Suzuki dominates World Superbike Championships

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April 7, 2005 With four races completed in the 2005 World Superbike Championships, the good news is that the race that was known by many as the Ducati Cup over the last few seasons is now a thriving series once more with six competitive manufacturers fielding two three and four cylinder machinery – the bad news is that the podium for 2005 may be dominated by Suzuki as much as it was by Ducati in 2004. From a possible 180 points so far, Suzuki has scored 176 points – and although the prospects for Yamaha, Honda and Ducati look brighter as the year progresses, 1996 Superbike champion Troy Corser looks already like the 2005 champion. Corser and team-mate Kagayama pulled off a sensational double one-two on their Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra GSX-R1000s at the second-round at Phillip Island, Australia last weekend. Championship favourite Corser won both the first and re-started second race and Kagayama pulled back to second again in the rain-hit second race after improving from sixth place when it was stopped. So dominant are the Suzukis that Corser is already long-odds on for the title – as a long time campaigner on the superbike championship circuit, Corser has an awesome record at most of the remaining circuits in the title race. The remaining circuits and Corser’s record there are as follows: Valencia (3 wins, 2 superpoles, three fastest laps), Monza (2 FL), Misano (2 W, 2 SP, 5 FL), Brno (2 W, 2 FL, 1 SP), Brands Hatch (2 W, 2 SP, 2 FL), Assen (2 SP), Imola (1 SP, 1 FL) and Magny Cours (1 SP). Of the remaining circuits, only Silverstone and EuroSpeedway have not seen Corser take a superpole, fastest lap or a race win mainly because he hasn't competed et either circuit in superbikes.

Corser totally dominated the first of the two 22-lap races and was leading the second by a considerable margin when it was red-flagged after 13 laps. The second part was a ‘wet race’ and this time Kagayama crossed the line ahead of Corser, but when the times were aggregated, the 1996 World Champ took the win by a comfortable margin.

In race one, Corser headed the field from the first corner and nobody got anywhere near. At the end his victory margin was more than eight seconds. Kagayama took runner-up spot with Chris Vermeulen (Honda) third some four seconds behind. Fourth was Max Neukirchner (Honda) ahead of Andrew Pitt (Yamaha) and Norick Abe (Yamaha).

Neukirchner looks special

The two-part second race saw 21 year-old Superbike rookie Max Neukirchner take third behind the Suzuki GSX-R1000s. Neukirchner looks to have something special. He was rookie of the year last year in supersports, though he failed to take a single podium in his first year of international competition. This year though, he has taken to the Klaffi Honda CBR1000RR and stepped up into the big league. His first race was the aborted first leg at Losail where he finished 18th, only to DNF in the restart. His second race at Losail saw him take eighth spot, just behind Norick Abe and just ahead of Andrew Pitt.

His third race in superbikes saw him trading paint with Chris Vermeulen and narrowly losing out on a podium spot and in only his fourth superbike race he took to the podium. Germany has a proud history of motorcycle champions with names such as George Meier, Werner Haas, Ernst Degner and Anton Mang winning important titles, but there has been a dearth of championship-winning talent in recent times. Neukirchner looks to have the ability – watch this space!

With two of the hardest riders on the circuit in Vermeulen and Superbike Rookie Muggeridge, plus the proven ability of ten Kate to extract horsepower from Honda motorcycles, the team will obviously become more competitive as the season goes on. Vermeulen scored four wins last year, and had things gone his way, he might have even snatched the championship after a strong second half to the year. After Kagayama, Vermeulen still rates as the most likely challenger to Corser for the title.

Vermeulen’s team-mate, Karl Muggeridge had a dreadful weekend with just an eighth place to show for his trouble and a high-speed crash in warm-up knocking him about and preventing him from doing his best. Muggeridge has the speed to win races.

Ducati facing a big challenge

Seventh and fourteenth respectively were all that Ducati works riders Regis Laconi and James Toseland could manage in a windy first race after starting from rows 2 and 3 respectively.”I never had to ride so hard to stay on the bike because the front was just going away all the time‚” declared Laconi. ”I lost it five times at the same place at 220 kph because of the wind or the tyres, I don’t know which. It was so crazy that I couldn’t even stay on the bike and I just did the best I could do. I passed everyone to move up to fourth and thought I was OK but then it was so difficult because after 6 or 7 laps the bike was just so hard to ride.”

