the face of incredible pressure in round six of the 2010 HANNspreee Superbike World Championship at South Africa's Kyalami Raceway on May 16 to gain a buffer over Alitalia Aprilia's Max Biaggi at the top of the points table.

Haslam scored 3-1 placings in the two 24 lap, 101 km races compared with Biaggi's 4-3 results, thus ending the weekend stretching his championship lead back out to 15 points. The Englishman had gone to South Africa just three points ahead of Biaggi after the Italian streaked to two emphatic wins at Italy's Monza circuit the previous weekend, on the fastest bike in the Superbike field. Biaggi's Monza double and Haslam's 4-2 results at the high speed Italian circuit had seen the Suzuki rider's 20 point lead in the title chase slashed dramatically.

At Kyalami, the Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000 was not the fastest bike, but in Haslam's more than capable hands, it proved a winner when the chips were down in race two.

The first race was dominated by factory Ducati rider Michel Fabrizio, who bounded into the lead from the start, set a devastating opening lap time to establish a handy break on the field, then controlled it from the front all the way to the finish.
Phillip Island's race two winner Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati) slotted his twin into second place before the first lap was over, but try as he might, he was unable to close on the Xerox machine of Fabrizio, who lowered his own year-old lap record by 0.378 of a second on the third lap. The two Ducati's were running virtually identical lap times as they slowly pulled away from the chasing pack, headed by the Sterilgarda Yamaha YZF-R1 of double world champ James Toseland, who proved something of a rolling road block for Haslam, Biaggi and Aprilia number two man Leon Camier, who were queued up behind looking for a way past. It was mid-race before Haslam finally made a pass stick on Toseland, and he immediately scooted clear while Biaggi then looked for a way past the 'wide' Yamaha. Toseland's team-mate Cal Crutchlow was cursing himself for messing up the start. He had lined up in pole position but was eighth after a lap and although he made it to seventh after three laps, he was relegated to eighth at the finish when Jonathan Rea came howling past on the Tean Kate Honda CBR1000RR with three laps to go. The next lap, Rea then pulled the passing manouvre of the weekend, slicing past Toseland and Leon Camier in one stroke to grab fifth at the flag.

While Fabrizio led the whole way for his first win of the season, last year's double winner Noriyuki Haga was a shadow of his former self, finishing out of the points in seventeenth place, beaten even by Tom Sykes on the Paul Bird Kawasaki ZX-10R. Later Haga complained of a rear Pirelli that just had not worked the way he expected.

Although Fabrizio controlled the race and set a new lap record, his race time for the 24 laps was a fraction slower than the pace Haga had set winning the first race at Kyalami in 2009.

If race one a tense, if processional affair, race two was an excitement packed edge-of-the seat experience.

Determined not to be held up by the Toseland road block, Haslam streaked into an immediate lead with Ten Kate Honda's Rea clamped to his rear Pirelli with Biaggi going with them. Rea snatched the lead on the second lap and despite numerous passing moves by Haslam, and Biaggi, he had the Honda in front every time they crossed the finish line. Although he had pulled three points clear of Biaggi in the title chase after the first race, Haslam's championship lead was in the balance. Every time Biaggi got in front of him, it meant his title lead was reduced to a solitary point.

While Rea, Haslam and Biaggi went at it out front, Fabrizio was a close fourth initially but he faded as the race wore on, and Crutchlow took fourth off him after eight laps, then Carlos Checa gave the Italian factory Ducati man the blow by at by mid-race.

At that point, Rea was leading and Biaggi was looking for a way through. Had he managed that, and Haslam had remained in third, the Italian would have had the lead in the championship. Haslam knew what he needed to do, but had to do a lot of probing and passing to work out his final strategy.

With two laps to go, Haslam dived by Rea to lead and this time made it stick, pulling a vital buffer while Biaggi then worked on the Honda man. However, in the end Rea helped Haslam's cause by holding onto second place, Biaggi was third then a gap back to Crutchlow and Checa, just 1.479 seconds covering the top five, who were all on different makes of motorcycle.

James Toseland (Yamaha Sterilgarda) battled hard to record sixth place, with both he and Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad) overhauling a fading Fabrizio at the end. Jakub Smrz was again ninth and 2009 double race winner Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox) tenth. The top Kawasaki rider was Tom Sykes, 14th, while Camier and Sheridan Morais (Emtek Aprilia) failed to finish. In the championship Haslam now has 222 points, Biaggi 207 and Rea 141, tied with Checa.

It was a very heady ride from Haslam, but on appearances, it appears the Suzuki is fractionally slower in acceleration to the Aprilia, Honda and Yamaha at this stage. And with Aprilia getting the nod to switch to gear-driven camshafts in its V4 engine for the next round in the USA at the end of the month, Haslam will be hoping the Alstare team and Suzuki can come up with a technical improvement of their own to help keep his championship chances alive.



