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Back for Good ?

Words by Laura Bradley, pictures by Simon Bradley

Fonsi Nieto shows off the new PSG-1 paintjob - entirely in honour of the fact that this was the San Marino round, and that's the national colours. Misano is the home track for many of the riders, and the town of Frankie, really, it seems like he owns it! The atmosphere is always wonderful since so many people always come to watch their heroes at work, and it being Italy, they don't keep their feelings for the racers to themselves, especially by the Suzuki Corona tent where it is always possible to hear people shouting out "MAX!". Why, even Valentino Rossi turns up to this round!

Friday practice saw James Toseland way down in seventh place, understandable since the Hanspree Ten Kate Honda team had not had a chance to test on the new circuit layout - Misano used to run in the opposite direction but has been revised and reversed over the winter to improve safety. There is a noticeable absence in qualifying, since Brookes and Muggeridge always get a go at superpole, but we will hopefully be seeing the Alto Evolution Honda team back at Brno.

Superpole started off with Jakub Smrz, who did a good lap but was immediately knocked off the top spot by Nakatomi, who obviously went faster. Fonsi Nieto, riding with a new paint scheme for Kawasaki, also beat Smrz's time but Nakatomi remained on pole position until new kid on the block Borciani beat the pole time. He had no hope of keeping pole, with first Neukirchner and then Roby Rolfo getting top spot, despite running off track on one of the last corners. Regis Laconi could not beat Neukirchner's time, but oh boy, our man Toseland sure could! He took and held superpole through the efforts of Fabrizio but Nitro Nori was on fighting form and took pole from JT. Yukio Kagayama landed eighth, and neither Xaus, Biaggi or Lanzi could beat the times of Haga and Toseland, but Troy Corser soon appeared on the scene and got the fastest time of all. Bayliss came very close to beating Corser but the results saw Troy Corser on pole position followed by Troy Bayliss, Nori Haga and James Toseland, second row of the grid being Max Biaggi, Lorenzo Lanzi, Ruben Xaus and Yukio Kagayama.

Troy Bayliss demonstrates that while it may not be the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog, he's bigger. Max Biaggi gets bitten.Race one saw Bayliss take the lead for the start of the first lap, followed by Haga, Corser, Biaggi, Laconi and Kagayama. Toseland had a bad start and ended up eighth, shortly working up to sixth on pursuit of his ex team mate, Regis Laconi. Lap two saw the interesting battles start to take place, as Nori Haga and team mate Troy Corser fought for second place while Bayliss held first. Meanwhile Toseland was still in pursuit of Laconi until lap four when he overtook him into fifth place. Roby Rolfo also had a slow start and was all the way down in tenth. It all ended for Michel Fabrizio on lap five when he had an engine failure and therefore had to pull out of the race. Meanwhile Troy Corser was fed up of being behind his team mate and overtook Nori Haga into second place. This was, however, short lived glory as Nitro Nori said "Oi, Troy...NO" and took second place straight back. James Toseland was having a hard time catching up, he was going the fastest out of the top five for a long time but there is a problem with the Honda that even Ten Kate cannot put their finger on, and it caused the gap between Toseland and get bigger instead of smaller. The standings remained the same for a while, and there was lots of looking around the bikes to see if they could overtake but things did not really heat up until lap nine, where Nori Haga made it clear that he was not enjoying the sight of Troy Bayliss' bottom and did a swift overtake. Bayliss did have a look to try and get back into first but Max Biaggi rode a couple of storming races, and was only denied a pair of podiums through a silly mistake.Haga was reluctant to let him pass, could not imagine why... At the same time Biaggi moved to take third from Troy Corser, but ran wide and Corser slipped away. The same thing happened again on lap thirteen and on lap fourteen Bayliss started to attack Haga again. By lap fifteen Toseland was just over six seconds behind the top four, the unknown problems with his bike really affecting his ability to race, and Max Biaggi finally managed to take and keep third from Troy Corser. On lap seventeen Bayliss really started to get on Haga's case, he was not going to let first go without a fight, and Haga had pre-prepared his boxing gloves.

