World Superbike Champs - Ducati fights back

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May 29, 2005 Regis Laconi and James Toseland took a win apiece for the Ducati Xerox Team in the fifth round of the World Superbike championship in front of a 70,000 strong crowd at the Silverstone circuit. Frenchman Laconi scored his ninth career triumph and Ducati’s first win of the year when he took the chequered flag in race one, but it was Toseland who really set the home fans alight with a controlled but aggressive display of riding in race 2 to seal the reigning champion’s first win of the year. In the pointscore though, runaway championship leader Troy Corser on the Suzuki GSXR1000R finished second in both races, extending his lead to 78 points – more than three clear race wins.

For Ducati, the event was enormously face-saving and has moved the team’s two riders into fourth and fifth on the standings and re-established Ducati as a serious superbike contender, at least as much as any other manufacturer can be given Suzuki’s withering form this year. Corser finished second in both races with a total losing margin for the day of 0.569 seconds – in both races the wiley Aussie would have known as he crossed the line that his championship points margin was growing.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the day was the performance of Yukio Kagayama who had snared superpole and was very familiar with the shorter Silverstone Circuit in which he had competed successfully in the British Superbike Championships. Given the above, it was an opportunity for him to show some form and put some pressure on his Suzuki team-mate but a crash in the first race and a lacklustre showing in the second saw him leave the event with a gap of just three points to third placed championship contender Chris Vermeulen.

More disappointing than Kagayama was the choice of circuit. After last year’s high-speed thriller around the one of the fastest circuits in the world, the organisers chose to run two 28 lap races of the shorter 3.561 km (2.213 miles) International Circuit, used in the popular British Superbike championship. The main change was that instead of powering down Hangar Straight towards Stowe, the riders veered off at Becketts and headed directly for Abbey before completing the rest of the considerably shorter airfield layout.

The highest point scorer on the day was reigning champ Toseland, who took advantage of his home circuit, local knowledge and a well set-up Duke to wrestle a third and a first from the two races.

“Its always nice to win especially with the tough start to this season, but as I said after the first race, I never give up” declared James. “The team has worked fantastically well, thanks to Davide Tardozzi and Paolo Ciabatti for all the work they’ve done with me. We made a slight change from first race to second race and it was worth half a second a lap faster, the difference between finishing third and first, but it was a long race and seeing L18 after about 45 minutes is really tough!

“I did it the hard way again, letting them get away at the start and having to chip away but once I’d got on the tail, it was difficult with Nori and Troy and it took me quite a few laps to get by. I’ve never won before at Silverstone and that was one of my goals in life. It feels as good as I thought it would!”.

Laconi won the first race from Corser but retired from the second on lap 2 when he lost the rear of his Ducati 999 and crashed out.

“I have wanted to win since the beginning of the season” said Régis. “I almost did it in Monza, but I was a bit disappointed about losing out on the final lap. Now I am very happy to win this one because it is the first victory this year. It’s good because it means that Ducati are doing a great job together to get back to the front and with James on the podium it was a good result for all of us. In the last few laps I knew Troy was behind me so I tried my best not to make any mistake in all the corners. I think that if I am very clean in all the corners it becomes hard for Troy to pass. During the race I had to pass three guys to take the lead, so I rode hard and aggressive, but I am a very happy man today because we did a good job and won one more time for Ducati”.

“In race 2 I was right behind Haga and Corser when I went into the last chicane and lost control of the rear of the bike and there was nothing more that I could do. It was a real pity but I will try and make up for it in front of the Italian fans at Misano.”

Chris Vermeulen (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) was the top finishing Honda rider on two occasions at Silverstone’s International circuit, taking fourth places after two tough and eventful races for all the Honda protagonists. Pierfrancesco Chili (Klaffi Honda CBR1000RR) was the next best Fireblade rider, securing a fine brace of fighting fifths.

Vermeulen, the 2003 World Supersport Champion, could not get into a position to get away with the leaders in either race, and sits third in the championship.

"I was behind James Toseland in the early parts of the race but it just seemed to take me longer to get past the other riders than it did for him. I got hit by someone in the infield section in the first lap of race two and then Laconi crashed right in front of me on the second lap, Both those incidents cost me time and let the others get away. I was pushing very hard though, right to the end of the race, but every time I put in a quick lap I didn’t seem to close the gap at all.”

Chili was pleased with the progress of his bike, knowing that he could not seriously challenge for podiums in either race.

“I think we were OK, we improved our positions and maybe the guys in front had different rear tyres. When I tested this tyre maybe I did not have the right suspension. It was not 100% but I was starting to have much more feeling for the bike and in the second race I pushed as much as I could to get the best result possible. I had cramp in my leg in the middle of the race, so I had to relax and breath. My battle was a personal one.”

Muggeridge could not regain his Monza pace, but kept his concentration for two points scoring finishes.

“We made some changes after race one and the bike definitely felt better. But around ten laps from the end the grip just seemed to drop off – especially at the hairpin and again at the exit of the chicane. It made changing direction pretty difficult but the bike was holding a better line through the faster sections.”

Neukirchner, who rode all weekend with his right wrist in a lightweight plastic cast, qualified tenth in Superpole, fifth after the regular session, and had to take painkillers to allow him to race to the level he did on Sunday.

“For the races I only had a tablet from the doctor for the pain and yesterday I had a painkilling injection. Laconi crashed in front of me in race one, and also Cardoso. I went into Cardoso’s machine; my engine was still running so my bike was pushing his bike forward before I crashed. Then my engine died, so I had to bump start it. My position in race one was good, the second – well, that’s racing!”