ALSTARE SUZUKI TEAM REPORT:
Team Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam is not only still on top of the world, but at Kyalami he extended his championship lead over his closest rival to fifteen points. Leon didn’t achieve his third in race one and tremendous win in race two though without a fight. Race two was particularly dramatic and action-packed and was one of the best battles of the season so far. Throughout the race Leon fought tooth and nail with fellow countryman Jonathan Rea (Honda), with Leon taking the lead several times only to get overtaken again. The battle went right down to the wire, with Leon making an audacious passing move a lap and a half from the end. This time he made it stick and went on to take the chequered flag by half a second. It was Leon’s third win and ninth podium podium of the season and one of hardest victories of his career. Team mate Sylvain Guintoli endured another average day, ending with 10th in race one and 15th in race two. It was the Frenchman’s first visit to Kyalami and one that he will not remember with much fondness.

Leon - Race 1: 3rd, Race 2: 1st
"What an amazing day! The second race was one of the best races I’ve ever been involved in and definitely one of the hardest. Jonny and I had a real ding-dong and it was bar-to-bar stuff for almost the whole race. I passed him a few times, but he always got me back and the longer the race went on I could feel him working out where I’d pass and how he’d stop me. In the end, I had to pass at a different place and this time I made it stick and held on to the flag.
"To win a race like that is quite an emotional thing and I have to give a big thank-you to the whole team for all their work this weekend. The bike in the second race was an improvement over race one. We had a few issues in race one, so changed the balance by making a bit lower in the front and higher in the rear. I still had some issues with it, but it was better and allowed me to fight for the win. After the drama of race two, it’s hard to remember what happened in race one. I didn’t get a good start and had to make up a lot of ground as best I could. I wasn’t completely confident in the front-end, so could not push hard enough to catch Michel (Fabrizio) and Carlos (Checa), but I was happy to get on the podium. Today was a tough day, but I’m very happy to have extended my championship lead and I’m looking forward to the next round in USA."

Sylvain - Race 1: 10th, Race 2: 15th
"Well today should’ve been a lot better than it turned out and I am very disappointed. The first race was not so bad, except that I lost a lot of time in two particular corners and could could not catch the front guys. OK, this is new track for me, but I think I should’ve been able to cope with it better. The second race was a disaster! I had no grip and no feeling in the brakes. I had made a good start, but Sykes touched me and I lost position. Then I started having problems with the brakes. It felt as if they had no power and that’s not a good feeling to have when you racing at high speed at a track like this. It’s been a weekend to forget and I hope that I will be able to get on the pace at the next race, though it will also be a new track for me."

STERILGARDA YAMAHA REPORT:
Pole position starter Cal Crutchlow and team-mate James Toseland were among many of the riders today struggling to find adequate grip levels on the abrasive Kyalami circuit as they battled for valuable championship points in the two World Superbike races. Race one saw Crutchlow initially drop to ninth off the line, while Toseland battled it out in the top three, pursuing Michel Fabrizio and Carlos Checa and fighting off the attack of Leon Haslam from behind. As the grip levels dropped dramatically he gradually dropped over a number of laps, eventually crossing the line in seventh with Crutchlow just two tenths of a second behind in eighth place. Race two saw the riders again struggling to maintain a competitive race pace as their grip levels suffered early on. Despite a less than perfect start Crutchlow battled up to take fourth position, taking race one winner Fabrizio and Ducati rider Checa in the process. Crutchlow held his fourth position to the line, taking the chequered flag just under a second behind race leader Haslam. Team mate Toseland also dropped back several positions from the start but battled up to then enjoy a relatively quiet run to a sixth place finish at the line. The riders now head to round seven of the World Championship at the Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, with Toseland holding on to fifth place in the standings on 125 points, just 16 points off Jonathan Rea in third. Crutchlow moves up to ninth position in the championship, just nine points adrift of Fabrizio in eighth.

Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team (8th, 4th)
"We did the best job we could today at a track that the bike is not best suited to. Like a lot of riders I seemed to lose a lot of grip very early in the races making it a struggle to keep on the pace. Having said that I was pleased overall with the second race, we were battling for a win and showing good pace throughout to hold on for points. It's a difficult circuit and we've done well, the team did a really good job and we're looking forward to getting to Salt Lake City. The track at Miller will suit our bike a bit better so I'm confident we can achieve some good results."

James Toseland, Yamaha Sterilgarda World Superbike Team (7th, 6th)
"The team are a bit bewildered after today, we lost grip on the tyres so quickly in the two races it was a challenge to keep up race pace. Considering I had my big crash only a week ago, getting a sixth and seventh finish is not bad for the championship for me. The differences that people have had today in grip level is incredible, some riders seemed to lose performance dramatically between the two races. I am a little frustrated but I certainly haven't had as bad a day as some riders. Over the weekend my neck got better and better, it was a bit sore still on Friday but it was fine today. A big thank you to the team who did a fantastic job this weekend, we're looking forward to a rest now before Salt Lake City in a couple of weeks."

