New Bike Guide

The latest guide to all new UK Motorcycles and Scooters is now available here

and finally. . .

Words by Simon Bradley, pics by simon bradley and richard handley.

Magny Cours saw Frankie Chili ride off into the sunset. Sorely missed, but never to be forgotten...Magny Cours is in the middle of France, about 150 miles South of Paris. It's an interesting circuit, rather reminiscent of a Scalextric track designed to get as much distance as possible into a small space. It's highly technical, doubling back on itself and having very few actual straights, and has some very nice gradients, off camber bends and seriously hard braking areas. In short, it's a circuit that the riders need to work at.

Coming here there are many changes happening in the paddock and the pressure is really on several people to do well - either to keep their rides or, in several cases, to advertise their desirability for any potential new bosses out there. Andrew Pitt, for example, is currently out of a job having been replaced at Yamaha by Troy Corser who himself has found himself replaced, or at least sidelined, by Max Biaggi at Suzuki. Karl Muggeridge is currently looking for a ride after a disappointing season, as are Lorenzo Lanzi (we think) and Chris Walker.

So qualifying was slightly more tense than usual, especially as things opened with a dry session and continued with something really rather unpleasant. And Magny Cours doesn't seem to be very grippy in the wet. It's no surprise, then, that second qualifying added nothing to the timesheets other than the disappearance of Reuben Xaus. The popular Spaniard broke a foot last week at Imola and crashed heavily again in Saturday morning practice while the track was still damp and slippery as anything. Nori Haga made the running in Friday qualifying, just ahead of James Toseland. Lorenzo Lanzi - riding for his job, remember - just outqualified Andrew Pitt, riding for any job going. Troy Bayliss, newly crowned World Champion, cruised around taking it easy. And who blame him, either?

Superpole was full of surprises as Regis Laconi made the most of finding a crowd that actually like him to turn in a very stylish but not especially fast lap, eventually qualifying Troy Corser tries fairly hard on his Superpole lap. And it didn't just look good, it was ever so fast, too...fifteenth, just ahead of Michel Fabrizio. Sebastian Gimbert made his best qualifying effort of the season in front of his home crowd to make it into twelfth, ahead of a somewhat off the pace Barros and just behind Chris Walker. Walker was running second for a while but gradually got edged just out of the top ten. Fonsi Nieto beat his team-mate by just a three hundredths of a second while Pitt came in a surprisingly lowly ninth. Yukio Kagayama, normally so good at qualifying, dropped to eighth while Max Neukirchner made a great end of season effort to take seventh. Troy Bayliss really was cruising, showboating around in sixth place while Nori Haga ended up exactly where he didn't want to be, on the second row in fifth. Karl Muggeridge rode the wheels off the Ten Kate Honda to take a fabulous fourth on the grid, behind an equally impressive - and surprising - third place start for Lorenzo Lanzi. James Toseland did his championship position no harm at all with a very solid second, but honours for the day went to Mr Superpole himself, Troy Corser.

Race day gave us the delight of sunshine and a gentle, warm breeze to see out the season in possibly the nicest way. Warmup passed without incident, Bayliss and Corser proving the people to beat with Haga, Toseland and an on-form Muggeridge nipping at their heels. Of course, there's no real pressure in warmup, and only psychological gains to be made. So as the riders lined up for the start of race one it was still Corser and Toseland on the front row with Haga behind. Though not for long, as a blinding start by the Yamaha rider saw him slice through to the lead going into the second corner and hold it for the whole lap. Right behind him, Troy Corser and Karl Muggeridge chased hard to make up for the fact that Haga had passed both of them on the way round. All for nothing, though, as towards the back of the pack wildcard Ivan Goi highsided his Fireblade exiting the 180 hairpin (that's what it's called - not a description) and dumped a load of oil on the trackIf there were points for commitment and sheer bloody minded determination then Andrew Pitt would be on the podium every race. Here he stretches the throttle cable on his R1 after throwing it into the gravel and remounting.... Out came the red flags and in went the riders for an enforced break and a restart. And what a difference it made, too. Troy Corser made the running off the line, taking full advantage of his pole position and this time Toseland made the sort of start we expect and slotted into second behind him. Bayliss and Muggeridge followed behind, with Lanzi and Haga trailing them. Seven laps of frantic action saw Andrew Pitt crash out, remounting at the back of the field and absolutely riding the wheels off the slightly second hand looking Yamaha for the remaining laps. Nieto crashed out as the leading group of Corser, Toseland and Bayliss pulled away from the pursuing Muggeridge and Haga. Up at the front, Toseland muscled past Corser in a firm but fair overtake while further back Haga started to turn the wick up, passing Muggeridge and starting to reel in the leading group who were slowing each other down. Kagayama passed Muggeridge, who sadly crashed out a couple of laps later. Muggeridge tries so incredibly hard and is such a resolutely positive bloke that it's really saddening to see his luck change for the worse so often.

