It was never going to be easy for Yamaha World Superbike rider Ben Spies at Imola. Race one saw Spies in fifth off the start line, chasing Haga, Fabrizio, Rea and Biaggi. As the second lap drew to a close Rea over shot the corner, narrowly missing Haga as he headed off into the gravel. As the Italian bikes continued to fight for the lead, Spies was left with a two second gap to close. He managed to close down to 1.4 seconds, but was unable to stay with the front runners, holding on to fourth for the chequered flag. Changes in the set up to the bike saw Spies hit race two with a faster pace and a consistent speed to challenge the leaders. Rea again ran wide on a couple of occasions, causing Spies to pull up for safety, however he was soon back on the pace. He caught and took Byrne on lap 10 for fifth and started closing down on Simoncelli and Biaggi. Unfortunately as he caught them on the last chicane before the start line, Simoncelli took Biaggi, forcing him wide and into the path of Spies, taking him off track. He rejoined but was again forced wide to avoid an early braking Byrne and had to settle for fifth at the flag.
Race one was a mixed one for Sykes, having had a good start he continued to struggle for grip, but still managed to fight through the pack from his 16th position grid start to take ninth at the chequered flag, holding off Australian riders Parkes and Corser for his top ten finish. Race two saw some changes to the bike which provided more grip and consistency however as a number of riders cut the chicane at the end of the lap, they pushed Sykes wide, losing him valuable time. By the end of the race he had made up four places to take 12th at the flag.
Spies now heads to Magny Cours next weekend again in second place chasing the championship lead, separated from Haga at the top by a mere three points, with four races and hundred possible points still on the table. Team mate Tom Sykes remains in eighth position with two rounds to go, sitting just behind Checa with a seven point difference.
Ben Spies, Yamaha World Superbike Team (4th, 5th)
“In race one we ruined our chances with the electronic side of the bike, we didn’t have enough power coming out of the bike and we struggled with grip a bit as well, it was a rough race. The second race we had the pace for sure to battle for the lead but a combination of things held us up. Rea got pretty greedy early in the race, passing me in the gravel trap three different times. I felt bad for him as I knew he had the pace to run up front but you’ve got to know when to calm down and when to take it easy for a couple of laps and let the race come in, you can’t push on every corner. I had a couple of laps where I wasn’t riding well at all then I got myself together and caught up to Simoncelli and Biaggi. They bumped and Biaggi ran off the track, when he came back on it was either hit him or go off into the gravel. I got back on and caught up to Bryne and then almost ran into the back of him and had to run off the track again. It was a messy race. There were a lot of mistakes, a couple from me and some from others. If you would have told me after the first race that we would only be losing the championship by three points I’d be happy because there were a lot of guys who could beat me this weekend.”
Tom Sykes, Yamaha World Superbike Team, (9th, 12th)
“I had a good start in race one but still struggled for grip as we have been all weekend with the rear of the bike. We improved it a bit for warm up this morning but in the race I still struggled. We made a change for race two but I got a bad start. The bike felt faster and more consistent though but unfortunately I kept getting caught up by a few riders cutting the chicane and I ended up losing a second here and there. Towards the end I had one lap where I was having huge slides so I was looking back at the tyre to see if there was anything on it and lost maybe two and a half seconds.”
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager
“it’s been a very tough day for the team. We definitely came here with a different goal, but racing doesn’t always go as you plan it. During the second race, despite a bad start Ben was really pushing, but unfortunately he was in the wrong place at the wrong time which cost him a podium finish. We didn’t give up when the championship gap was 88 points, for sure we will be trying just as hard now to take back the three we lost today. Our bike has always worked well at Magny Cours so we are going there confident that we can have success. After Tom’s big crash on Friday we lost a whole day so the bike set up was not perfect for today’s races. Starting from 16th, especially here where it’s not easy to pass, it was a good achievement to get into the top ten with a ninth place finish.”