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i hear no fat lady. . .

Words by Simon Bradley.
pics as credited

Much of the circuit is tight enough to get shots like this. Steve Martin heads Bayliss and Xaus in race one. Craig Jones visible behind.Lausitzring in Saxony, deep into the former East Germany, is a tight, highly technical circuit that isn't universally popular. Constructed inside the infield section of a NASCAR style high speed oval, the circuit switches back on itself several times and is quite narrow, making overtakes difficult at times though the beautiful surface and well developed safety features do go some way toward redressing the balance. Coming to Germany with a hundred point lead over second placed James Toseland, Troy Bayliss was fully expected to wrap the series up over the weekend. The real battle, to be honest, is for the runner up spots anyway with Haga and Toseland swapping every other race for second and third and Corser, Pitt, Kagayama and Barros all in with a shout for fourth.

Throughout qualifying and free practice it was fairly obvious that Bayliss was going for the title in no uncertain fashion. Time and again the Australian put the booming Ducati on the top of the timesheets, and there seemed to be little, if anything, that anyone could do about it. Certainly not the Ten Kate boys, bumping around the midfield with yet more setup problems, or the Yamahas of Pitt and Haga. Indeed, the only really threatening presence was that of outgoing champion Corser and his team-mate Kagayama. The Suzuki team had done a cracking job of making the big, fast GSX-R turn well and adapt to the tight circuit.

So when Superpole came round, everyone was amazed to see James Toseland put in a scorching lap that lifted him from a lowly tenth on the grid to a far more respectable first. A position that he held for a while until Haga pipped him, the Japanese rider himself then losing out to Bayliss at the end. In fact, for some reason Superpole bore little resemblance to what had happened earlier in the weekend - the only common thread was Bayliss being in front. So the grid saw Bayliss leading Haga and Toseland on the front row, with Pitt, Lanzi and Corser on row two. Behind them, Barros, Kagayama and Muggeridge made up row three with Steve Martin putting the Foggy Petronas into tenth.

Yukio Kagayama put his pants on outside his leathers for his race one performance...But one lap doesn't make a race, of course, and anything can change when there's other traffic on the circuit to contend with. And when the lights went out for race one, it was Corser who made the best start, slicing through to follow Bayliss, ahead of Haga and Pitt while Toseland got swallowed in the melee, ending up fifth. Muggeridge, Kagayama, Lanzi and Barros followed in close order, with a short gap to Steve Martin and the rest of the pack. Haga was a man on a mission, though, and he overwhelmed Corser to take second place and set off after the already disappearing Bayliss. But try as he did, the gap seemed pretty constant, the Australian getting the very best from the Ducati to maintain a cracking pace. Until lap five, that is, when Bayliss made a rare unforced error and fell off. He was clearly unhurt and picked the bike up to rejoin way down the field.

Which left Haga to fend off the amorous attentions of Troy Corser' Suzuki. Well, they were close enough that it looked that way, anyhow. Pitt rode a watching brief, ready to pick up the pieces while Toseland's rear tyre proved not to be up to scratch as he struggled for both drive and grip. But the man on the move was Yukio Kagayama, who fought his way up through the field to be snapping at Pitt's heels by the fifth lap, getting past the Yamaha rider a few laps later and steadily reeling in his team-mate. Gradually, inexorably, the gap closed until the lead three bikes were inseparable from each other. And so it stayed for eleven gruelling laps. Until, with just two laps to go, Kagayama slipped past Corser on the brakes and then sliced up inside Haga to take the lead. And hold it to the line, too.

But what of Bayliss? Having remounted in twenty third place, the champion elect set about regaining some points, riding the wheels off the Ducati and climbing all the way to eighth under his own steam, despite running off the track again and losing some time. I say climbed under his own steam because his team-mate Lanzi let him past ont he final lap to elevate Bayliss to seventh. James Toseland struggled with grip for the whole race, running off the track himself while riding with Muggeridge but happily regaining the circuit without falling off, though he did drop a couple more places, finishing ninth. Muggeridge rode an excellent race in sixth though Alex Barros had the honour of being the highest place Honda in fifth. Fonsi Nieto rounded off the top ten on a circuit which really doesn't suit the Kawasaki's character.

Carrying on like this for a whole race must be pretty tiring. That must explain Kagayama clearing off, then...Race two, being later in the day (obviously), was hotter and the track was perhaps a little dirtier as some of the intervening races had resulted in some trackside debris being pulled onto the circuit. Some navel gazing had taken place in various garages, some tweaks were made and riders were either determined to build on the first race or to put it behind them. Certainly James Toseland fell into the latter category as he took the lead in emphatic style from the outset, followed by Haga and Bayliss. Both the Englishman's pursuers were able to stay with him easily enough but there was no way they could get past. And the leading trio inexorably extended a lead over the following pack of Corser, Kagayama, Pitt and Muggeridge. Corser and Laconi both got rather too good starts, it seems, as they were invited for a ride through as they were deemed to have jumped the line. And a ridethrough at Lausitzring is a really serious penalty, as it must take the best part of a minute to slow down, get along the immensely long pitlane and then get back up to speed again. Corser rejoined in twenty third place while Laconi, who elected to go in a little later, ended up at the very back of the field. Up at the front, Pitt overdid it and parted company with his machine on the last corner of lap four while Barros joined him some considerable time later, having climbed to fourth place before highsiding. Further back, Kagayama bested Muggas who in turn rode the best race of his season, never putting a wheel wrong and remaining ahead of Lanzi .

But up at the front, talking of never putting a wheel wrong, Toseland rode an absolute text book race to secure his second win of the season. He was under constant pressure from both Haga and Bayliss, neither of whom were about to offer any quarter, but despite having to ride fairly defensively Toseland maintained sufficient pace to tow the group away from the pursuing Kagayama and continue to extend a gap. That's pretty impressive.

Jonesy rode well to get a points scoring finish. Hopefully we'll see more of him next year...So the show really isn't over until the fat lady sings. And she's not started yet. Bayliss only needs nine points at Imola to tie the title up, but it would be an unwise person indeed to take it as a foregone conclusion. Haga is now six points ahead of Toseland but doesn't have the best record at Imola. Or Magny Cours. So we could still easily see Toseland lift the runner up spot, as well as technically being able to take the title if Bayliss scores no points. Either way, it makes the last two races interesting. As an aside, by the way, Toseland and Bayliss are both confirmed as staying where they are for the next year at least. There are continued rumours of Max Biaggi coming to SBK and next year looks as though it may be even better than this one has been...

Next Race at Imola on 1st October. See you there!


Race One

It's the Troy and Yuki show! 1 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
2 Noriuki Haga (Yamaha)
3 Troy Corser (Suzuki)
4 Andrew Pitt (Yamaha)
5 Alex Barros (Honda)
6 Karl Muggeridge (Honda)
7 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
8 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
9 James Toseland (Honda)
10 Fonsi Nieto (Kawasaki)

Race Two

1 James Toseland (Honda)
2 Noriuki Haga (Yamaha)
3 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
4 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
5 Karl Muggeridge (Honda)
6 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
7 Fonsi Nieto (Kawasaki)
8 Michel Fabrizio (Honda)
9 Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
10 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)

Championship Standing after ten rounds:

1 Troy Bayliss 357
2 Nori Haga 270
3 James Toseland 264
4 Troy Corser 211
5 Andrew Pitt 210
6 Alex Barros 186
7 Yukio Kagayama 177
8 Chris Walker 134
9 Lorenzo Lanzi 133
10 Fonsi Nieto 127


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