After twenty three laps, the leading trio was this close. That's what four tenths of a second looks like - the distance from Toseland (52) to Corser (1)...Haga was really on a charge now, passing Bayliss to close up further on the leading duo while Corser passed Toseland to retake the lead for a matter of seconds before the Englishman returned the compliment. Then Haga joined in the fun and, before we knew what had happened, both Corser and Haga had passed Toseland, Haga taking the lead. But Toseland is made of sterner stuff than that, and he regrouped and barged back past Corser, running second for a while before comprehensively duffing Haga up to retake the lead. The next few laps were real heart-in-the-mouth stuff as the leading pair swapped places and Corser just sat at the back waiting to pounce. Toseland rode an absolute stormer of a race, making some extremely good passes and blocking some brave tries as well, all without losing momentum. Then the battle moved back as Corser and Haga started to scrap for second, but the whole front group were split by less than half a second as they crossed the line for the last time, Toseland taking the penultimate win of the season by a tenth of a second from Haga. Bayliss came in three seconds behind, with a slightly spread out field before Lanzi and Barros' race long scrap for seventh crossed the line, decided in the Brazilian's favour. Local hero Laconi came in ninth - the second Kawasaki by a long way as Chris Walker brought his green machine home sixth. So going into race two, Toseland had a slight but distinct points advantage and real psychological one.

The departure of the Foggy Petronas team saw the bikes ridden harder than ever before. They were fast and sounded great. Just not for very long...Race two got emotional even before it started, as Carl Fogarty came over to Frankie Chili to pay his respects, this being the loveable Italian's last race. The end result was that both of them ended up hugging and crying, which started half the press room off as well... Anyhow, lights out and a near carbon copy of race one ensued, Corser taking the lead from Toseland and Haga with Muggeridge riding the Ten Kate Honda as though he'd stolen it in fourth place, right up on Haga's back. Five laps in and Toseland made his move, stuffing the Honda down the inside of Corser's Suzuki to take the lead. He immediately set about extending a little, though it wasn't proving at all easy as Corser wasn't about to give up. Further back, Bayliss was hounding Muggeridge but it took until half distance before he could get past and set off after Haga. The Petronas pairing of Martin and Jones had clearly been told to ride as hard as they possibly could, and if they broke the bikes - so what? I've never heard them revved harder or seen them ridden with more commitment. And for a while both riders made some pretty good progress before both expired - Steve Martin making it back to the pits while Jones got a ride back on a marshall's scooter after coasting to a halt on the approach to Adelaide a couple of laps later. Frankie Chili was riding really well, certainly showing the class and pace that made him the legend he is, though as the race wore on fatigue got the better of him and he dropped off the pace slightly.

Toseland and Corser have time for a little synchronised wheelying at the exit to Adelaide. They kept at this for most of the race...Up at the front, Bayliss closed on Haga, passing him several times before finally managing to make it stick and go after the leading pair. Corser and Toseland were swapping places too, slowing each other down while still setting a pace that only Bayliss seemed able to better, closing in on them inexorably until he finally caught and passed them both, getting repassed almost immediately. A major battle then took place between the two Troys, only decided in the new champion's favour with three laps to go when he also managed to slip past Toseland and take the lead. Then, the next lap, Corser managed to pass Toseland for second, though the Englishman soon redressed the balance before losing the place again at the end of the penultimate lap. And so it stayed, Bayliss crossing the line a yawning one and a quarter seconds ahead of Corser who in turn was one and a tenth ahead of Toseland, with Haga a full five seconds back. Muggeridge rode a fantastic race, losing fifth to Pitt with just four laps to go, while Frankie Chili picked things up a bit to finish fifteenth for the last championship point available this year.

So James Toseland secured second place in the World Championship, the second time for Ten Kate (who, incidentally, tied up the Supersport championship today as well, courtesy of Sebastien Charpentier). Several people did their prospects for future employment no harm at all and the best pair of races this year must have had a million people on the edges of their seats. All in all, a good weekend's work.

JT celebrates getting a richly deserved runner-up slot...Race One

1 James Toseland (Honda)
2 Noriuki Haga (Yamaha)
3 Troy Corser (Suzuki)
4 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
5 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
6 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
7 Alex Barros (Honda)
8 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
9 Regis Laconi (Kawasaki)
10 Sunichi Nakatomi (Yamaha)

Race Two

1 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
2 Troy Corser (Suzuki)
3 James Toseland (Honda)
4 Noriuki Haga (Yamaha)
5 Andrew Pitt (Yamaha)
6 Karl Muggeridge (Honda)
7 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
8 Chris Walker (Kawasaki)
9 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
10 Alex Barros (Honda)

Championship Standing after twelve rounds:

1 Troy Bayliss 431 (World Superbike Champion, 2006)
2 James Toseland 336
3 Nori Haga 326
4 Troy Corser 254
5 Andrew Pitt 225
6 Alex Barros 246
7 Yukio Kagayama 211
8 Lorenzo Lanzi 169
9 Chris Walker 158
10 Fonsi Nieto 139


Arriverderci,  Frankie, we'll miss you as well... It all proves too much for Frankie Chili on his last run down lap ever. Next year he runs the DFX team instead.


Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Motorbikestoday.