Monday, March 05, 2007

WSBK: Bayliss Bounces Back at Phillip Island

World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss bounced back from last week's Qatar nightmare with a win and a 2nd place in his home races at Phillip Island.
The popular Aussie had put the Ducati on pole position, beating James Toseland, who admitted he should have pushed harder in the middle sector, and Troy Corser, who had a couple of scary moments on his Superpole lap when he was caught by huge gusts of wind in fast corners. "Nitro" Nori Haga had taken the final front row spot, beating Max Biaggi by a few hundredths of a second.
In Race 1, Biaggi made a stunning start from row 2, briefly leading but being swallowed by the pack almost immediately. Max's last visit to Phillip Island was on an HRC MotoGP machine in 2005, when the Roman Emperor was thrown over the handlebars on lap one, with the Michelin tyres still cold. It seems that Max has not yet worked up the confidence to push hard on cold Pirellis either, as he tiptoed around the first 2 or 3 laps.
James Toseland took the lead, and produced a dominant performance as he led the field. He took a very distinctive wide, swooping line into turn 2, leaving the door wide open for those behind. However, his line was just so fast that anybody wishing to overtake would have to charge into the corner, severely compromising their exit speed.
Troy Corser was close behind, looking hungry for his first win of the season, but he had to battle with the resurgent Troy Bayliss. The two Troys beat each other up as Toseland stayed in front.
Behind them, Biaggi and Haga were having a Battle Royale, with the Roman showing that he can hold his own against WSBK's hardest racer. It was an evenly matched fight, with the two of them coming close to collision several times, but skilfully keeping the racing safe.
Up front, Corser suffered from the Yamaha curse as his rear tyre wore out, giving him a rollercoaster ride as he struggled to get the power down on the fast left-handers leading onto the start-finish straight. It was a losing battle. With his Pirelli rear completely shot, and doing its best to fire him off the bike, Corser lost out first to Biaggi then Haga.
Bayliss saw that Toseland was also struggling for grip, and overtook the Englishman with 4 laps to go, later admitting that he probably should have waited another lap or two, but it didn't matter. The Australian took the victory, but not without a hard fight. He tried to go round the outside of Toseland, who responded with a crunching manoeuvre, slamming his Honda into the side of the Aussie's Ducati, then apologising at the first opportunity to take his left hand off the bars. Bayliss persisted, taking his first victory of the year from Toseland and Biaggi.
Race 2 saw Biaggi make another lightning start to take the hole shot, but again he was too cautious into turn 1 and was completely swallowed up by the field into turn 2.
Troy Corser took advantage, and led the field for the next few laps. However, Toseland and Bayliss were again on outstanding form, and it was soon a three-way scrap between them. The Englishman took the lead, and a couple of laps later Bayliss mugged Corser for 2nd place. Haga and Corser then had to argue amongst themselves for 3rd.
Behind them, Max Biaggi had passed Ruben Xaus and, with a clear track in front of him, was lapping faster than the leaders. He had to claw back more than 2 seconds, but eventually it was a 5-man freight train at the front.
Toseland had conserved his tyres better than in race 1, and managed to pull out a gap from Bayliss. Behind them, the Suzuki of Biaggi was duking it out with the two Yamahas of Corser and Haga.
Toseland crossed the line first, for his first ever victory at Phillip Island. Bayliss had to settle for second. Biaggi, Haga and Corser came out of the last turn three abreast. Corser was pushed out onto the grass and finished 5th. Biaggi was gaining on Haga, but it was the Japanese rider who took the final podium spot, the Roman ending up in 4th.
James Toseland now leads the championship, from Biaggi then Bayliss.

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