Haga Scores Perfect Weekend at Monza
Haga had to really work his way up to 1st place in Race 1, as he dropped to 6th place after the start. The Japanese then managed to overtake his opponents one by one, until finally clinching the lead after a few laps. Ten Kate's James Toseland managed to get Haga's tails and the two got away from the pack to battle for 1st place. And it would have been a great first race in Monza, if it hadn't been for Toseland's tire problems. The Ten Kate rider slowly started to lose eye-contact with the Japanese and was soon in defense for a place on the overall podium.
Haga went on to build a comfortable lead and it was obvious that nobody could stop him from clinching his 2nd win of the season. In the back, Toseland lost 3 places to teammate Roberto Rolfo, Ducati's Troy Bayliss and Suzuki's Max Biaggi and had nothing to expect from the rest of the race. Ten Kate lost 2nd place again, through Roberto Rolfo, as his bike's fuel problems forced him to retire from the race. Third on the podium was Alstare Suzuki's Max Biaggi, who managed to get back into the race after making a short off-road visit on the Roma corner.
Race 2 saw a much more dominant Noriyuki Haga, who paired up with James Toseland for the lead from the early beginning. The two went on to build a comfortable lead (around 7 seconds) with less than 6 laps to go. In the back, Max Biaggi was continuously pressured by a powerful Roberto Rolfo, as Troy Bayliss followed them into 5th place. For the second time in the weekend, James Toseland had to pay tribute to his team's tire choice and lost any chance of overtaking Haga in the remaining laps. More, the British rider had to put on a great fight against Troy Bayliss to keeping his 2nd place, as the last lap was decisive in determining the final look of the podium.
“Today was perfect - the perfect end to a perfect weekend. I have taken Superpole, won both races and got the fastest lap in the second race. This weekend the bike was feeling good and we didn’t make any big changes to the set-up which is unusual for me. We focused on the engine because this is such a fast track and the results speak for themselves”, said Haga at the end of the day.
James Toseland admitted that tire problems prevented him from getting the best of Haga, but was also in delight after defeating Bayliss for 2nd: “Trying to keep up with Noriyuki in race two was tough – I don’t know what he’s eaten today but whatever it is I want some of it! In race one we went for the gamble with the medium tire but it didn’t pay off. For the last five laps the rubber had gone and I just couldn’t keep up with the pack. For race two we changed to the harder tire, although we didn’t have the perfect set-up to go with it. That last lap was pretty tough but if I’m honest it felt good to get Troy back for that move at Assen, albeit for second position and not first! It was a great race”.
Toseland has now extended his lead in overall standings, as the British rider holds a 35-point advantage over new 2nd place finisher Noriyuki Haga. Thanks to his great performance on Sunday, the Japanese rider is now trailed by Max Biaggi for 3 points. Troy Bayliss also overtook fellow countryman Troy Corser for 4th after the Monza weekend. Next Superbike round will be held at Silverstone, on the 27th of May.
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