Monday, August 06, 2007

WSBK: Toseland Does Double At Brands

James Toseland took his first ever double victory in World Superbike at Brands Hatch, a track where he had only won once before in a Supersport race 10 years ago. (As an over-excited 16 year old, he celebrated with an enormous wheelie, flipped the bike over backwards, fell off and was fined by the stewards when the upside down bike spewed oil onto the track.)

In Race One, polesitter Troy Bayliss looked to have jumped the start. The early laps were extremely aggressive, with first Toseland then Haga slamming into Bayliss as they passed him. Bayliss was riding erratically, and finally fell off under braking. He later admitted that he was flustered because he was just waiting to be shown the black flag for the jump start.
After that, the race settled down somewhat, with Toseland at the front looking utterly determined to win in front of his home crowd, which some claimed to be 126,000, though one journalist says this is blatantly ludicrous and put the figure closer to 50,000.
The Englishman's Ten Kate Honda was being closely followed by Nori Haga and Troy Corser's Yamaha Italia bikes.
Max Biaggi had never seen Brands Hatch before, and declared it to be the hardest racetrack he had ever ridden on with its hills and blind corners. Nobody expected much from the Roman Emperor as Brands is a notoriously difficult track to learn, however Max completed an incredible 61 laps in practise - more than 2 race distances, and he grew quicker and quicker as the weekend went on. The Roman was stuck behind two of WSBK's great psychopaths: Yukio Kagayama on his sister Corona Suzuki and Ruben Xaus on the Sterilgada Ducati. Both of them were as magnificently dangerous-looking as ever, sliding around everywhere, but Max put a forceful move on his team mate and passed Xaus when the Spaniard seemingly missed a gear.
Up front, Toseland was gradually pulling away and Haga had no answer, eventually pushing too hard and running off the track to lose 2nd place to Corser, promoting Biaggi to 3rd. The top 3 were too widely spaced to worry about each other too much, and they finished in that order. Kagayama pushed too hard trying to keep up with Max and had a massive crash that left him battered and bruised but basically OK.
Toseland, Corser and Biaggi were all delighted with their races as they climbed onto the podium.

Race Two saw Max Biaggi, one of the best starters in WSBK, get too eager and jump the start, for which he served the mandatory ride-through penalty. The Roman would carve back through the field, lapping at around the same pace as the leaders. He slammed Neukirchner out of the way then blazed past Laconi on a straight to snatch 8th place, just a fraction behind Troy Bayliss.
With Biaggi out of the way, the battle at the front was again between Toseland, Haga and Corser. This time, Toseland was even more determined, and had a prolonged fight with the Japanese rider until a few laps from the end when he passed the Yamaha. Haga simply couldn't keep up, and started to suffer tyre problems. Corser was clearly quicker than his team mate and could have passed him for another 2nd place, but sensibly decided to stay out of the championship battle and settle for 3rd.
Behind them, Michel Fabrizio continued his unpredictable form by taking 4th place, to go with the 5th he took in race one. With his excellent performance at Brno, the young Italian is in danger of becoming consistent, but that will probably change next time out.
Toseland was overjoyed at taking his first double victory at Brands, and celebrated by stripping off and throwing his gloves, boots, helmet and leathers into the crowd in the manner of WSBK legend Frankie Chili.
Toseland then ran back to the podium half-naked (prompting guest TV commentator Neil Hodgson to claim that Toseland's pectoral muscles are really breast implants) but appeared on the podium in a spare set of leathers.

In the championship, Toseland now has a commanding lead of 66 points over Haga, who has Biaggi just 3 points behind him. Bayliss is 28 points further back, with his title challenge seemingly over due to bad performances in the last 4 races. Barring accidents or alien abduction, Toseland looks certain to be World Superbike champion when he moves to MotoGP next year.

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