Back to Toseland, the race was going even worse for him as Yukio Kagayama caught him up and on lap nineteen Kagayama took James, causing a great sound of sympathy from all those in the press office who had hoped that the Honda might have got its act together and allowed James to ride to his full ability. On lap twenty the standings started to become clear as Troy Bayliss re took first position from Nori Haga and held it after a very good overtake, and Biaggi immediately joined in the battle, which was to be his biggest downfall. I say this because on lap twenty-three Biaggi, quite rightly but in this case wrongly, took advantage of the fact that Haga left a gap for him to go through, and dived down the inside. Well, that was the plan, but as Haga turned in the Italian rode straight into Haga's bike instead, causing both of them to crash out. This was bad for them, but good for Corser, who was then brought up to finish in second place and even better for Yukio Kagayama, who ended up with his first podium finish of the season. It also, of course, allowed James Toseland to get into fourth position. Maybe the young Brit's luck had changed for today after all!

The first few laps were like this after the first pair had cleared off..Race two started and, once again, Bayliss took the lead followed by Biaggi, who was then overtaken by Haga. Toseland had a better start than race one, and managed to slot in just after Corser in fifth place. On lap two Nori Haga started another battle with Troy Bayliss, doing an extremely quick overtake which deserved to stick, but Bayliss got one better and immediately took him back and settled comfortably into first place. Corser then started on his team mate, but Haga held second well and started very slowly to pull away with Bayliss to try again for first. Meanwhile Toseland needed to get past Biaggi to get into fourth place and start on Corser, and Biaggi allowed him to do this when he ran wide and allowed not only JT through, but Xaus as well. Kagayama almost got through too, but Biaggi managed to get back onto the race line and defended his position well. On lap three Michel Fabrizio had another engine failure and ended up, yet again, out of the race. Not a good day in the office for DFX. Biaggi had managed to work his way down to eighth position by lap six, allowing Kagayama past who then went on to take Xaus, though by lap seven Biaggi was back up to sixth. Then on lap eight, Kagayama once again overtook James Toseland. This problem with James' bike could turn out to be really serious if it is stopping him from being able to keep up with the others, I have already heard people doubting him because of his bad luck in this round but I want to assure all you Toseland fans out there, James is still concentrating on his racing, and there is a problem with the Honda which is stopping him from getting podium finishes in this round.

...and the leading group was like this when Lr Corser joined in...Lap thirteen saw the start of the battle between Toseland and Biaggi, when Biaggi overtook and Toseland immediately took it back, this happened many times and was a fantastic example of how well people can defend their positions, but Biaggi finally took James and held his place by the end of lap fourteen. So lap fifteen saw the standings at Bayliss, Haga, Kagayama, Corser, Biaggi and then Toseland, and by lap sixteen Bayliss had made a gap between himself and Haga, assuring us all that this round was his. Meanwhile, Toseland showed us that this round was not his when Biaggi pulled away and it became apparent that Toseland was going to have to put up with sixth place in this round, unless there was another incident like race one, where some crashes brought him up a few places.

Lap twenty-one and Biaggi overtook Troy Corser and immediately started the pursuit of his team mate, Yukio Kagayama. By lap twenty-two Biaggi was in third place, and it stayed that way leaving the standings at the end of the race with Bayliss, Haga and Biaggi on the podium.

Brno next, after a few weeks break. The championship is looking more interesting than ever, and the racing will be great as always. Can't wait...

This is a man who has earned a tinny or two. And knows it...Race One

1 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
2 Troy Corser (Yamaha)
3 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
4 James Toseland (Honda)
5 Roberto Rolfo (Honda)
6 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
7 Regis Laconi (Kawasaki)
8 Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
9 Max Neukirchner (Suzuki)
10 Jacob Smrz (Ducati)

Race Two

1 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)
2 Noriuki Haga (Yamaha)
3 Max Biaggi (Suzuki)
4 Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki)
5 Troy Corser (Yamaha)
6 James Toseland (Honda)
7 Ruben Xaus (Ducati)
8 Roberto Rolfo (Honda)
9 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)
10 Max Neukirchner (Suzuki)

Championship Standing after eight rounds:

1 James Toseland 260
2Troy Bayliss 239
3 Nori Haga 234
4 Max Biaggi 217
5 Troy Corser 182
6 Lorenzo Lanzi 133
7 Ruben Xaus 130
8 Roby Rolfo 109
9 Max Neukirchner 100
10 Regis Laconi 76




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