Monday, April 30, 2007

WSBK Assen: Young Buck and Old Fox Share Spoils

James Toseland and Troy Bayliss took a win each in the World Superbike meeting at Assen yesterday.
Toseland had put his Ten Kate Honda on pole position with a scintillating superpole lap. He won race 1 after an epic battle with Nori Haga and Ruben Xaus. Haga had nearly fallen off on his superpole lap, his fairing audibly scraping along the ground, and had started from 15th on the grid. The little Japanese had scythed through the field, taking no prisoners, leading the race after just a few laps.
The resurgent Ruben Xaus was on a roll after his victory at Valencia. His bike looked to have similar horsepower to the factory Ducatis, leading to speculation that his team had managed to get hold of a few trick engine parts. The chaotic Catalan was on typically spectacular form, with brilliant overtaking manoeuvres aplenty. It was fantastic to see Xaus back at the pointy end of the race where he belongs.
Troy Bayliss spent much of the race battling with his team-mate Lanzi, who is improving but still doesn't look in any danger of winning a race. Troy Corser was also on great form, especially towards the end of the race. Corser was heading for a podium when his bike sprung a water leak, lubricated its own rear tyre and ejected the unfortunate Aussie over the high side at 120mph. This gifted 3rd to Xaus.
Toseland managed to sneak a few tenths ahead of Haga to take a home win for Ten Kate Honda.
Race two will be remembered for a long time, after producing an epic battle between Toseland and Bayliss.
Biaggi had taken the lead from 4th on the grid, but then charged backwards down the field, although not as badly as he had in race 1. The usual suspects were fighting at the front, with Toseland, Haga and Bayliss beating each other up as we expect three of the world's hardest racers to do.
Haga pulled off the track with some kind of technical failure, simply going straight off the track in a braking zone and parking the Yamaha.
The last two laps gave us some sensational racing between Toseland and Bayliss, with both pulling off audacious overtakes. Toseland was determined to take his first double victory, and Bayliss equally determined to grab his second win of the year.
The lead changed between the pair several times over the last two laps. Toseland seemed to have the advantage on the way into the final chicane, but he went very defensive, clearly expecting Bayliss to lunge up the inside. This badly compromised the young Englishman's path through the chicane, as he had to turn so tightly into the first part. However, Bayliss had taken a fast, uncompromised racing line through the chicane, blasting out onto the straight and sneaking past Toseland on the finish line. The Aussie took the victory by an incredible 0.009 of a second, just centimetres in front of Toseland.
Toseland was devastated, and looked like somebody had just burned his house down. Bayliss was a picture of delight. Having divested himself of his crash helmet, he rode back to parc ferme with an enormous grin that will surely be printed straight onto some Ducati publicity material.
Max Biaggi trailed in 3rd. It had been a terrible weekend for the Roman Emperor, who didn't look to have any speed whatsoever until an excellent superpole lap, and who had a terrible time in race 1. However, Max somehow salvaged the situation with a well deserved 3rd place, maintaining 2nd place in the championship.
Ruben Xaus showed he is back to his old self after hopping off the bike in race 2. Being Xaus, he gamely held onto the clutch, his lanky frame being dragged along behind the bike as it slid along the track on its side at 40mph. He remounted, only to hop off again trying to charge back through the field.
Toseland might not have taken the double, but he is opening up a gap at the top of the championship standings, and is favourite to take his second world title this year.
Bayliss showed that he still has it, as he has done so many times before. Still recovering from his finger amputation and cringeworthy crotch injury, the man is simply unstoppable, a true legend.


Alessandro Matteucci aka Alex 555 said...

Toseland has a sincere taste for victory: in race 2 he could have settled since the beginning for the second position with a look at the World Championship, instead he gambles in a potential crash by dicing with the Aussie! Great show but what would we think if a crash jeopardises his chances to win the 2007 WSBK?

Jimmy said...

Toseland is a very aggressive racer. I don't think he will take huge risks, but he will always battle for wins.