Toseland instead had problems with his rear tyre, which prevented him from making an impact on the race. ”I got a bad start and almost went off at the first corner and that dropped me down to fifteenth. After that I just started to lose grip very early on and that was it for my race‚” he declared.

Race 2 was red-flagged for rain after just over half-distance, with Laconi four seconds behind Corser in second place. In the final ten laps, which were run on full wets, Laconi did his best to maintain that position but had a nasty moment when he lost control of the rear of his 999 at Lukey Heights and crashed. The Frenchman was able to restart but eventually finished seventh overall.

Ducati won 18 of 22 races last year and on the showing so far, will struggle to win more than a handful of races this year given the increased competition and the re-emergence of the four cylinder machines as they overcome their airbox restrictions.

Foggy Petronas

Foggy PETRONAS Racing’s joy in qualifying second on the grid for the second round of the Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island, Australia, turned to despair on race day. The day had started full of promise after Steve had qualified in second spot, with Garry in seventh, but neither rider was able to finish either race with both retiring from the first race through mechanical problems before crashing out of the restarted wet section of the second race.

Yamaha close but no cigar

With Andrew Pitt less than a second from a podium position in the first race, the Yamaha R1-based superbikes are clearly competitive, but luck just didn’t favour the two major Yamaha teams at Phillip island. The dreadful conditions of the second race saw the team’s chances evaporate quickly and like most teams other than Suzuki, Yamaha will be looking to improved fortunes when the circus assembles again at Velencia in Spain on April 24,

QUOTES from key riders and team managers:

Troy Corser, Alstare Suzuki, championship leader with 91 points: ”I was disappointed not to take Superpole, but I did say then that today would be much more important. In the dry, the Alstare Suzuki has been working really well and I knew that I could win today. My start was ok and once I got into the lead, I felt very comfortable and I was able to run my own laps and leave the rest to fight each other. As the race progressed I felt very relaxed and was a bit surprised that nobody got near me. It was a great feeling to win at my favourite race track and especially when I saw all the fans waving their flags and cheering. I was in control of the second race when the rain came down and it was stopped. I felt sorry for the fans, but it was absolutely the right decision because the track was very, very slippery and even before we returned to the pits, there were a few crashes. The second part was very wet and when Garry McCoy crashed right in front of me, I had to go off the track to avoid him! Yukio and I swapped the lead, but he wanted to win and I knew I had a time advantage, so I didn’t try to re-pass him. At the end of the day this was a perfect result for me and the team.” If you're a Troy fan, there’s also an extensive report on Troy’s web site

Yukio Kagayama, Alstare Suzuki, second in races 3 and 4 and second in championship with 85 points: “I am a very, very happy man today and so thank you to my team for making me so happy. Troy-san was very fast at the start of the first race and there was no way I could catch him, but I was happy to be on the podium in second place. I was very lucky in race two because when it was stopped, I think I was only in sixth place. When the second part began, Troy was fast again but later on I was able to catch him and then go into the lead. It was very slippery and I had many slides, but I still gave it a lot of gas because that is the way I ride! I took the chequered flag but I knew that Troy was the winner because he had been so far ahead in the first part. But getting two runner-up spots is a great feeling for me and I am so very happy.”

Regis Laconi Ducati Xerox Team, seventh in both races 3 & 4, third in championship with 54 points: “I made a good start and had a good first lap to be immediately up with the leaders. Troy was a bit faster than me but I kept second place well. I was happy because we changed the bike totally from the first race and now it was so good, so thanks to my team for giving me something different for the second race. I started to ride it in the wet but the rear shock was too hard and after three laps the rear tyre was finished. When I crashed, the rear went away and I made a big highside. I restarted the bike with the starter and got back in the race to finish seventh.”

