Racing runs on many things, not all of them positive: money, oil, egos, scandals and scoundrels all play their part in sullying the sport we love. Fortunately it is also driven by passion, determination and a healthy dose of adrenaline, all of which were at work in the second race of the World Superbikes at Magny Cours last weekend where we were treated to the bizarre sight of the two leaders continuing to race after the chequered flag. We’ve seen racers pull up before they should, but this was a little more unusual.
Our heroes are ‘Nitro’ Nori Haga, the ever-exuberant Ducati rider who is well overdue a title, and his opponent is one Max Biaggi, he of sharp beard and short stature. After the 23rd of 23 laps the dueling duo appeared to carry on racing hard while their rivals cruised back shaking hands and taking the applause. Haga did appear to slow down and begin his celebrations before picking up the pace and riding the last lap at full tilt with Biaggi only a few bike lengths adrift. The experienced pair eventually called it a day after taking the flag for a second time.
So what happened? It looked as though Max may have missed the flag, while Nori probably saw this and thought “sod it, let’s have another lap then” in Japanese. I wishfully think that the riders were having such a good time they fancied racing until they ran out of fuel. Like a video game you can’t put down, I like to believe they simply had that ‘just one more go’ feeling. In reality it was probably just a daft error on their part, but who could argue with their little encore?
The World Superbike Championship has been a real humdinger with Ducati’s ‘Nitro’ Nori Haga and new Yamaha Moto GP hotshot Ben Spies tussling for the 2009 honours. With each rider taking a win out in the French countryside it was a fascinating encounter. Magny Cours is no Le Mans, but the action into the Adelaide Hairpin is always a blast and this meeting is the track’s biggest event now that F1 has eschewed its gallic roots.
Seeing Nori leading the way here sent me back to 2004 when some talented friends of mine were enlisted to paint graffiti onto the Renegade Ducatis of Haga and Leon Haslam at Magny Cours. Haga took his one-off colours to victory that day, prompting an excited Japanese fellow in the pitlane to exclaim to my painter pals, “Thank you for lucky-magic-bike!”
Spies, who is destined to become the next Texan Tornado to strike Moto GP after snatching Toseland’s ride at Tech 3 Yamaha, is only ten points adrift of Haga on the works Ducati. Amazingly Haga has never held the World Superbike title before, so at the finale on the fantastic Portimao track Nori will be needing another lucky magic bike.
If you want to check the Magny Cours race for yourself, click right here.