So far this year, Noriyuki Haga has been praised for his consistency, finishing every race but one until Donington, his one DNF so far down to a bird strike rather than rider error. But in the UK, his run of consistency came to an unfortunate end. Haga scored good points in race 1, unable to match the pace of Ben Spies and Max Biaggi, but in race 2, Haga was not so lucky. The Japanese Xerox Ducati rider crashed out in race 2, falling at Coppice in a crash which was all too reminiscent of Troy Bayliss' horrific crash there two years before. But Haga's crash was even worse than Bayliss', as Haga's Xerox Ducati tumbled through the gravel with him, landing on top of him at least once before coming to a standstill.
After the incident, Haga was seen walking away, and was thought to have come away relatively unharmed, though clearly very beaten up. Sadly, this was not to be the case: Examination at the trackside medical revealed a suspected fractured vertebrae, and Haga was immediately airlifted to a nearby hospital in Derby. At the hospital, Haga was stabilized and had fluid drained from around the injury as a preventative measure. Initial reports indicated that the Japanese rider had indeed suffered a fractured vertebra, and would be out for at least 2 to 3 months.
A CAT scan later revealed more promising results. The scan did not find any indication of recent fractured vertebrae, meaning that the worst of the danger has probably passed for Haga. However, the scan confirmed the results of earlier examinations, which showed that Haga had fractured his left shoulder blade and broken his right ulna, one of the two long bones in the forearm. Haga is due to have surgery to fix the broken arm, while the fractured shoulder blade is still being examined at the time of writing (10pm CET, Sunday 28th June).
Though a fractured shoulder blade would require a much shorter period to heal than a fractured vertebra, Haga is still set for a lengthy recovery process. It seems improbable that the Japanese rider will be back at Brno on July 26th, but he should be fit enough to ride at the following round, at the Nurburgring on September 6th, after the World Superbike series' long summer break. Given the strength of Ben Spies' challenge, and the fact that Texan trails Haga by just 14 points in the championship, Haga is likely to make his return down on points and with an uphill struggle to get his title challenge back on track.
In the past, Haga has shown an incredible physical resilience, suffering his first broken bone last year in a crash at Miller Motorsports Park, an incredible record given his reputation for pushing beyond the limit and paying the price. But perhaps Haga's age is starting to work against him, and a 34 year-old does not have the resistance to injury of a 22 year-old, no matter how fit he is.