Monday, December 11, 2006

World Superbike Armchair Awards

Superman Award
for leaping tall bikes in a single bound
Winner: Alex Barros
In a first lap, first turn melee at Silverstone, there were bikes flying everywhere, at least one of them on fire. Alex Barros got up off the ground and saw a bike sliding straight for him. In an amazing display of calm, the Brazilian hero waited until the right moment, and simply leapt straight up into the air, the bike sliding harmlessly below. It was one of those moments that you'll be seeing on crash videos for ever. What a star.

Christmas Shopper Award
for barging to the front of the queue
Winner: James Toseland
The championship runner up had a real battle with Nori Haga at the Lausitzring. They are two of the most aggressive bike racers in the world, and it was an amazing sight to see them barging past each other just inches apart. Toseland shoved himself into the lead, slammed the door in Haga's face and won the race, like a shopper grabbing that last Nintendo games console off the shelf.

Mr Magoo Award
for failing to see the red lights going out
Winner: Alex Barros
The Brazilian won a race in WSBK. He would have won several more, if he had started within 25 minutes of the pack. Making a truly appalling start at nearly every race, he would then go on to lap right on the pace, but about 15 seconds behind the leaders. Although some say he needed more practise on the bike, I think it's more likely that he couldn't see the lights, and only realized the race had started when everybody else took off.

Dingoes Ate Me Bloody Bike Award
for managing to lose a Ducati 999F06
Winner: Troy Bayliss
It was a fantastic year for the popular Aussie. He won the WSBK title, won a MotoGP race, and had a hilarious ongoing argument with the post-race interviewer about exactly how many pole positions he had taken. However, his best achievement was at the rain-soaked Dutch round at Assen. Falling off his bike at high speed, he slid along the wet grass for a distance measured in hundreds of yards. When he got up, his bike was nowhere to be seen. At first it seemed that the Ducati may have been eaten by wild dingoes, but it was later found where it had come to rest after the crash, somewhere in Belgium.

Nil Illegitimum Carborundum Award
for not letting the b*****ds grind you down
Winner: Chris Walker
It was a difficult year for The Stalker on the Kawasaki, and it looked like getting even worse in the flooded Assen race where he was pushed into the gravel in turn one. Chris is made of stern stuff, and he trundled through the kitty litter, back onto the track and started to put in some quick laps. He stayed on the bike when others fell off, he overtook people, and finally took the lead from Andrew Pitt. Assen is just a ferry ride away from England, and hundreds of Stalker's fans were in the stands. They went crazy when the hugely popular rider won the race. Last into the first turn, first out of the final turn, possibly a first for WSBK, and it was all down to Walker's guts and determination.

Ruben Xaus Award
for services to the carbon fibre industry
Winner: Ruben Xaus
Xaus, or Captain Chaos as some have taken to calling him, is always quick and always entertaining. Every corner looks like a narrowly-avoided crash. Except the ones where he really does crash. The Catalan wasn't on a fast bike, but he was still hugely impressive at several rounds. On top of that, he's one of WSBK's great characters. We salute you Ruben, and long may you walk away from all of your crashes.

Pirelli Memorial Award
in memory of a Pirelli tyre lost in the line of duty
Winner: Regis Laconi
The Frenchman flew off the track in his home round at Magny Cours due to tyre trouble, but he went back into the pits and had a new rear tyre fitted. Why bother, when he was so far down the order he had no hope of scoring points? Because he had to do his traditional end of year burnout in front of his adoring fans at the Adelaide hairpin. This is the second time that he has had a new tyre fitted especially for the celebratory burnout, instead of meekly pulling into the pit garage and retiring. That's what they call dedication.

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