HANNSPREE TEN KATE HONDA REPORT:
Jonathan Rea produced two outstanding rides in today’s sixth round World Superbike championship races at Kyalami in South Africa to take fifth and second place finishes. Starting from the third row of the grid, Rea began race one impressively, moving up to sixth on the opening lap before a lack of grip dropped him to ninth place. However, the 23-year-old was able to maintain consistent times throughout the race and he fought his way back to fifth in the closing laps, including one thrilling move around the outside of both James Toseland and Leon Camier at turn 12. With a slightly harder rear spring in his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR for the second outing, Rea charged into second place on the first lap and snatched the lead from Haslam on lap two. The Northern Irishman was able to hold Haslam and Max Biaggi at bay until Haslam made his winning move on the penultimate lap. Rea’s Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team-mate, Max Neukirchner, suffered from further chatter problems over Kyalami’s severe bumps and, despite an improvement to the bike for race two, was only able to post 19th and 17th place finishes.

Jonathan Rea – 5th and 2nd:
"I got a good start in the first race but just couldn’t hold the other guys as I didn’t find any grip. But even when I dropped down to ninth with quite a gap in front, I didn’t give up on a single corner or a single straight. I was able to maintain pretty consistent laps which allowed me to catch and pass the others at the end. We made a small change for race two and then I got a blinding start. From there I found it easy to go to the front but it was really difficult to make a break. In the end, Haslam made a lunge and I had to settle for second. All in all, I would have taken your arm off if you’d offered me those results this morning and I’d like to thank the team for keeping my spirits up – it wasn’t looking too clever after warm-up. I’m really looking forward to Salt Lake City now that we’re back on the podium".

Max Neukirchner – 19th and 17th: "Race one was just a continuation of the problems we’ve have had all weekend but we were able to improve the bike a little for a better feeling in the second race. However, I still couldn’t push hard enough to pass the guys in front of me. Over the last few laps, we also had a bit of a problem with weight transfer on the bike, which we also had in race one. Now we have to hope we have learned something that we can take to Miller in America, which I missed last year, but I got two podium finishes there in 2008."

Ronald ten Kate – team-manager: "Well, it’s been an interesting day – that’s the very least we can say! We knew we had a good race pace with Jonathan but in race one he just lacked the outright speed for the opening laps. He had to fight his way through and, for most of the second half of the race he was the fastest guy on the track. His strategy of immediately taking the lead in race two was a bit of a surprise to everyone in the garage, but it worked out well!. Kyalami was where he took his first Superbike podium last year, which really kick-started his season, but we have to be strong in every single race now if we are to close the gap on the leaders. Max had more problems today – problems that have plagued him all weekend here. We know it’s a difficult circuit to get right though, so we’ll move on to Miller, where we know our bike can work well."

XEROX DUCATI REPORT:
Ducati Xerox rider Michel Fabrizio was celebrating with his squad after dominating a spectacular Race 1 to take his first victory of the 2010 season, at the South African track of Kyalami. Michel made a perfect start to Race 1, moving straight into the lead by getting past Crutchlow, Toseland and Checa right off the line. The Italian quickly extended his lead over Checa (on Althea Racing’s 1198) and maintained a constant one second advantage for the entire duration of the race. Lap times inevitably began to increase during the final stages of the 24-lap race but nonetheless Michel carefully managed his advantage and crossed the line first, to take his first race win of the 2010 season, just over a second ahead of the Spaniard.

Noriyuki Haga had a more difficult race, struggling with a lack of grip. Although he made up a few positions straight off the start line, progressing from 16th to 12th, after about ten laps the lack of rear grip began to affect his lap times which consequently caused him to lose over the final laps the positions he had previously gained; the Japanese rider therefore closed Race 1 in 17th position.

Michel made a less impressive start to Race 2 but his reactions were quick and he made up over the course of the first lap the positions he had lost off the line. For the first eight laps he remained in fourth position, just behind Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam e Max Biaggi who battled it out among themselves up ahead. Unfortunately however, an unexpected loss of grip subsequently prevented the Italian rider from pushing and, in increasing difficulty in the final stages of the race, he eventually concluded the race in eighth place. Noriyuki meanwhile had a better race, lapping consistently fast, with lap times in the final stages that matched those of the podium placed riders. Although he continued to improve, there was too much to make up from sixteenth on the grid, and the Japanese rider had to be satisfied with tenth place.
Despite two difficult races, Haga still holds on to sixth position in the overall standings (106 points) while Michel Fabrizio, thanks to today’s win, has started to close the gap; now eighth with 95 points. Ducati remains in third position in the manufacturers' championship with 185 points to Aprilia’s 213 and Suzuki’s 222.

