Fabrizio and Haga power their Ducati 1198 bikes to three podium finishes

Phillip Island (Australia) – The crowds at Phillip Island were today treated to two spectacular Superbike races, the first of which resulted in the closest ever finish in Superbike history, with Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) crossing the line just 0.004 of a second behind Leon Haslam on the Suzuki. Less than a second behind Michel, in third place, was his team-mate Noriyuki Haga. Race 2 was also extremely hard fought and some very close racing which made for great viewing saw Michel battle his way to a third place finish with Nori just behind him in fifth.
This morning`s warm-up passed without incident for Michel, who registered the fourth fastest lap time but unfortunately the same couldn`t be said for his team-mate Noriyuki, victim of a 250 km/hour crash on entering in the first corner after being knocked from his 1198 by Xaus. The doctors of the circuit`s medical centre declared him fit to ride, although the Japanese rider had suffered some bruising to his back, as well as a severe blow to the right forearm which swelled to such an extent as to require an pain-relief injection before the race.
Despite the difficulties in warm-up, race 1 began very well for both Ducati Xerox riders, Michel holding second position and Noriyuki, fast as lightning in his start, making up several position, to rocket from tenth to third position through the first corners. Right from the second lap the gap between the leaders, Haslam, Fabrizio and Haga, and the chasing pack, led by Jonathan Rea, began to increase and by mid-race the top three had built a five second advantage over fourth placed Rea. In the final four laps Michel tried to find a way past the young Briton but it was not to be and a final charge to the finish line led to a photofinish, with the result being declared the closest ever finish in a Superbike race. Michel crossed the line a mere four thousandths of a second after Haslam, with Haga following less than a second behind to snatch the third spot on the podium.
Race 2 began in exactly the same way as the first, with Haslam, Fabrizio and Haga again off the line quickest to take an immediate lead. Haslam`s team-mate Sylvain Guintoli soon joined the fray, as did Carlos Checa mid-race, and a five-way battle for supremacy ensued. Nori, still suffering after the earlier crash, could not keep pace with the other four but held fifth position, taking home important points in the process. Checa, on board Althea Racing`s Ducati 1198, waited until the last lap before passing both Fabrizio and Haslam to take the lead, leaving the Italian and the Briton to battle it out for second.
A very strong start for the Ducati Xerox Team as far as the championship standings are concerned, Michel in second position with 36 points, Nori fourth with 27 and their combined performances today putting Ducati in joint first place with Suzuki in the manufacturers classification.
Michel Fabrizio (Race 1 – 2nd , Race 2 -3rd)
“I had a great battle with Leon in Race 1. In the last four laps I tried to understand where I could attempt to get past him but it wasn`t easy so I pushed on right to the finish line and, to tell the truth, I thought I`d done enough! Leon and I were right there together as we crossed the line, and on the big screen I could see my wife celebrating in the box – but the result was decided by the photofinish and I had to settle for 20 points this time. The great thing about the Superbike championship however is that there are two races…. My team did not make any changes to the bike before the second race and I was again able to make a good start but it was a very difficult race. I stayed there with the leading pack but I realized it would be very hard to win, and in the last four laps it became more difficult to fight. I am very happy with today`s results, which put me in second place on the leaderboard after round 1. It will be a very long and challenging season but we`ve made a good start today.”
Noriyuki Haga (Race 1 – 3rd , Race 2 – 5th)
“My result in Race 1 was really good as far as I`m concerned as I had had a crash during the warm-up and suffered from a bit of arm-pump during the race. I was confident that I could make a good start from 10th position and I did so and then I tried to keep up with Michel and Leon but my arm led me to make a few small mistakes. Anyway I really enjoyed the race and the points I made in the race are definitely a good start for the championship. In the second race my arm played up more and it became harder to brake, I felt very tired physically. But all in all, with regard to the classification and bearing in mind this morning`s accident, it didn`t go too badly; I finished third and fifth and we take home some good points.”

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