Chris Vermeulen‚ ten Kate Honda, third in race 3, fourth in race 4, fourth in championship with 50 points: “I had a real battle with Max Neukirchner on another Honda towards the end of that race. He was going for it and riding really well. So well that I have a big black mark from his front tyre on my leathers! It’s a shame that I had to push so hard in the early stages because I was struggling with front end grip towards the race. But I was in a good rhythm and the bike felt good so I managed to hold on for the podium, which is the important thing. I had some good starts today but it just span up like crazy in the wet restart so I couldn’t get away as well as I needed to. It was really slippery out there – worse than in warm-up – and the wind didn’t help. I was going fine again in the dry and felt really comfortable but at least I got a few points today. A third and a fourth from ninth on the grid isn’t so bad. Imagine what we could do from pole position; but I haven’t had that pleasure yet. Then again, I’ve never started from the third row either!”

Ronald ten Kate team manager: “That was a good effort from Karl to bring the bike home for some more points after his crash in warm-up this morning. Of course, I am delighted for Chris achieving our first podium of the season. It’s just a pity that he had to start from the third row and push so hard early on, otherwise I think he could have been challenging a little earlier. It’s a pity about the weather here today because in the first dry part of that second race, Chris’s lap times were improving and he was making another charge towards a podium finish – just like in race one. Unfortunately we couldn’t complete the job in the wet second half but that’s how it goes sometimes. At least he collected another handful of points. I feel sorry for Karl, who has endured a tough day. I feel he deserved a lot more after qualifying so well but we’ll regroup and hope for better things when we return to Europe.”

Max Neukirchner, Klaffi Honda, fourth race 3, third race 4, fifth in championship with 37 points: “It was a hard ride today. The gusts of wind were incalculable. Especially in the second part of race II it was absolutely important to stay cool and relaxed. Those who risked too much were immediately out. The crashes were impressive. And Phillip Island – I really love it!” If you read German, you can get more detail at Max’s personal web site

Klaus Klaffenböck, Klaffi Honda Team manager: “I nearly can’t believe what happened today. Max did a great job in qualifying and Superpole yesterday but I never thought that he would be able to achieve such impressive results. After the bad surprise with the broken collarbone Frankie is doing rather well again. Today he was absolutely busy with autographs for his fans. I think he will be fit for the Valencia round!” If you read German, you can get more detail at the Klaffi Honda web site

Norick Abe, Yamaha Motor France IPONE, sixth race 3, eighth race 4, sixth in title with 33 points: "It has been a long time since I rode or practiced in the rain, so I did not have the right rain settings. We made the suspension much softer for the race but it was not enough. It was not bad in race one. I am sixth in the championship and that's because I always make the most of things in the races. I think soon we can get to the podium." Martial Garcia, Team Manager - Yamaha Motor France IPONE: "Abe was not in a bad situation until the rain came. He was in with the front runners in the dry but when it rained he slipped back a little, as he couldn't get the grip. He is sixth in the championship so that's not so bad. An unhappy weekend for Sébastien (Gimbert), but there will be better ones."

Andrew Pitt, Yamaha Motor Italia, fifth race 3, DNF race 4, seventh in title with 31 points: "I feel like I've been in a boxing ring for 15 rounds. I was very careful through turn eight and I just touched the throttle, to get ready for the corner, and I went straight over the handlebars. It was the first lap, the tyre was new and cold. The same thing happened to Haga. The weather conditions, with so much wind and then the rain, were as bad as any I've ridden in here."

Massimo Meregalli, Team Coordinator, Yamaha Motor Italia; "Up to yesterday Andrew was pretty good and finished fifth in the first race. Then it started to rain and he fell in the first lap of the re-start, same place as Noriyuki. Both riders say that they don't know why and there were four riders off in total on exactly the same corner, so it seems strange. When it is wet anything can happen, but for me the dry result for Andrew was OK. Every time we ride with the new bike there is a small improvement."

James Toseland, Ducati Xerox Team, 14th race 3, DNF race four, last year’s champion and now eighth in the championship with 22 points: ”I’m going away from here with one point after working so hard this weekend. I was up there in top five in every practice on race tyres, so it wasn’t a coincidence. In Superpole the time I did would have put me second in every other session and I was tenth, then we had problems with the rear in race 1 and with Muggeridge who cut me up in race 2. What more can I say?”