Michel Fabrizio (Race 1 – winner , Race 2 – 8th): “I’m really happy with the win in the first race, happy for Ducati of course but above all happy for myself. I really needed a result like this after several difficult race.
It wasn’t easy however, I had to make an intelligent race, doing all I could to maintain the second of advantage that I had over Carlos. It was a great race but also a very tiring one! Race 2 went very differently; the level of grip immediately began to drop after only three or four laps and it became impossible to catch the leading group that continued to gain on me. Anyway with the points taken in race 1 today I’ve gained a position in the overall standings and now I’ll turn my attention to the next event at Salt Lake, a track I really like.”

Noriyuki Haga (Race 1 – 17th , Race 2 – 10th): “In Race 1 after about ten laps the performance of the rear tyre dropped dramatically. There wasn’t much I could to improve. I’m disappointed of course because with no grip you don’t really get anywhere. In the second race, having made some small changes to my bike but deciding to go with the same tyre, I had a better overall feeling and, from more or less mid-race, unlike race 1, I was able to push increasingly hard. The problem was that those ahead of me had already built a significant lead; I needed a few more laps to be able to catch some of them.”

BMW MOTORRAD MOTORSPORT REPORT:
Kyalami - Races. Sunday, 16 May 2010. Weather conditions: Sunny.
Temperature: Air: 19 - 22 °C, Track: 24 - 33 °C
Number of riders participating: 22 from 13 teams
Fastest lap Race 1: Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox Team) 1m 38.170s
Fastest lap Race 2: Jonathan Rea (HANNspree Ten Kate Honda) 1m38.658s
A positive finish after a tough Kyalami race weekend for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport: After struggling in the first race, Troy Corser (AUS) and Ruben Xaus (ESP) were able to finish the second race seventh and 11th respectively. Troy has now scored a total of 105 points after six rounds of the 2010 FIM Superbike World Championship season, nine more than during the entire 2009 campaign. Ruben has 42 points to his credit. In the manufacturers' standings, BMW has scored a total of 108 points and lies sixth.

Race 1: Both Troy and Ruben made up places at the start; Troy finishing the first lap in tenth, while Ruben was 13th . Troy passed Jakub Smrz (CZE) on lap three, and Jonathan Rea (GBR) on lap seven. Both BMW riders lost a couple of positions again, and finished 12th and 14th respectively.
Race 2: Again, good first laps for both BMW riders: Troy crossed the line eight and Ruben 12th . Troy passed Leon Camier (FRA) shortly after, and tried to close the gap to the front. Ruben battled for a long time with Noriyuki Haga (JPN). In the end, Troy defended his seventh position, and Ruben only missed a top ten finish by one position.

Troy Corser:
Result Race 1: 12th , Gap to 1st : 00:25.504 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1m38.854s
Result Race 2: 7th , Gap to 1st: 00:13.740 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1m38.989s
"In the first race I really had zero grip after only five laps. I had no confidence to attack any more, and I literally just rolled around the track till the end of the race. We changed the bike's set-up a little bit between the races, and we used the Diablo B rear tyre spec instead of the A spec as we had over the entire weekend. The consistency of this tyre was much better than in the first race. I am quite happy with the changes, in the second race I was able to ride the bike. Unfortunately I lost a little of the initial grip in the middle of the corner. I was really
quick in the first sectors, but could not really follow the other bikes at the top of the hill. This was a little frustrating. I tried to adjust over the course of the race and rode the bike completely differently to how I had over the whole weekend."

Ruben Xaus:
Bike: BMW S 1000 RR
Result Race 1: 14th , Gap to 1st : 00:27.273 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1m39.624s
Result Race 2: 11th , Gap to 1st : 00:21.101 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1m39.299s
"My start today in both races was not great. I was hoping to make up some more positions early in the race and that didn't happen. I had to work really hard to get through the field and passing is not easy here. In race two the bike was a lot better, we made some changes to the set-up, and that allowed me to run consistent lap times. I had a hard battle with Noriyuki Haga and I worked really hard to defend my position. I tried my best today. It was another step forward for me and the team and I am confident for the next race in the United States."

Berthold Hauser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director):
"Today was a positive finish to a really tough weekend for our team. We had to deal with a track that does not really suit our bike. Nevertheless, the entire team - riders, engineers, mechanics and everybody involved - proved to have the right attitude. We had ups and downs over the course of the weekend, but the team never gave up. We came back after a disappointing first race. A big Thank You to the team. Although today was a tough day for us, there is reason to celebrate for BMW: Congratulations to BMW Motorsport for winning the prestigious 24 hours race at the Nürburgring with the BMW M3 GT2."