It was a dramatic race day in Monza today for the World Superbike Championship as Yamaha rider and pole position starter Ben Spies again suffered the two extremes of racing, the victory and victory snatched away. Race one only made it to the first chicane on lap 1 as the Superbikes compressed into the tight first chicane. Tamada fell just before the corner, his bike sliding down the grass and across the track, causing collisions with Corser, Hill, Roberts and Neukirchener in the ensuing carnage. A red flag was issued and the race restarted. The race then became a battle at the front between Haga, Fabrizio and Spies for the lead. By lap nine Spies had a one second advantage over the Ducatis as they fought for second, Fabrizio ending up the stronger and closing in.
Three laps from the end Fabrizio drafted Spies on the main straight to take the lead going into the first chicane, only for Spies to take it back on the penultimate lap. The Yamaha rider then led convincingly and was looking a certainty for the win until running out of fuel as he took the Parabolica corner for the last time heading for the start finish straight.He managed to coast to the line but was in 15th position by the time he passed the chequered flag. Team-mate Tom Sykes started well from tenth on the grid and was eighth by the end of the first lap. Consistent race pace saw him take two more positions over the duration, crossing the line in sixth to take more points.
Race two saw Spies hungry to make up the misfortune of race one. Off the line he slipped into second behind Haga briefly before moving into the lead when Haga was struck by a bird on the first corner. From this point his win was never in doubt as the Texan put his head down and laid down lap after lap of fast perfect lines, adding a second gap per lap between himself and second position Fabrizio. As the race tipped over halfway point Spies slowed to ensure the issue of race one was not repeated, taking the chequered flag over 2.6 seconds ahead of second placed Fabrizio.
British rider Sykes had another consistent race in the second outing of the day, moving up from tenth to sixth position, but was unable to find the extra pace to pass fifth placed Biaggi by the end of the race.
Ben Spies leaves Monza having closed the gap to championship leader Haga, he heads to Kyalami with 146 points, 54 behind the lead. Sykes heads to South Africa having moved up to fifth in the championship on 90 points and now trails Haslam by only 13.
Ben Spies, Yamaha World Superbike Team, (15th, 1st)
"Race one was a tough pill to swallow, it was a hard one to get by but that’s racing I guess. Race two I had a clear strategy and made sure I got into a really good rhythm in the first 12 to 14 laps to build a safety buffer. Obviously we had a problem at the end of race one which I didn’t want to repeat so slowed a bit there and short shifted a bit to make sure everything was good to the end. The bike was good and could have run fast times all the way through but I wanted to make sure we got this one in the bag. The Yamaha team did great regrouping after race one and me too I think! Hopefully we can keep going and improving from here. I want to say congratulations for Michel in race one, but I couldn’t give it to him so easily in race two."
Tom Sykes, Yamaha World Superbike Team, (6th, 6th)
"In race one I got away ok, but the problem was getting stuck in that first chicane as I was starting from row three. As soon as it bottled up everything got spread out and unfortunately the lead group spread a long way and was hard to catch. I got past a couple of people and to be honest I thought I was going to catch them but halfway through the race I suffered from some brake fading. It was very unfortunate. In race two I got off the line fairly decently and had good race pace, I was looking quite strong but not able to get that last little bit. I guess it was one of those weekends, I’ve been fairly fast and consistent but spoilt it a bit with the qualifying. I’m very confident in the bike and the team, especially for Kyalami and hope to have better memories after the race than when I tested there! All in all good weekend, two more scores on the board and moving up to fifth in the championship is great."
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager
"The first race was very frustrating for us but I think Ben proved what he is capable of. A big thank you to him because he answered race one in the best possible way. We seem to have either 25 points or 0 in races at the moment! I am very optimistic about the next two races because in South Africa Ben was really fast with an almost standard bike, and now we know the performance of the R1 is better so we think we can do a really good job. Miller should also be good as it’s a home track for Ben. In the end we have reduced the leadership gap to Nori which is good. Tom was really consistent today, he’s coming better and better every race weekend and without making mistakes in the race. I think as the second part of the championship approaches he will get stronger and stronger. A big thanks to the team and also the suppliers who helped us to be ready with the new colours in time for this weekend."