Karl Muggeridge, ten Kate Honda, eighth race 3, DNF race 4, 12th in title with 15 points: “I didn’t feel so bad after the crash this morning but I got knocked about a bit and I’ve definitely felt better. The bike definitely didn’t feel as good this morning as it did during Superpole yesterday and warm-up didn’t help because it was wet anyway. It was getting pretty aggressive in that first part of race two but I was comfortable and the bike was feeling good, even though I hadn’t got a great start. I was battling with James Toseland and we got into a situation at turn 10 where I just had nowhere to go. It’s disappointing because we’d been making steady progress right through the weekend and had a pretty good qualifying and Superpole. After the crash in warm-up this morning I wanted a couple of good results for the team, who have worked really hard, but I guess that’ll have to wait until Valencia.”

Noriyuki Haga, Yamaha Motor Italia, DNF in both races 3 and 4, 11th in championship with 16 points: "We did not have a good weekend here. We chose the same wet tyre as this morning but the feeling was not the same as we had earlier. We just have to move on to Valencia and forget about today."

Steve Martin Team Foggy Petronas, running 25th in the championship with one point: “To qualify in second at my home circuit and to set my fastest lap here is something that I will remember for a long time. Both Garry and I are on the pace and that is good for PETRONAS and the team. When we get a bit more power, instead of just catching people we will be able to catch them and pass them. I got a better start in race two but was getting chewed up down the staights. After the restart I went into turn one as normal and, before I even got on the gas, the bike high-sided me and landed on top of me, driving me into the ground. I had a terrible start in the first race and Muggeridge made it hard for me to get past. The group in front had broken up by then but once I was past him I was able to pull a bit of a gap before I had to retire. They were the windiest conditions I have raced in.”

Gary McCoy, Team Foggy Petronas: “If I had been able to get away with the front guys I probably could have had a better chance of being close. When I got past Steve and Chris Walker I was starting to concentrate on the guys in front but had probably wasted the tyre a bit in the early stages. I had actually had a few slips at Haysheds earlier in the day as it seemed a little greasy there. I went in there quite cautious so there could even have been a gush of wind because the bike went sideways all of a sudden. I got flicked onto the front screen and went down into the kitty litter! Andrew Pitt also came off behind me and I thought ‘Here comes something blue’ as I was lying there. I was confident his bike would stop before reaching me or else I would have been out of there! In the first race I got a good start and had the front guys in my sights. I was pretty happy that I could be consistent throughout the race and, with a bit more luck, I would have finished up there.”

For full details of all practise sessions, superpole and all race results in Superbike competition check out the new World Superbike site.

Charpentier wins World SuperSport

After looking like a certain winner in the first round at Qatar and having his tyres go off, Sebastien Charpentier took victory in the second round of the World Supersport championship, crossing the line 3.5 seconds ahead of Yamaha’s Kevin Curtain. His Winston Ten Kate Honda team-mate, Katsuaki Fujiwara, finished in fourth place, just fifteen hundredths of a second behind Honda-mounted third placed man, Fabien Foret.

It was Charpentier’s second win in world championship supersport racing‚ his first coming seven years ago at Nurburgring in Germany‚ and gives the Frenchman the championship lead after his second place at the opening round in Qatar.

Yamaha Motor Germany rider Kevin Curtain showed true determination to take second place in his home race at Phillip Island after a last minute decision to change the suspension settings on his YZF-R6 paid dividends. Having suffered throughout the qualifying sessions with traction problems, Curtain’s mechanics fitted a new rear shock absorber for race day – but were unable to properly test the new settings due to wet conditions in the pre-race warm-up.

Starting from fourth on the grid, the experienced Australian traded the lead with Sebastien Charpentier (Honda) in the opening laps of the dry race, before the Frenchman started to pull a slight gap with 17 of the 21 laps completed. With a clear gap back to third place, Curtain was able to hold on for his second successive second place at Phillip Island and his first podium of the season.

Curtain’s team-mate Broc Parkes showed true grit to ride bravely after a high-speed crash during the previous day’s free practice session. The youngster started down in 12th place after missing final qualifying but was able to ride a steady and professional race to come home in seventh place, moving him up to fifth overall in the championship standings.

The start of race was delayed due to high winds, which made the conditions difficult throughout the race. Frenchman Fabien Foret (Honda) took third place after a race-long battle with Katsuaki Fujiwara (Honda). The result ensures that both Curtain and Parkes move up one place in the championship positions, to third and fifth place respectively. With two rounds gone, Charpentier leads the championship with 45 points, ahead of Fujiwara on 38 and Curtain on 33.