Noriyuki Haga scored the first podium of the year for Yamaha at Silverstone, making it a stark contrast to the Superstock Series run in conjunction with the Superbike series. While superbikes are derived and very closely related to their roadgoing base machines, the superstock machines are meticulously prepared road bikes and Yamaha’s R1 is dominating that series and holds five of the top six placings. So Haga’s third place in race two was celebrated by Yamaha after a terrible start to the season. Even in race one, Haga was in contention for a rostrum spot until his bike began to go off song, eventually blowing and costing him any points and a certain sixth place on the standings.

Haga said after the race, “I am very happy to make a podium for Yamaha, relatively early in the season. It was a tough race for the first few laps with the other riders and I was losing the front a lot on the last few laps. But I have to be happy with a podium after our bad luck in race one.”

Race one was a tough contest for Andrew Pitt, who rode through the pain barrier after highsiding in the morning warm-up session and was further handicapped by having to complete a ride through penalty in the opener. Despite this he finished 13th in race one, backing it up in race two with a fighting ninth at a circuit he has little love for. “Abe shoved it into me in the last chicane, we both ran wide and he got me over the line”, said Pitt, adding, “there’s nothing you can do about that. “In race one the stop-and-go ruined things of course, but I carried on. It’s worth doing 28 laps to get even three points. I still don’t like the track, and I’m glad I don’t have to come back here for another year.”

A Silverstone rookie on any layout of the flat ex-airfield circuit, Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France) had a clutch problem in race one but took eighth in race two after a tough pass on Pitt in the final chicane. “It was my first time racing on this track so I could not go as fast as everyone else on day one. But we improved all weekend and we changed our settings again from yesterday. They worked well, and gave me quite good feel. The rear grip was not so good in race one, I don’t know why, but then the clutch went and I retired. In the first lap a lot of riders crashed in front of me in race two so all the guys at the front were gone, but I still got eighth. Not so bad, but Haga was third on an R1, so I must try harder.”

His team-mate Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha Motor France was involved in a multi-rider crash, and chipped his left tibia, ruling him out of race two. “My ankle is broken after the crash, a chip on my tibia, which showed up on the X-ray,” said Gimbert. “It’s a chip, not a break right through, so I hope to be ready to race at Misano.”

The sixth rounds of the WSS and SBK championships take place at Misano Adriatico, on 26th June.

Superbike Race 1: (Laps 28 = 99,708 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time /Gap 1 / R. Laconi / Fra / Ducati Xerox / 40'58.899 / 2 / T. Corser / Aus / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 40'58.995 / 0.096 3 / J. Toseland / Gbr / Ducati Xerox / 41'00.035 / 1.136 4 / C. Vermeulen / Aus / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 41'10.184 / 11.285 5 / P. Chili / Ita / Klaffi Honda / 41'13.548 / 14.649 6 / C.Walker / Gbr / Psg-1 Kawasaki Corse / 41'15.360 / 16.461 7 / M.Neukirchner / Ger / Klaffi Honda / 41'39.364 / 40.465 8 / G.Bussei / Ita / Kawasaki Bertocchi / 41'42.164 / 43.265 9 / J. Cardoso / Esp / D.F.X. Treme / 41'45.310 / 46.411 10 / K. Muggeridge / Aus / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 41'48.110 / 49.211 11 / Y. Kagayama / Jpn / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 41'50.605 / 51.706 12 / M.Sanchini / Ita / Psg-1 Kawasaki Corse / 41'55.273 / 56.374 13 / A. Pitt / Aus / Yamaha Motor Italia Wsb / 42'10.501 / 1'11.602 14 / A. Velini / Ita / Team Pedercini / 42'24.085 / 1'25.186 15 / M.Praia / Por / Dfxtreme Sterilgarda / 42'24.873 / 1'25.974 Fastest Lap Lap 9° Régis Laconi 1'27.130 147,132 Km/H

Race 2 : (Laps 28 = 99,708 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time / 1 / J. Toseland / Gbr / Ducati Xerox / 40'55.190 / 2 / T. Corser / Aus / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 40'55.663 / 0.473 3 / N.Haga / Jpn / Yamaha Motor Italia Wsb / 40'58.377 / 3.187 4 / C. Vermeulen / Aus / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 41'01.881 / 6.691 5 / P. Chili / Ita / Klaffi Honda / 41'12.113 / 16.923 6 / C.Walker / Gbr / Psg-1 Kawasaki Corse / 41'12.247 / 17.057 7 / Y. Kagayama / Jpn / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 41'23.438 / 28.248 8 / N. Abe / Jpn / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 41'26.950 / 31.760 9 / A. Pitt / Aus / Yamaha Motor Italia Wsb / 41'27.274 / 32.084 10 / K. Muggeridge / Aus / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 41'31.682 / 36.492 11 / L. Lanzi / Ita / Ducati Sc Caracchi / 41'34.660 / 39.470 12 / I. Clementi / Ita / Team Pedercini / 41'35.372 / 40.182 13 / G.Mccoy / Aus / Foggy Petronas Racing / 41'36.515 / 41.325 14 / B. Bostrom / USA / Renegade Koji / 41'41.286 / 46.096 15 / M.Roccoli / Ita / Italia Lorenzini By Leoni / 41'51.441 / 56.251 Fastest Lap 5° Troy Corser 1'27.166 147,071 Km/H Lap Record: 2005 Régis Laconi 1'27.130 147,130km/H

Riders Championship Standings:1 Corser 222, 2 Kagayama 144, 3 Vermeulen 141, 4 Laconi 112, 5 Toseland 98, 6 Walker 74, 7 Pitt 70, 8 Haga 68, 9 Chili 66, 10 Abe 62, 11 Neukirchner 50, 12 Muggeridge 50, 13 Bussei 39, 14 Gimbert 26, 15 Bostrom 21.

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