February 26, 2006 The World Superbike and Supersport Championships got underway on Saturday at the Losail circuit in Qatar, and already the indications are that both championships will see a much closer result than last season. Troy Bayliss returned to the Ducati Xerox superbike team after three years in MotoGP, and after the first two races of the year he leads the title with 40 points (two second places) from 2005 Champ Troy Corser’s Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra and James Toseland’s Winston Ten Kate Honda which both scored a win and a fourth place for 38 points. Had it not been for a first race crash by Yamaha Motor Italia rider Noriyuki Haga, who took out Corser’s Suzuki teammateYukio Kagayama with both riders battling for the win, the vastly improved Yamaha might have taken the win. With at least four makes capable of winning, the 13-round, 26-race series looks set for yet another year of spectacular racing. In the Supersports class Yamaha’s ride-by-wire 2006 Yamaha YZF-R6 debuted with a second place and promises a realistic threat to dominant Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR rider Sebastien Charpentier as the season unfolds.

Qualifying – Bayliss resumes three years on

That Troy Bayliss is better suited to riding a superbike than a grand prix bike became immediately obvious in the pre-season where his name was at the top of the list on every leaderboard every day of combined testing. Describing his Xerox Ducati 999 superbike as “just like my 2002 bike with more horsepower”, he continued his fast pace from day one to record the fastest lap in regulation qualifying on Friday, and subsequently took the Superpole win quite comfortably, marking his return to SBK racing in the best possible style.

His team-mate Lorenzo Lanzi made it a superb day of action for the twin-cylinder faction, running to second place, some 0.332 seconds from Bayliss. The 2001 World Champion’s Superpole lap of 1’59.696 was a new track best in qualifying, and was posted on race tyres, not qualifiers. Bayliss preferred the feel of tyres he was used to after extensive winter testing, and with only one day of dry testing at this race, he opted for a softer race tyre.

The superpole times panned out as 1 Bayliss Ducati 999 F06 1'59.696 2 Lanzi Ducati 999 F06 2'00.028 3 Pitt Yamaha YZF R1 2'00.110 4 Toseland Honda CBR 1000RR 2'00.112 5 Corser Suzuki GSXR1000 K6 2'00.206 6 Haga Yamaha YZF R1 2'00.613 7 Kagayama Suzuki GSXR1000 2'00.895 8 Muggeridge Honda CBR 1000RR 2'00.745 9 Martin Petronas FP1 2'00.940 10 Barros Honda CBR 1000RR 2'00.960 11 Rolfo Ducati 999 F05 2'01.072 12 Walker Kawasaki ZX10R 2'01.137 13 Nieto Kawasaki ZX10R 2'01.155 14 Chili Honda CBR 1000RR 2'20.695 2'01.781 2'02.038 15 Fabrizio Honda CBR 1000RR 2'22.655 2'02.437 2'02.596 16 Borciani Ducati 999 F05 2'21.778 2'02.449 2'03.150

First Race: Toseland inherits the win

2004 champion James Toseland was dumped from the Ducati Xerox team last year after a particularly lacklustre year in 2005 but steadfastly maintained his silence. His reward was to pick up a ride on one of the fastest and best sorted machines in the paddock – the Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR ridden to numerous victories towards the end of 2005 by Chris Vermeulen who vacated the ride to pursue a MotoGP carrer.

Toseland yesterday was rewarded with the ultimate debut by scoring his maiden win in the Winston Ten Kate Honda team in the opening 18-lap contest at Losail. He had been fourth on the grid after scoring fourth quickest time in Superpole, but a poor start dropped him to tenth overall after one lap. He battled back through the field and was poised to score a podium behind leading duo Noriyuki Haga and Yukio Kagayama, until Haga's crash ruled both Japanese out on the last lap.