Sebastien Charpentier‚ ten Kate Honda, first and new Championship leader with 45 points: “It’s been a long time since my last win but I am very happy, especially after the mystery with the front that we had in Qatar. I love Phillip Island and its fast corners, and I was very confident coming here after the successful test we had at Valencia. I had a great race with Kevin Curtain but the wind was very difficult for all of us because it would change strength from lap to lap. The team has been great and we made a really good tyre choice today with a hard front and a medium rear‚ it was the perfect combination.”

Ronald ten Kate, ten Kate team manager: “It was a fantastic race to watch and I’m so happy for Sebastien after being so close to winning here last year. He has been consistently fast since we first started testing and thoroughly deserves this victory. Kats was so close to getting on the podium, which would have been the perfect way to follow-up his win in Qatar. This is the ninth consecutive win for the team and, overall, I’m really pleased to be heading back to racing in Europe with first and second place in the championship.”

Kevin Curtain, Yamaha Motor Germany, second in the race and third in the championship: “It was a tough race, especially with the wind, which was probably the strongest I have ever experienced in my many years here. When I hit the front I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could win this one but again it wasn’t to be. I have to thank my team because all weekend we have had bike traction problems but today they found a miracle solution. As the practice was wet this morning I hadn’t been able to test changes, so I went into the race with an untried shock. Thankfully they went the right way and this is a great reward for all the hard work they’ve done this weekend.”

Terrell Thien, Team Manager - Yamaha Motor Germany: "We’re really happy with Kevin’s result here although it was a shame that we did not have a dry free practice session this morning, because if we had we would have realized that we also needed to change the front suspension too. In the race the rear shock pushed the front so hard that Kevin’s front tyre was destroyed by the end. I was happy that Broc could enter first of all and, after 10 laps, he was in pain all over. But he rode clever and finished the race, and now we are all looking forward to the next race in Valencia. We are learning more about the bike every race and we made good progress in our recent Valencia test without actually being able to try everything we wanted to."

Katsuaki Fujiwara‚ ten Kate Honda, fourth: “It is very disappointing to miss third place by the width of a tyre but I am happy for Sebastien and the rest of the team. The wind was so strong today and it made the bike very difficult to control. I had an amazing battle for third with Fabien Foret and Michel Fabrizio on other Hondas and I tried as hard as I could the whole way through. I’m still learning with the CBR but the team is helping me all the time.”

Broc Parkes, Yamaha Motor Germany, seventh in the race, fifth in the title chase: "Last night I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the race, so to get a seventh is actually a good result. I actually felt ok when I was on the bike but I felt my riding was off the pace. Still, when I lay on the track after crashing yesterday I was sure that I had broken some bones. It is important to get some good points so overall I am happy with how I went today.” World Supersport, Phillip Island results (21 laps, 93.345kms): 1 Sebastien Charpentier FRA (Winston Ten Kate Honda) 34m28.920s, 2 Kevin Curtain AUS (Yamaha) 3.595s, 3 Fabien Foret FRA (Honda) 9.641s, 4 Katsuaki Fujiwara JPN (Winston Ten Kate Honda) 9.664, 5 Jurgen vd Goorbergh NED (Ducati) 29.602, 6 Johan Stigefelt SWE (Honda) 34.168, 7 Broc Parkes AUS (Yamaha) 42.695, 8 Stephane Chambon FRA (Honda) 46.360, 9 Tauto Lauslehto FIN (Honda) 48.976, 10 Christophe Cogan FRA (Suzuki) 56.859. Championship points after two of 12 rounds: Charpentier 45, Fujiwara 38, Curtain 33, Foret 27, Parkes 19, Chambon 17, Michel Fabrizio ITA (Honda) 16, Javier Fores ESP (Suzuki) 13, Lauslehto 13, vd Goorbergh 11.

Odds for World SuperBike Riders Title After Race

T Corser 2.00 Y Kagayama 3.25 R Laconi 5.50 C Vermeulen 7.00 J Toseland 17.00 N Haga 19.00 N Abe 21.00 M Neukirchner 21.00 A Pitt 26.00 P Chili 34.00 K Muggeridge 41.00 F Nieto 51.00 G Bussei 51.00 S Gimbert 67.00 C Walker 101.00 M Sanchini 101.00

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