Phillip Island: Honda weekend summary

Haslam Scores Podium Finish at First WSB Round Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) first took a sixth, and then a third place finish, in the 22-lap World Superbike Races at Phillip Island to leave the opening round third in the overall...

Haslam Scores Podium Finish at First WSB Round

Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) first took a sixth, and then a third place finish, in the 22-lap World Superbike Races at Phillip Island to leave the opening round third in the overall championship standings. Haslam had qualified sixth on the grid and rode with patience until the last laps of race two to secure his podium, the best single performance by a Honda Superbike rider.

Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) finished race one as top Honda rider, taking fifth place after a strong early performance from his front row grid slot of third. He led for three laps, from the first to the third. In race two he could not get away with the leading group and finished ninth.

Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR), Roby Rolfo (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR1000RR) and Tommy Hill (Hannspree Honda Althea Honda CBR1000RR) finished their opening race of the year in 12th, 13th and 14th places respectively, with Checa doing well to overcome the shoulder injury he suffered last week in testing. He had qualified impressively, in seventh place. In race two Checa was 13th, experiencing serious traction issues from the start. Hill was 14th again and Rolfo finished just out of the points,16th.

Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) was taken out of the first race at Honda corner, on lap one, and was unable to restart, His luck got little better in race two, as he could only finish in 23rd place after losing rear grip early on.

Race one was taken by Ducati rider Noriyuki Haga, with race two won by WSB rookie Ben Spies on his Yamaha, some 4.213 seconds up on Haslam.

Rea had been fastest of all in regulation qualifying, before Superpole started. The new Superpole contest had been a highlight of the weekend before the races started, with Rea, Haslam and Checa playing a strong hand to make it through the final three stages of qualifying. Kiyonari secured 10th place in Superpole, In the championship standings, Haslam is a strong third, with Haga on 45 points, Max Neukirchner second on 30, Haslam on 26 and Spies on 25. Rea is eighth, on 18 points, and Checa 12th. Hill and Rolfo have four and three points respectively.

Sofuoglu Heads A Honda Podium Sweep

Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) started his 2009 championship campaign in perfect form with a remarkable win in a remarkable Supersport World Championship race at Phillip Island.

The podium three, comprising 2007 champion Sofuoglu, 2008 champion Andrew Pitt (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) and new Honda WSS rider Anthony West (Stiggy Racing Honda CBR600RR) finished within 0.153 seconds of each other, in a race which featured as many as 15 riders in an unbroken leading pack for most of the race.

Only in the latter stages did the big three make any kind of break from the last of the chasing riders, and even after 21 laps of intense action the fourth and fifth placed competitors, Cal Crutchlow and Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) were just over a second from a podium challenge. In a photo-finish, Laverty was classified fifth, by only one thousandth of a second.

The slightly damp track that appeared this morning, after two days of warm weather, played havoc with final race preparations, but the top Honda riders overcame the potential for confusion and filled six of the top ten placings on a dry track surface.

Mark Aitchison (Hannspree Honda Althea CBR600RR) rode to sixth at his home circuit, and was part of the leading bunch throughout. Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda CBR600RR) was ninth, two places ahead of Aitchison's team-mate, Matthieu Lagrive.

Gianluca Vizziello (Hannspree Honda Althea CBR600RR) failed to finish due to a technical problem and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda CBR600RR) was on target for a strong finish until he fell on lap three, shortly after setting the fastest race lap in the early stages.

The next race, for Superbike and Supersport classes, is in Qatar, on Saturday 14 March.

WSB Rider Quotes

Jonathan Rea - Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 5th -- 9th.

"I managed to get the holeshot in race one and led for three laps, but I was very conscious about preserving the rear tyre so tried to ride as gently as I could. In race two, the pace was just that much quicker and I probably wasn't aggressive enough in the early part. After I dropped back, I was just eating the rear trying to keep with the others and a couple of mistakes meant I had to ride even harder."

Carlos Checa - Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 12th -- 13th.

"It's been a very frustrating day and the problem that I thought would give me the most difficulty, my shoulder, was not a problem after all. I had a bad start in race one and struggled to get back to the leaders without using my tyre. In race two, the start was better but there was no side grip from the start and I just couldn't do anything about it."

Ryuichi Kiyonari Ten Kate Honda: dnf crash -- 23rd.

"There's not very much I can say. I race one, I got T-boned by Ruben Xaus at the Honda turn and that was the end of my race. In the second, I just had no grip from the start, went into the gravel early on and could not do anything. I'm very disappointed because the simulations we did in practice were very promising for the races."

Leon Haslam - Stiggy Racing Honda: 6th -- 3rd.

"The first race was really good, the bike was working well and got into a good rhythm. I was up in 4th place on the first lap of the race and had some really good battles throughout. On the last lap, whilst in 6th place, I got past Jonathan but was unable to keep him behind me. I finished sixth which was a good start of the day for us. It's our first time out there racing and to be able to bring home a podium finish is just fantastic! The team and myself have made good progress throughout, and even though I know we still have more to come, the bike and the team is obviously just great."