Troy Bayliss, the Superpole winner on Ducati, was second, with early leader Andrew Pitt (Yamaha) third. Perhaps the most disappointing race of all was that of defending champion Troy Corser who finished fourth and would have been a distant sixth had it not been for the last lap crashes

Race two: Corser underlines his ambitions

That Corser put his Team Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra GSX-R1000 on the top of the podium in the second race at Qatar speaks volumes for his mettle and promises a fantastic season. He did so despite suffering a hot clutch. The reigning champ led from the fifth lap of the 18-lapper and fended off several last-minute challenges by fellow Australian Troy Bayliss (Ducati). The lead swapped several times on the final lap, but Corser held the advantage coming out of the final corner.

In the second race, first-race winner Toseland was deprived of a third place finish by only 1.6 centimetres, after a photo finish with Haga. His win and fourth places nonetheless tie him on points with Corser for overall second in the championship. Each has 38 points, with Bayliss the leader on 40.

Race 1: (Laps 18 = 96,840 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time /Gap 1 / J. TOSELAND / GBR / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 36'31.339 / 2 / T. BAYLISS / AUS / Ducati Xerox / 36'31.427 / 0.088 3 / A. PITT / AUS / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 36'33.729 / 2.39 4 / T. CORSER / AUS / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 36'33.938 / 2.599 5 / M.FABRIZIO / ITA / D.F.X. Treme / 36'38.338 / 6.999 6 / A. BARROS / BRA / Klaffi Honda / 36'46.056 / 14.717 7 / R. ROLFO / ITA / Ducati SC - Caracchi / 36'46.563 / 15.224 8 / P. CHILI / ITA / D.F.X. Treme / 36'52.522 / 21.183 9 / M.BORCIANI / ITA / Sterilgarda - Berik / 36'53.789 / 22.45 10 / M.NEUKIRCHNER / GER / Team Pedercini / 36'55.271 / 23.932 11 / N. ABE / JPN / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 36'56.155 / 24.816 12 / K. MUGGERIDGE / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 36'56.982 / 25.643 13 / R. LACONI / FRA / PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse / 37'00.478 / 29.139 14 / S. GIMBERT / FRA / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 37'01.316 / 29.977 15 / R. XAUS / ESP / Sterilgarda - Berik / 37'08.014 / 36.675 Fastest Lap 3° Lorenzo Lanzi 2'00.449 160,798 Km/h

Race 2 : (Laps 18 = 96,840 Km) Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time /Gap 1 / T. CORSER / AUS / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 36'20.395 / 2 / T. BAYLISS / AUS / Ducati Xerox / 36'21.420 / 1.025 3 / N.HAGA / JPN / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 36'23.857 / 3.462 4 / J. TOSELAND / GBR / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 36'23.858 / 3.463 5 / A. PITT / AUS / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 36'24.745 / 4.35 6 / L. LANZI / ITA / Ducati Xerox / 36'40.005 / 19.61 7 / A. BARROS / BRA / Klaffi Honda / 36'40.943 / 20.548 8 / M.FABRIZIO / ITA / D.F.X. Treme / 36'41.578 / 21.183 9 / K. MUGGERIDGE / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 36'43.593 / 23.198 10 / R. XAUS / ESP / Sterilgarda - Berik / 36'46.928 / 26.533 11 / N. ABE / JPN / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 36'47.249 / 26.854 12 / F. NIETO / ESP / PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse 2 / 36'48.527 / 28.132 13 / R. ROLFO / ITA / Ducati SC - Caracchi / 36'48.530 / 28.135 14 / M.BORCIANI / ITA / Sterilgarda - Berik / 36'54.571 / 34.176 15 / S. GIMBERT / FRA / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 36'55.790 / 35.395 Fastest Lap 2° Noriyuki Haga 2'00.061 161,318 Km/h Record Lap S. Gimbert 2'01.852 158,950 Km/h 2005

Riders Championship Standings: Bayliss 40, Corser 38, Toseland 38, Pitt 27, Fabrizio 19, Barros 19, Haga 16, Rolfo 12, Muggeridge 11, Lanzi 10, Abe 10, Borciani 9, Chili 8, Xaus 7, Neukirchner 6.

Manufacturer Championship Standings: 1 Ducati 40, 2 Suzuki 38, 3 Honda 38, 4 Yamaha 32, 5 Kawasaki 7.

