Sunday, April 01, 2007

WSBK: Toseland and Haga Share Spoils At Donington

James Toseland leads the championship by 5 points from Max Biaggi after two eventful races of the World Superbike Championship at Donington.
Race One
Starting from pole, Troy Bayliss pulled away to lead from Toseland. However, Bayliss suffered a high-speed crash in the fast right-handers leading onto the back straight. Highsiding, then almost regaining control, the Aussie crashed back down onto his bike, landing on his family jewels, before falling off altogether at around 100mph. Apart from bruising his meat and two veg, Bayliss had badly damaged a finger on his right hand. He was taken to hospital for surgery to save the mangled digit, and did not start race 2.
Toseland rode a dominant race to the chequered flag, holding off Nori Haga. A late-charging Max Biaggi rounded out the podium places.
Race Two
With Bayliss absent, this looked like Toseland's race for the taking, but after a few laps his bike died on the exit of turn one. Haga narrowly avoided the coasting Englishman, who battered the tank of his Honda in frustration at the technical failure.
Now the two Yamahas of Haga and Corser were leading, with Biaggi on his Suzuki recovering well from his trademark sleepy opening laps to make it a three-way battle for the win.
These three had a decent race, swapping positions mainly in the heavy braking zones. Biaggi took the lead, but ran wide at the Melbourne Loop hairpin, letting Haga regain the lead. All three of the leaders were lapping at almost identical times, and none of them could pull out any kind of advantage when they led.
Biaggi took the lead again, but couldn't break away from the Yamahas. Again, he ran wide at the hairpin, but somehow managed to square off the corner and get the power down to retain his lead. The rejuvenated Troy Corser, who had made up most of the positions from his 2nd row starting spot in just one lap, dropped back a couple of bike lengths from his rivals on the last lap.
This was enough to turn it into a two-way battle. Biaggi looked quick, but he was concerned about the last hairpin onto the start/finish straight. The Roman Emperor had almost been passed by the Japanese on a previous lap, and this time he went in too hot, running a few feet wide.
This was enough for Haga to sneak past, pushing Max wide and taking the victory by a tenth of a second. Corser could only watch the fight in front of him as he finished 3rd.
Behind them, the certifiable Catalan Ruben Xaus put in a great race to finish 4th, despite a terrifying moment when he clipped Regis Laconi's rear Pirelli at around 90mph, recovering to run wide instead of visiting the gravel trap.
Max Biaggi was furious with himself as he crossed the line, slamming his fist into the tank, but he quickly calmed down, congratulating Nori Haga warmly on the slowdown lap and laughing with his crew on the way to the podium. The Roman has adapted brilliantly to WSBK, and without Valentino Rossi's mindgames to worry about, he has become a much more settled and smiling character.
Interestingly, Max's finishing positions in the first 6 races of the championship have been 1-2-3-4-3-2. Who'd bet against a win in the next race?
Toseland will be bitterly disappointed at losing a probable 25 points, but he still leads the championship with 115 points. However, Max Biaggi looks like he was born to race a Superbike, and he has closed to just 5 points behind the Buzz Lightyear impersonator, on 110. Next up in the championship standings are Haga and Corser on 88 and 81 points respectively.
Bayliss will be utterly miserable as what looked like a possible double-win from pole position has turned into a big, fat zero, and he has a nasty hand injury to recover from. He is in 6th place with 64 points. Already it looks like he can only retain the championship if his rivals have some terrible luck.

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