Motorcycling: Injured Haga closes on Bayliss with double victory

Noriyuki Haga has strengthened his position as a contender for the World Superbike championship with his first double win at the Nürburgring.

A thrilling battle in the rain between the Japanese rider and his Yamaha team-mate Troy Corser was brought to a premature end by the red flags. Corser was leading the second race as the flags came out, but with the count-back rule the race was deemed finished after lap 15, at which point Haga was ahead of the Australian.

The victory was made even more special by the fact that just two weeks ago Haga broke his collarbone in three places in a Saturday practice crash in Salt Lake City.

"Ten days ago I was a disaster and I am very happy for this win, just 14 days after breaking my collarbone," Haga said. "Everyone has helped me and I felt very comfortable in the riding. I want to say 'thank you' to the Clinica Mobile and my team and all the fans."

The double win takes Haga's championship points tally to 172 and leaves him 55 shy of leader Troy Bayliss, who came second in race one and fourth in the second outing after making mistakes in both legs.

Bayliss was leading the first race but he ran wide into turn one less than two laps from the end to hand victory to Haga. In race two he made two mistakes on the fifth lap, dropping from the lead down to fifth before recovering to fourth.

Bayliss said: "I saw after the warm-up that Nori was looking really consistent, and Max was going to do a good job and maybe Carlos, but Nori proved to be the strongest in the race. At about two-thirds distance I was doing everything I could to stay with Nori but thought that second place was good and I would increase my lead. Nori won fair and square, congratulations to him."

The ever-improving German rider Max Neukirchner, who impressed the home fans by taking superpole in qualifying on Saturday, continued to shine with a pair of third-place finishes for Suzuki. He said: "It was not possible to win here today, Troy Corser and Noriyuki Haga were a little bit faster, but I'm happy with two third places."

With the top four a good five seconds ahead, Spaniard Carlos Checa led the chasing pack in fifth with the Ducati trio of Michel Fabrizio, Max Biaggi and Ruben Xaus in sixth, seventh and eighth. Fonsi Nieto and Regis Laconi completed the top 10.

In the British Superbike Championship, Leon Camier and Shane Byrne took the victories in the fifth round at Snetterton yesterday. Camier headed off a late, determined challenge from his series-leading Airwaves Ducati team-mate Byrne in the opening race. Byrne turned the tables with a remarkable winning ride in the second rain-soaked race. He had to stop on the first lap as Karl Harris highsided in front of him.

But then Byrne carved through the pack from 13th place to snatch the lead with two laps left.

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