Monday, March 03, 2008

WSBK Phillip Island: Baylisstic Crashfest

The makers of motorcycle crash videos must be rubbing their hands with glee after a day of sheer carnage at Phillip Island when the World Superbikes came a-calling. Troy Bayliss emerged from the smoking wreckage around him with a dominant double victory. Here is an account of the various crashes.

Race one opened with a massive crash on the start line as Michel Fabrizio failed to get his Ducati off the front row. Instead of waving his arms around like we would expect from any self-respecting Italian, he just stood there and waited to be hit. And that's what happened. A couple of bikes narrowly missed him, but the hapless Vittorio Iannuzzo couldn't see the stalled Ducati until the last millisecond, and slammed into the back of it. Iannuzzo was lucky not to get squished by his bike, but was carted off in an ambulance with a badly broken wrist, while Fabrizio was left hopping around on one foot. Incredibly, the crash had ripped his boot off but left him with nothing more than nasty bruising to his calf muscle.

When the red flags came out, Carlos Checa slowed slightly at the top of Lukey Heights, but then he too was rear-ended by Russel Holland. The Aussie had done well in Superpole and made a decent start, but he didn't clock that Carlos was easing off. The resulting crash was enormous, with Checa flipped off his bike into the air. Luckily both riders were able to make the restart, along with the limping Fabrizio.

The restarted race one saw Bayliss win easily. The only person who really looked to have the pace to challenge was Max Biaggi, who had started from 16th because the gear shifter fell off on his outlap in Superpole. Max sliced through the field, but unfortunately got a bit too excited and fell off from 2nd place. Troy Corser fought through to snatch 2nd, while the heroic Fabrizio took an excellent 3rd place, and promptly started hamming up his injury for the cameras.

Race two started fairly uneventfully, in that nobody was taken to hospital before the end of lap 1. Troy Corser jumped the start horribly, but didn't come in for his ride-through penalty, claiming that the black flag board had a pair of number ones in two different fonts that didn't look like a number eleven. Nice excuse, but he didn't get to try it out on the race stewards because he flew off the track at turn 2, saying that there was fluid on the track. Fabrizio was amongst the riders spooked into jumping the start by Corser, but he did manage to stay on the bike long enough to suffer a ride-through.

Max Biaggi again managed to devastate the field from his lowly grid spot, but then conjured up a truly terrifying crash at turn one, which is officially more frightening than watching "Halloween" with one eyeball and old footage of Maggie Thatcher with the other. Trying to pass Fonsi Nieto's Suzuki drag-bike on the start-finish straight, Max got very, very close and had to grab a lot more front brake than he would have liked. The rear wheel lifted off the ground, the bike started to slew sideways and suddenly Max was sliding across the grass at well over 100mph. The magnificent Ducati 1098R started tumbling, and leapt a good 10 feet into the air, completely destroying itself but managing to avoid squidging its rider into seagull food. The Roman Emperor escaped with a suspected fractured wrist, and will be glad that the next race is a month away.

Troy Bayliss won race 2 in similar style to race 1, leading no less than 3 Spaniards to the line: Checa, Nieto and Xaus. Surprisingly it was Xaus who was beaten up by the others, being on the wrong end of several dodgy overtaking moves. Carlos Checa did brilliantly considering the enormous crash he had earlier in the day, showing that he isn't fazed by the lowish grip Pirelli control tyre (but this is the guy that did so well on the awful Dunlop MotoGP tyre a couple of years back). Fonsi Nieto kept up his impressive start to the season and is 2nd in the championship, albeit 27 points behind Bayliss.

Bayliss is still a superhero around Phillip Island, and the Ducati is ludicrously fast (though a few clicks slower than the fours down the straights). Biaggi was the big surprise, falling off everywhere and scoring nul points while his team-mate, Ruben Xaus of all people, stayed on track with a pair of 4ths and is 3rd in the title race. It's going to be interesting to see what happens at the tight, twisty (i.e. Ducati) track at Valencia, where Crazy Catalan Xaus scored a victory last year...


Nicebloke said...

Did you see the Supersport race? Now THAT was a damn great race...

Jimmy said...

No, I missed the World Supersport. I was taping it, but of course it was delayed by all the crashing. I'll have to try and catch a replay then!