Saturday, February 23, 2008

WSBK Qatar: Bayliss As Usual, Fonsi Who?

An utterly brilliant start to the World Superbike season at Qatar. The track might be dull and featureless, but it brought some fantastic racing. Here are a few thoughts about the Losail meeting.

Troy Bayliss
Yep, he's still got it. The ultimate Superbike racer (shaddup, Foggy fans!) was outstanding in race one. He was miles down the field but kept clawing away. When he reached the pointy end, he decided to start exploring the scenery, bouncing over the astroturf several times. If there had been any spectators, they would have been singing "Are you Ruben in disguise?" His team boss Davide Tardozzi was having kittens on the pitwall, jumping around begging Troy to slow down. No chance! Narrowly beating Max Biaggi to the line, Bayliss gave the Ducati 1098R its debut win and kept up his incredible 1 in 3 victory record. Race two was forgettable for the Aussie, so let's forget it. He's leading the championship. The guy's amazing.

Max Biaggi
Looking good in his badass black leathers, Max was on great form. He kept charging into corners, realizing he couldn't quite stop in time, and running wide. He did that in the last corner of race one trying to pass Bayliss, and could only finish 2nd. Race two saw him on the podium again, but beaten by his team-mate Xaus. Still, he's 2nd in the championship and was right on the pace, on yet another type of motorcycle. He'll surely take some wins this year. Plus, he made a couple of highly entertaining hard moves on his rivals.

Fonsi Nieto
Who? You mean the rubbish guy on the Kwaka? Nope, I mean the quick guy on the Suzuki who's 3rd in the championship. It looks like Fonsi is actually a half decent rider. His performance in race two was flawless when he took his well deserved debut WSBK victory. (Though he was AWOL in race one.)

Ruben Xaus
The chaotic Catalan was great to watch. Having Biaggi for a team-mate makes you realize just how huge Xaus is (he could run 17 feet wide of a corner and his knee would still clip the apex) and he always provides top quality entertainment. His well-deserved 2nd place in race 2 bodes well for this year.

Noriyuki Haga
Unbelievable. Seriously!
Picture the scene. It's race one. Max Biaggi has forced past Nori Haga in a firm but fair manoeuvre and parked on the apex. Haga nearly hits the back of Max, then completely loses his mind. Nori takes his left hand off the bars to remonstrate, only to suffer an enormous highside and land on the top of his head, completely upside-down. What on earth was he thinking? It was entirely his own stupid fault. Still, he was OK and it was hilarious to watch.

The new Ducati 1098R was brilliant straight from the box. It wasn't as quick as the fours down the straight (though it was pretty quick with the little Roman Emperor on board) but it's a hell of a machine.

Francis Batta was livid about Ducati getting a 200cc capacity advantage this year, so he just taped a couple of wheels onto a space rocket and sprayed it yellow. The Suzuki is jaw-droppingly quick in a straight line, and not too shabby round corners either.

Like last year, the Yam was hugely quick but didn't last the distance. Corser was on pole (for a change) and both he and Haga led the races at some point. They'll get better as the year progresses.

Oops, they've done it again! Last year's 800cc MotoGP Honda was just awful. So how is this year's brand new Honda Fireblade Superbike? I'll give you a hint, its engine note sounds like this: "Grrrr!!! Woof! Woof! Bowowow!!!" Yep, it's terrible, but if anybody can sort it out, it's the Ten Kate brothers. To top it off, Honda stupidly put Ryuichi Kiyonari in WSBK on Pirellis, despite him being the only Japanese rider who can win on Michelin tyres. Japanese riders hate changing tyre brands, and Kiyo was unsurprisingly terrible on the unfamiliar rubber, in other words "doing a Tamada" or "doing a Nakano".

A great start to the season for WSBK. The 4 and 2-cylinder bikes are very closely matched, and the racing was edge of the seat stuff. It looks like another vintage year.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Bayliss was a man posessed in the first race. Who knew you could lean at that angle on astroturf? Not Tardozzi, that's for sure. I did enjoy the move on Biaggi in the last corner, plus the over-the-shoulder glance. Class. Biaggi does look strong for the season on these performances though.