Roby Rolfo - Stiggy Racing Honda: 13th -- 16th.

"I made a bad start and got touched by a rider in the Honda hairpin, lost my rhythm and some positions. For the remainder of the race I tried to catch up what I had lost and the bike felt good. In race two I got a much better start, but again on the first lap in the same corner I got hit by another rider and was forced to run onto the gravel. I re-joined, but in last position. I lost over 10 seconds and all I could do was to get in a good pace and push my way up thorough the pack."

Tommy Hill - Hannspree Honda Althea Honda: 14th -- 14th. "We had a really good start to race one, even though I could not do a practice start in the damp conditions this morning. I hadn't done even one practice start before, so I was happy to have got away as well as I did. This is my first real race back for a year and half. I got straight into the row in front and changed my line in the first few corners. So I went from 20th to 9th! Halfway through, grip dropped off, mainly in the rear, so I had to adapt my style."

WSS Rider Quotes

Kenan Sofuoglu - Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 1st.

"Andrew went very fast at the beginning while I found myself down around tenth place. I tried to ride as slowly as possible because we were worried about the rear tyre but I had to ride really hard to get back to the front and to get past Andrew and Anthony. I think Andrew and I actually touched at one point, which probably scared Ronald a bit! But I'm so happy to win, especially after setting the fastest lap in qualifying for pole position yesterday. My team has been fantastic to give me such a good bike and it's been a great start to the championship."

Andrew Pitt - Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: 2nd.

"It was a strange old race, really -- we were riding so slowly for most of it, just to make the tyres last. Everyone was tripping over one another until the last five laps, but that's what we've been working on -- trying to be there when it really matters. I just found myself in the wrong place going into the final lap but big congratulations to Kenan, he had a great ride today. I thought I had timed it all well but just got on wrong spot on the last lap. It's a lot better than last year when we left round one with no points."

Anthony West - Stiggy Racing Honda: 3rd.

"The team did a good job to get the bike ready and to have the right set-up and it turned out really nice. I'm just glad to have started the season out like this. I tried everything to keep Kenan and Andrew behind me when I took the lead, but they just kept coming past me. This straight is to long and they just kept slipstreaming me. We just have to work on the bike a bit more and look to the next one."

Gianluca Vizziello - Hannspree Honda Althea: dnf -- technical problem.

"I am disappointed with my result today because I had to retire after lap 11 due to a technical problem. I was trying to save my tyres for the last half of the race, but unfortunately did not get the chance to attack. But, I had good race pace and that gives me confidence for the next race in Qatar."

Eugene Laverty -- Parkalgar Honda: 5th.

"That was a good race, only a thousandths of a second between me and Crutchlow. I thought he had me anyway because as we were side by side he was coming past me and then moved over in front. I had to move and lift my leg up a bit. I touched the gravel on the exit of the final turn as I was trying to get the bike upright and drive down the straight, so I lost a bit of drive. It was an incredible race, I look forward to watching it on TV. So many riders in the leading group at one time, which shows how competitive this class is."

Miguel Praia - Parkalgar Honda: dnf -- crash.

"I made a good start to the race and on my second lap I posted 1:35.4secs which was the quickest at the time, the fifth fastest of the race and 2secs faster than my lap time from last year. I was riding well and with confidence but with a full tank of fuel which caused some problems and on lap three I made a mistake and went into the Honda Hairpin too fast and touched with Robin Harms and crashed out unhurt. With the lap time I have proved I can stay with the front runners and maybe even make the top five. My Parkalgar Honda is so good I now need to be not so aggressive in the first laps. Previously I have had to fight hard to get into the points but now I am in a new position and level and I must make a more relaxed start on the first laps, make my position and start from there. I am confident for the coming season."

Mark Aitchison - Hannspree Honda Althea: 6th.

"I got a good start in the race and I managed to stay with the front group very early, that's very important in Supersport races. In the middle of the race when I decided to push very hard I started to make some small mistakes, in the same time my tyres started to lose grip and I lost contact with the first riders. In the final five laps I couldn't really chase the riders in front of me and I ended in sixth place."

Matthieu Lagrive - Hannspree Honda Althea: 11th.

"My start was not so bad, but in the first curve I had a contact with another rider and I lost a lot of positions, so to come from so far back was not easy but near to the end of the race I recovered some positions reaching the eleventh place. It has been a very hard race for me, but I got some points for the championship and I'm confident for future races."

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Carlos Checa , Andrew Pitt , Noriyuki Haga , Ruben Xaus , Ben Spies , Kenan Sofuoglu , Eugene Laverty , Leon Haslam , Anthony West , Tommy Hill , Miguel Praia , Max Neukirchner , Jonathan Rea , Gianluca Vizziello , Massimo Roccoli , Ryuichi Kiyonari , Cal Crutchlow , Mark Aitchison , Phillip Island