Monday, May 18, 2009

WSBK Kyalami: Nori Back to the Boil

The first visit for several years to the South African track of Kyalami was a bit of a subdued affair for the World Superbike Championship. The popular Frenchman Regis Laconi had an enormous crash in practise, breaking his neck and sustaining a heavy blow to the head. He spent a while in a medically induced coma, but is now awake, and will undergo an operation to have his neck bolted back together before returning to France. The outlook seems to be very positive, so get well soon Regis.

The racing wasn't up to much, really. The track is nice and wide, with lots of elevation changes (it's thousands of feet above sea level, so there's plenty of vertical room), but for some reason the field strung out and it seemed difficult to make overtaking moves. Possibly this is because few people had good quality data about the track. There was an official test at Kyalami before the season, but a lot of the bikes were fresh from the crates and very undeveloped back then.

Nitro Nori Haga won the double, despite still suffering from his bizarre bird-strike incident at Monza last week. Obviously Nori is made of sterner stuff than Sete Gibernau (the GP star having re-re-re-re-rebroken his collarbone again.)

Michel Fabrizio was again on the pace of his older, crazier and better team-mate. Strange. Fabrizio rarely strings two good results together. Has his first jammy victory finally unleashed a torrent of talent? Doubtful! Either way, it'll be interesting to find out. The young Roman jazzed up race 2 by passing Haga twice on the last lap, running wide both times. A very good showing.

Ben Spies had a weekend that started brilliantly and went downhill all the way. First of all, he took pole position by just one millisecond from Fabrizio, equalling the best ever run of 6 pole positions in a row by Doug Polen. In race 1 he could just about hang onto the leading Ducati duo, but in race 2 his gear lever fell off, giving him a DNF. Spies is still by far the best of the rest, but Haga's most unHagalike display of consistency is giving the Japanese nutcase a Baylisstic lead in the championship.

Johnny Rea gets an honourable mention for popping onto the podium in race 2, beating Haslam and Biaggi in the process. Haslam also gets an honourable mention for narrowly missing the podium in race 2, having crashed in qualifying and race 1.

So there wasn't amazing racing at the South African track, but the main thing to take away is that Regis Laconi appears to be making a swift recovery from his life-threatening injuries. Hopefully we'll be seeing the puddock back in the paddock before too long. 

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