News 22 Oct 2009

WSBK: Spies in contention for title as a rookie in Portugal


The clock is ticking down to the 14th and final round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship at the Portimao circuit in Portugal. With just ten points separating championship leader Haga from Yamaha World Superbike rider Ben Spies everything is to play for on race day. If Spies can secure two race wins, he will walk away with not just the championship title, but a well earned place in the World Superbike history books. Spies can already claim the title of greatest rookie of all time, taking the championship by storm in his first year on his R1, racking up an incredible 13 race wins, six fastest lap records and 16 podiums on mostly unknown circuits.

Teammate Tom Sykes heads to the final round of the year determined to reach the elusive podium he has worked so hard for this season. Sykes has had a challenging year, however has displayed good race pace at most tracks and was a consistent top ten finisher for the most part. He has proved to have good speed at Portimao having performed well in the tests so will be looking to hold on to his eighth position in the championship come race day. Sykes currently sits on 176 points, 24 behind Carlos Checa in seventh.

This will be the second outing for the World Superbike Championship on the Portimao circuit which was completed last year just before the final round of the 2008 Championship. The track proved to be a major hit with riders and fans alike with swooping corners, corkscrews, blind corners and multiple elevation changes ensuring exciting racing from the lights.

“I can’t wait to get to the circuit and get set up for Sunday’s races,” said Ben Spies. “We’ve been fighting hard for race wins all year, and as a rookie on a new bike I think we’ve achieved some pretty good results. My focus is completely on going for two race wins on Sunday, I would love to be able to deliver the title for the team as they really deserve it and have worked so hard to make it possible. We do go well on the Portimao circuit, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to challenge Nori for the wins. There will be a few fast guys up there as always so it should be an exciting race day.”

“I’m obviously very much looking forward to this weekend,” said Tom Sykes. “We’ve had good tests there in the past so we’re going there on a good base setting and looking to finish the season on a high; I certainly feel it’s achievable. The only concern I have at the moment is the fitness in my shoulder after France, although hopefully I will be able to get on the bike and put that behind me. I would like to finish strong for Yamaha and repay my team for all their hard work they’ve put in this year.”

Portimao technically speaking according to Tom Houseworth, Ben Spies Crew Chief
“We will start with our baseline setting on our primary bike and a modified test setting on the back up bike. Though we have quite a lot of data from testing, the engine and chassis spec has changed quite a lot from pre-season so there will be some variables to work on. We will be looking for maximum grip and quick direction change as Portimao is quite a twisty circuit with elevation changes and a variety of corners. Our goal is to be set up quick and then pick race tyres so we can get time on them in an attempt to find the ‘perfect’ race set up. Once traction and wheelie control are dialed in we will hope for good weather on Sunday and see if we can get it done.”

Portimao technically speaking according to Sergio Verbena, Tom Sykes Crew Chief
“For Portimao we will follow the same working line we have used in the last few races. We found a couple of good developments in Magny Cours and Imola which we will incorporate from the start. The last race was very unlucky for Tom, but for Portimao we have a lot of data from the winter test so we should have an advantage. In the test we were consistently fast (Tom was fourth fastest) so we are quite confident. We just hope Tom has recovered completely from the second race crash in Magny Cours, when he crashed because of a contact with Checa.”

Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager
“We have only one choice, to go there and try to win both races. Both the tests we’ve had at Portimao with Ben were really good and also I’m confident that he knows how to win both races so I think it is very possible we will have success. We can’t do anything about the weather but we know Ben is ready to give it everything he’s got regardless. I’m expecting Tom to push hard and try and get the podium that he hasn’t managed to achieve yet this year and he will also try to help Ben as much as he can.”