Team Alstare Suzuki rider Max Neukirchner took a gritty pair of fourths in the 12th round of the Superbike World Championship at Vallelunga in Italy today.
Despite not having a perfect bike set-up, the young German battled his way through both 24-lap races and took the best results he could as team mate Yukio Kagayama was disappointed to finish ninth in the first race, but improved to end race two in seventh. Third rider Fonsi Nieto also struggled, finishing 12th in race one, but improved to sixth in race two.
None of trio had tested at the circuit before this year - unlike most of their rivals - and the lack of dry set-up time put them at a disadvantage even before the torrential rain on Friday.
Japanese rider Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) won the two 24-lap races today following terrific battles in both with series leader Troy Bayliss (Ducati).
Max Neukirchner - Race 1: 4th, Race 2: 4th:
"We didn't test here before and I think that put us at a big disadvantage so I think we did our best today and a pair of fourths is not bad. For this morning's warm-up we changed the bikes - one had a shorter swing-arm and the other had a longer swing-arm. In race one, I had a lot of spinning, but just kept going as hard as I could. We adjusted the rear shock for race two and the bike felt better, but not quite good enough and we still had problems exiting the corners and in the chicane. Also, I had quite a lot of pain just above my left hip as a result of my crash on Friday. All in all though, I am not disappointed today."
Yukio Kagayama - Race 1: 9th, Race 2: 7th:
"This has been a difficult day and a difficult weekend and maybe it would not have been so bad if we had tested here before - like the other teams. For me the results today are not good enough and not what I expect of myself. The bike was difficult to turn in race one and the feeling was not so good. We made some small changes to the suspension for race two and the feeling was better and I was able to push harder. Our engine is strong but our bike was not so easy to ride today exiting corners and we need to make it smoother so that we can push harder. I am a little angry and disappointed but sometimes racing is like this."
Fonsi Nieto - Race 1: 12th, Race 2: 6th:
"Our lack of practice was a big disadvantage this weekend and we were always struggling a little, especially when Friday was so wet and we could not look for a dry set-up. Race one was not good at all. I had no grip and it was very hard to keep the bike upright and all I could do was try and finish. I got hit on my leg by Biaggi in race two and I thought that the red flag would come out because he and another rider had a big crash. I had eased my pace expecting the red flag, so when it did not come out I had to start concentrating hard and working my way back into the race. Right at the end I was ready to pass Checa but then the yellow flags came out because Bayliss had crashed so I had to keep station. I want to thank the team for all their hard work this difficult weekend and now I want to look forward to Magny-Cours. It is not one of my favourite tracks, but I have been on the podium there, so I like it."
Race 1: 1 Haga (J-Yamaha), 2 Biaggi (I-Ducati), 3 Corser (Aus-Yamaha), 4 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki), 5 Checa (E-Honda), 6 Bayliss (Aus-Ducati), 7 Fabrizio (I-Ducati), 8 Rolfo (I-Honda), 9 Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare), 10 Nakatomi (J-Yamaha). 12 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare).
Race 2: 1 Haga, 2 Fabrizio, 3 Corser (Aus-Yamaha), 4 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki), 5 Checa, 6 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare), 7 Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare), 8 Nakatomi, 9 Laconi (F-Kawasaki), 10 Rolfo.
Championship points: 1 Bayliss 369, 2 Troy Corser (Aus-Yamaha) 290, 3 Haga 280, 4 Max Neukirchner 280, 5 Checa 262, 6 Biaggi 212, 7 Fonsi Nieto 206, 8 Fabrizio 210, 9 Kiyonari 193, 10 Xaus 160, 11 Yukio Kagayama 136.
The RES Software Hoegee Suzuki team set a good result in the World Supersport championship today at Vallelunga.
Barry Veneman managed a fifth place in the 22-lap race while team mate Didier Van Keymeulen crossed the finish line on eight position.
Immediately after the start, Veneman took the lead and was second into the first corner. As the race progressed he lost some places but the Dutch rider fought his way back into front group, battling for second place. After that, the gap with the front riders became bigger and together with Spaniard Lascorz, Veneman fought for fifth position.
Team mate Didier Van Keymeulen had a good start from the10th place on the starting grid and was ninth into the first corner, but after colliding with Gianluca Nannelli he lost the connection with the group in front of him and together with the Italian battled for eight position.
Marc Hoegee - Team owner RES Software Hoegee Suzuki:
"I can only be satisfied with this result. Of course we hoped for some more after the good practices this weekend but to finish with both riders in the top 10 is good. We showed again that we are able to ride at the front so we have a good prospect for the last two races of the season. In two weeks we are riding at Magny Cours in France and when I look at the progress we've made I feel confident about a good performance there."
"After a good start I was not able to prove myself. I was not as strong as I was in practice. The bike and the tyres were ok, but I just felt not confident enough and so I lost some places. I found my rhythm back halfway into the race but that was too late. I am not satisfied and I may not be satisfied about this race. I am happy that the Vallelunga race is done because I just don't like the circuit. I am looking forward to Magny Cours, where for sure our Suzuki GSX-R600 is much better. The season is not over yet!
Didier Van Keymeulen:
"I am satisfied after this weekend where we were constantly in the top 10. Before the race I had my doubts about my shape because I have a cold but Doctor Costa gave me the right medicine. My start was good again and I stayed in the top 10. The moment that Nannelli and I touched each other cost me some time but I was able to find my rhythm back. Everything worked well."