Troy Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) (Race 1: 2nd, Race 2: 2nd): “It was hard work today. Everyone was riding very well and their machines were also working well. The second race was a long race and I really wanted to get a better start than what I did but I found myself again in fourth and fifth in the group. I was a bit unsettled and it took me till two thirds of the race until everyone started to suffer before I could make my move. I put my head down and was trying everything to get past people. With two laps to go, I was making ground on Corser and we had a good fight in the end. But my timing was a little bit off for the last corners and he covered it well. Today the best I could do was second so I’m reasonably happy with the results. Everything is going well however and I’m looking forward to Phillip Island.”

Troy Corser (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) (Race 1: 4th, Race 2: 1st): “It’s possible that I may have over-revved the bike at the start of race one and worked the clutch too hard. It was ok at first, but after six or seven laps, I had a problem with it going into the hairpin. It jumped and was completely out, so I had to wait until a straight and try and dial it back in a bit. It made life difficult entering the turns and so I had to brake harder on the entry and that probably worked the front tyre too hard. I think I was lucky to finish the first race because the clutch was very hot. I also had some problems with the clutch in the second race, but not as bad as the first. Towards the end of the race I could hear a Ducati nearby and I knew it was probably Troy Bayliss. The tyres were more or less finished on the last couple of laps and I almost overcooked it on the last corner, but I managed to keep it upright and take the chequered flag. Both races were really hard - certainly much harder than the races here last year - and I think everybody knows that this is going to be one long, hard season for sure.”

James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda) (Race 1: 1st , Race 2: 4th): "Not a bad start. It had been a quiet time for me this winter, with everyone talking about Barros and Bayliss and so on, so it was nice that in the middle of a change of team, bike, everything, I was allowed to work away in the background. I came into this race with an open mind and we didn't start out so fast but the team has worked hard and we've got the first reward. It's very disappointing to miss the podium in race two but I only missed it by a centimetre or so."

Andrew Pitt (Yamaha Motor Italia) (Race 1: 3rd, Race 2: 5th): “I’m delighted to get that first podium and I can go to Australia a lot more relaxed now that I’ve reached that target. The overall package is just so much easier to ride this year and there’s still a lot more potential in the bike. We’ve still got a bit of work to do in making our tyres last a bit longer because you could see both Nori and I were sliding around a bit at the end when the others still had a bit left. I went for a different front tyre in the second race, the same as the other guys had, and it definitely allowed me to run a lot more consistent lap times. We used the same rear though and I still lacked some side grip, so we will work on that and hopefully find some improvements in the coming races.”

Michel Fabrizio (D.F.X. Treme) (Race 1: 5th, Race 2: 8th): "I changed my bike after the warm up and the one I used in the races was much better than the one I had in Superpole and warm-up," said the young Italian. "I felt very strong in race one, and was very pleased to have made such a good result in my first race. The problem was race two, because I was very tired towards the end. But to have two good finishes was a dream."

Alec Barros (Klaffi Honda) (Race 1: 6th , Race 2: 7th): "Two tough races and in race two I almost hit Chili when he fell. I regained the lap again and had a really good fight with Fabrizio and many other guys. But it was all fun, even if my starts were not so good, and I got edged out in the first corner of the first race. Now I understand how the machine and tyres work we should be better at the next races."

Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda) (Race 1: 12th, Race 2: 9th): "It was no good really. I struggled from beginning to end. Something is wrong with the bike and we daren't change to the second, as we hadn't run that other one yet. So to say I am disappointed is an understatement. Every time I entered a corner, right or left, it was chattering, and I was so sideways. It has to be the bike, because James and I have such a similar race set-up, it's just not funny."

Pier Francesco Chili (D.F.X. Treme) (Race 1: 8th, Race 2: DNF): "I was very frustrated because I could not pass Muggeridge and when I changed my line to try and get past I made a mistake and fell," said Chili. "Race one was not so bad, but I have broken my finger and have lots of bruises on my elbow, shoulder and hip, and I twisted my knee. But I will be ready for the Phillip Island race."

Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia) (Race 1: DNF, Race 2: 3rd): “The second race was very close with Toseland. He passed me going into the chicane but I could not close the door as my tyres were gone. I was able to get into his slipstream though and thankfully my bike was quicker than his. The first race crash was 100 percent my fault. On the last lap every rider pushes hard and I just braked harder than before and I lose the front end. I crashed and I am sorry that my bike hit Yukio and made him crash too. I saw the 600 race and our friend Katsuaki Fujiwara also crashed there. Maybe it is special unlucky corner for Japanese riders!”

Lorenzo Lanzi (Race 1: DNF, Race 2: 6th): “After I had destroyed my bike in the first race incident, I felt that the bike I used in the second race didn’t entirely ‘suit’ me the way I wanted because we hadn’t used it much over the weekend and so it was more of a struggle. I paid dearly for my error in race 1 when I wanted to go and catch them at all costs but I was a bit too hasty. The crash was a nasty high-side, very dangerous, in quite a fast corner, the next to last right-hander. Physically I wasn’t 100% for the second race but I got a sixth place which is OK considering the conditions. In the early stages, I was lapping as fast as the others but then my right knee and ankle started to hurt so I had to reduce my pace. However it was a good weekend for the Ducati Xerox Team because Troy is leading the points and the bike’s potential is good. It was a pity for me because I was hoping for a couple of good races.”

Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France) (Race 1: 11th, Race 2: 11th): “I had a broken bike in the warm up lap (of race one) so I had to use the spare machine and start form the back of the grid, so I had to work hard to get through. I changed my setting from first to second race, and the lap time was a bit better, better than qualifying. At this point I am happy but it was difficult to pass the top riders.”

Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha Motor France) (Race 1: 14th, Race 2: 15th): “It was much better than last year, because I made many laps faster than before. Unfortunately I lost time at the start so my main work is to learn how to start well, because my lap times were not so bad.”

Massimo Meregalli (Team Coordinator – Yamaha Motor Italia): “Compared to where we were this time last year we have improved a lot. Our riders led 21 of the 36 laps here this weekend and although we were not able to lead at the flag we were able to take a lot of confidence from the performances. I believe that our performances prove that the direction we are taking with the bike development is the right one and I am sure that we will see the benefits of this in the coming season. The whole team has done a fantastic job this weekend and the riders have repaid them with good results.”

Martial Garcia (Team Manager – Yamaha Motor France): “Some points, so not so bad for the first race of the year. Everyone came home OK in the races and we had only two sessions of dry set-up on a track we do not know so well. It was also more difficult for our beginner (Nakatomi) because of this.”

Yukio Kagayama (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) (Race 1: DNF, Race 2: DNF): “I am not sure if I could’ve won the first race because Nori Haga was very strong. For sure I had a good chance, but when his bike hit me on the very last lap it was all over - for both of us. I was ahead of him at the time and I think he must have just lost the front going into the turn and the bike went down and then struck me. Of course it was a disappointment - but that is racing. We both just wanted to win. I had clutch problems more or less from the start of the second race. I could feel straightaway that it wasn’t working properly and so I tried to wind the adjuster back for the first few laps. Then I had a problem with Fabrizio in turn one when he overdid it and nearly hit me. To avoid him, I had to go off the track and I lost a lot of positions. After that it was a lost cause.”

Fabien Foret (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra) (Race 1: DNF, Race 2: DNF): “I had a few problems in the first race right from the very beginning when I had to take a different line to avoid Alex Barros. Then, just three corners later, Craig Jones crashed right behind me and I had to change my line to avoid being skittled by his bike. I then began to relax a little but a few laps later I began to experience chattering from the front end. Finally, the bike just suddenly stopped after six laps because of a broken speed sensor. I’m not sure what the problem was in race two. The bike was stuttering and misfiring and then stopped completely. It’s not the kind of start I had hoped for, but here and Australia are really tests for me and the team so it’s not a big disaster.”

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