February 23, 2008
Team Suzuki Press Office – February 23, 2008.

Team Suzuki Alstare rider Fonsi Nieto took his maiden World Superbike Championship victory in the second 18-lap race at the Qatar season opener today.

Despite having to start from the third row of the grid, Nieto stormed through the field to take the lead just four laps from the end. Ruben Xaus and Max Biaggi attacked him to the end but could not find any way past and the Spaniard was able to take the chequered flag by three-tenths-of-a-second.

For Nieto and his team mates Yukio Kagayama and Max Neukirchner, today was a bit of a mixed day. Neukirchner led the majority of the first race, before finishing fifth. Nieto finished seventh with Kagayama one place behind in eighth. The race was won by Troy Bayliss (Ducati), with Biaggi (Ducati) second and Troy Corser (Yamaha) third.

In race two Kagayama crashed out on the opening lap when he and Carlos Checa collided. He was taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone and will now almost certainly miss next week’s race in Phillip Island. Neukirchner finished eighth, suffering the effects of a heavy cold and grip problems.

Fonsi Nieto – Race 1: 7th, Race 2: 1st:

“This is my first WSBK win and my first race win since Donington in 1993! Yes, it’s been a long, long while. I’ve worked very hard in this championship and today I reaped the reward of all the hard work. Today my Suzuki Alstare bike was faster than the Ducatis, but I definitely raced with my mind today. I used the same bike with the same set-up in both races, though I did have the traction control on a harder setting in the first race and the bike was not as comfortable to ride as it was in race two. There was only five degrees difference in temperature between the two races, but the bike felt different in both races!

“In the second race, I was able to conserve my bike and the tyres and finish strongly and that’s why I won. I would like to thank all the people who had faith in me and have supported me these past years. And I’d like to thank Francis and Patricia Batta, the whole team and Suzuki for all their help. I know there are people out there who didn’t think I could be a winner, but today I proved them wrong!”

Max Neukirchner – Race 1: 5th, Race 2: 8th:

“It was a really good feeling leading the first race for so long and I felt pretty comfortable doing it. I made a good start and led from the lights more or less and then I just kept my head down and found I was in the lead without too much of a problem. I have been suffering from some kind of a cold or something and, with about eight laps to go, I didn’t feel in very good condition. At the same time, I started getting lots of slides and the two things together allowed some riders to pass me and I ended up 5th.

“In race two I changed to a softer tyre, but the grip didn’t feel so good. I made a little mistake on the brakes and I lost touch with the leaders and it was not possible to catch them again. All in all, it’s not a bad start to the season, but it could’ve been better.”

Yukio Kagayama – Race 1: 8th, Race 2: DNF:

“In race one, I firstly suffered a problem with tyre chatter after seven laps and the grip level also went down. Later in the race, I had some vibration exiting the turns so it was difficult to push very hard. I just kept going as fast as I could and tried to get the best result I could.”

Race 1:1 Bayliss (Aus-Ducati), 2 Biaggi (I-Ducati), 3 Corser (Aus-Yamaha ), 4 Xaus (E-Ducati), 5 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki), 6 C.Checa (E-Honda), 7 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare), 8 Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare).

Race 2: 1 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare), 2 Xaus, 3 Biaggi, 4 Bayliss, 5 Fabrizio (I-Ducati), 6 C.Checa. 8 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki). Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare) DNF

Points: 1 Bayliss 38, 2 Biaggi 36, 3 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare) 34, 4 Xaus 33, 5 Troy Corser 25, 6 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki) 19. 12 Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare) 8