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Noriyuki Haga profile

By Dan Moakes
November 9 2005

Noriyuki Haga
nationality · Japanese
born · 2 March 1975
world superbike début · 1994
grand prix début · 1998

Noriyuki Haga’s popularity first grew out of his spectacular performances with Yamaha’s four-cylinder 750cc Superbikes. Known as ‘Nitro Nori’ or ‘the Samurai of Slide’, Haga is one of those riders who likes things a certain way, and hasn’t always got on with his bikes when the front end handling wasn’t quite to his liking. For this reason he always preferred to run Dunlop tyres, and the disappointment of his GP years in part stems from the alternative rubber in use. Nevertheless, he is not a man you can discount, and the Pirelli tyres have suited him well enough as we have seen him return to form over the last couple of years

1979
First minibike

1980
Made ‘pocket bike’ racing début

1992
Made professional road racing début; 13th in All-Japan 250cc championship

1993
Japanese Superbike championship; raced a Yamaha in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Jun’ichi Matsushita

1994
9th in Japanese Superbike championship; raced a Yamaha in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Masanari Hirayama; World Superbike début
Noriyuki raced his Ducati at the Sugo round, finishing twelfth in race two

1995
10th in Japanese Superbike championship
Racing the number 9 Yamaha YZF750SP for Team YDS, Haga’s season included two second place finishes
Also finished 22nd in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Yasunori Kondo

1996
8th in Japanese Superbike championship; World Superbikes
His number 10 YZF was run by Techno Motor Engineering, and six top four results included a win at Sugo. He appeared at the same venue in the World Championship, riding the number 57 machine and finishing second in race one
Also won the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Colin Edwards

1997
Japanese Superbike Champion; World Superbikes
Riding a Marlboro Yamaha YZF750 carrying the number 8, Noriyuki won seven races and was second three times. At the end of the year he filled in for the injured Edwards at the Yamaha World Superbike Team, running bike number 41. In four races he was second, first, fifth and third, earning thirteenth place with 72 points, and a full-time ride for 1998
Also qualified third for the Suzuka 8 Hours, with brother Kensuke Haga, finishing seventeenth

1998 Yamaha WSBK, number 41 Yamaha
Running Dunlops, as opposed to the Michelins of team-mate Scott Russell, Haga’s results on the YZF were above expectations for the bike. He set pole in Spain, and won five races on his way to sixth overall. With fourteen finishes in the top eight, Noriyuki scored 258 points altogether
Also raced the number 50 machine for Yamaha Racing Team in the 500cc Grand Prix of Japan, finishing third; raced twice in Japanese Superbikes, finishing fifth and seventh
Also qualified second for the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Simon Crafar, finishing sixth

1999 Yamaha WSBK Team, number 41 Yamaha
1999 was a good year for Haga, rather than another great one, this time racing the new R7 on Michelin tyres. There was only one victory, in Spain, but other consistent results saw him drop only one place in the championship table, with 196 points scored
Also finished fourth in the Suzuka 8 Hours, with Régis Laconi; raced once in Japanese Superbikes, but scored no points

2000 Yamaha WSBK Team, number 41 Yamaha
In his third World Superbike season, Noriyuki strung together some impressive results as he challenged for the title. Unfortunately, there was also controversy, as he was penalised for performance enhancing drugs after a rapid weight loss programme. But his riding did a lot of the talking, and Dunlop tyres enabled him to win five races - although he was disqualified from one of these - and fifteen top four results stood at the year’s end. His title charge was halted by a race ban, but he still ended up second with 335 points
Also raced once in Japanese Superbikes, finishing third

2001 Red Bull Yamaha WCM, number 41 Yamaha
With a successful GP outing already behind him, Haga was back on a 500cc Yamaha for a first full season in 2001. The Michelin tyres were not in his favour and, although he ran in the top six for several races, there were too many crashes all told. However, the British GP was a different story, with Noriyuki coming home fourth, and in Australia he led dramatically until fading to eight at the finish. A few more finishes took him up to 59 points, and equal fourteenth overall

2002 Playstation2-FGF Aprilia, number 41 Aprilia
A return to World Superbikes was more to Haga’s taste, and he was immediately back on the pace. The RSV1000 may not have been capable of unseating the dominant Edwards/Honda and Bayliss/Ducati pairings, but he still put it on pole in Sugo, and set four fastest laps. His best chance of victory came at Laguna Seca, where he came off trying to pass Edwards, but he still picked up seven podium finishes and twelve more in the top six. 278 points were good for fourth overall

2003 Alice Aprilia Racing, number 41 Aprilia
Once again Noriyuki benefited from his employers’ faith, and was transferred back into MotoGP on the RS ‘Cube’ four-stroke. The Michelin-shod machine was a particularly difficult one to control, and neither he nor team-mate Edwards were consistently up front. Haga was unable to qualify higher than the fourth row, but still had a couple of good outings in the wet French and Dutch races. Unfortunately, his results were disappointing in the main - a best of seventh - and his contract was not renewed. 47 points took him to fourteenth overall

Noriyuki Haga 2004 - photo by Raceline Photography
Noriyuki Haga in action during 2004 © Raceline Photography

2004 Team Renegade Ducati · Renegade Ducati Koji, number 41 Ducati
Unsurprisingly, Haga found his way back to World Superbikes, to campaign a Ducati for the first time in a decade. The signs for a competitive season were good right away, with Noriyuki scoring his first win since the year 2000 as early as race two. Bad luck hit him in Italy and Germany, but he was able to add five more wins, including his first double, to become a genuine title contender. In total there were fourteen results in the top four, plus seven fastest laps, and 299 points placed him third overall

Noriyuki Haga 2005 - photo by Raceline Photography
Noriyuki Haga in action during 2005 © Raceline Photography

2005 Yamaha Motor Italia WSB, number 41 Yamaha
In 2005, Yamaha returned for the first time since 2000, and Noriyuki was the obvious choice to join them and lead the way with the YZF-R1. The combination showed promise from fairly early on, but mid-season progress saw Haga take the bike’s first wins at Brno and Brands Hatch. After this he was always on the podium, apart from once after a coming together with team-mate Andrew Pitt. These late results allowed Nori to move up to third overall, with a score of 271 points. He also set six fastest laps


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