Noriyuki Haga struck a blow in his duel with Ben Spies for supremacy in the 2009 Superbike World Championship as the Xerox Ducati rider eased to a masterly double victory in the third round of the season in Valencia yesterday.
With newcomer Spies on a roll after three race wins from four, Haga hit back at the American with a perfect race-day display to extend his lead in the riders' standings to 40 points.
Spies claimed pole position for yesterday's two races – Saturday's Superpole win his third on the spin – but again the race craft of the wily Haga won through as Spies retired from race one before coming a distant second to the Japanese in race two.
Britain's Leon Haslam came home in fifth place on his Honda in the first race, his compatriot Tom Sykes was seventh on his Yamaha.
Haga's brilliant form at the start of the season has seen the experienced rider finish inside the top two at each of the first six races, while Spies will need to iron out some of his inconsistencies, with two failures to score this season already looking costly.
Spies lost out at the start of race one, dropping to fifth place before hauling himself back up to third. He more than had the legs to overhaul Max Neukirchner for second, but he made a hash of his bid to pass and cartwheeled into the gravel. Spies' error was good news for Haga, who eased to victory by a margin of 3.677 seconds from his team-mate Michel Fabrizio, who claimed his first podium finish of the season after overhauling Neukirchner, who eventually had to settle for third.
The start of race two saw both Haga and Spies lose ground, but they sliced their way back to the head of the field. Haga then set about stamping his authority on the race and had a five-second lead over Spies by the finish. Fabrizio was third.
Leading final positions after first race:
1 Noriyuki Haga (Jpn) Ducati 36mins 44.766secs; 2 Michel Fabrizio (Ita) Ducati 36:48.443; 3 Max Neukirchner (Ger) Suzuki 36:48.725; 4 Regis Laconi (Fra) Ducati 36:48.976; 5 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Honda 36:58.590; 6 Yukio Kagayama (Jpn) Suzuki 36:59.328; 7 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Yamaha 36:59.921; 8 Max Biaggi (Ita) Aprilia 37:01.082; 9 Shane Byrne (Gbr) Ducati 37:05.127; 10 Broc Parkes (Aus) Kawasaki 37:08.644; 11 John Hopkins (USA) Honda 37:15.668; 12 Ryuichi Kiyonari (Jpn) Honda 37:16.064; 13 Ruben Xaus (Spa) BMW 37:17.426; 14 Makoto Tamada (Jpn) Kawasaki 37:26.922; 15 Tommy Hill (Gbr) Honda 37:27.806.