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Slippery when wet. . .

Words by Laura Bradley, pictures by Simon Bradley & Richard Handley

Josh Brookes is getting steadily faster, as is the Alto Evolution Honda. A wet race helped negate their power disadvantage...Silverstone is the home of the other British motorsport. You know, the one with too many wheels and far fewer overtakes. As a circuit which favours the very fast but somewhat boring four wheeled racing, you might expect Silverstone to be equally fast and boring for bikes. And to an extent you'd be right. It certainly is fast, and the wide track makes it possible to use all sorts of interesting lines through corners. But boring it most certainly isn't. The last few years have seen extremes in weather, for a start, which always livens things up, and this year looked as though it was going to continue to keep everyone on their toes as the forecast changed, almost by the hour.

Friday practice and first qualifying were a good example of that as the track was alternating between wet and dry, and getting the right time out there was as hard as going fast. Maybe harder. Conversations with riders in the evening suggested that their Friday times were as good as they were going to get, and yet come Saturday morning they were greeted by a dry and farily warm track, and those lap times tumbled. James Toseland drew the real line in the sand, going under the one minute twenty five mark and becoming the first rider ever to do so, about seven minutes from the end of the session. Troy Corser, who has, by his standards anyway, been struggling for form so far this season, went out afterwards and went a couple of tenths quicker. So those two were showing the rest of the field the way to ride. So as the clouds carried on looking alternately threatening and clearing, Bayliss headed Xaus, Lanzi and Haga behind the leading pair, with Nieto, Fabrizio, Laconi and Biaggi rounding out the top ten. The first seven were all within a second of the pole time, with Xaus in particular looking particularly good with a time just four hundredths of a second behind Bayliss. Suzuki seemed to be having all sorts of problems, with Biaggi, Neukirchner and Kagayama all languishing far below their expected positions, while the Alto Evolution Honda team were playing catch-up after getting some improved engine parts but now looking for settings to take advantage of those things.

If only it had stayed like this... Troy Bayliss sparks up during Superpole...Superpole started off nice and dry with little clouds in the sky, but the fact that it was also not too warm gave perfect conditions for the bikes and the young Australian that is Josh Brookes started off with a wonderful lap and held pole position through Roby Rolfo and Smrz's efforts. However his pole standing was short lived as Karl Muggeridge, also Australian and Brookes' team mate, took pole position with an excellent timed lap. By this stage the clouds had started to loom over the track and everbody was biting their nails wondering if it would be rain or shine when Kagayama went out and beat Muggeridge's lap to pole position and held it through the next five riders out, although Neukirchner would have had a slightly better chance of getting pole position if he didn't lowside his bike at Copse, but Kagayama's lap was fast and Biaggi just missed pole whilst Laconi, Fabrizio and Nieto were miles off. However, Kagayama's title was to be conquered by his rival and smoking buddy, Nori Haga. It is always interesting to watch Kagayama and Haga battle over pole posititon and overtake each other in the races as in real life they are actually best friends. It seemed that Haga was going to keep pole as Lorenzo Lanzi and Xaus both failed to catch his very fast time of one minute twenty four point eight, which was a new record for the track, but if anybody could, it would be Bayliss, and indeed he did, despite a big wobble on one of the corners, and landed pole position with one twenty four point five. The nation's favourite, James Toseland, took third on the grid and Troy Corser managed to get fifth position, leaving the grid positions as:

Front row: Troy Bayliss, Nori Haga, James Toseland and Lorenzo Lanzi

Second row: Troy Corser, Ruben Xaus, Yukio Kagayama and Max Biaggi

Third row: Karl Muggeridge, Josh Brookes, Fonsi Nieto and Jacob Smrz

James Toseland's Honda appeared to be powered by steam...until we realised that it was all his engine coolant coming out. And still he raced on...Race one stuck with the traditional Silverstone weather, rain and lots of it. This showed Bayliss taking the lead followed by Haga and Fabrizio off the first corner. Young Toseland was third but Troy Corser crept up on him and overtook him. On the fourth corner the first crash took place when Karl Muggeridge managed a wet highside, thankfully he was OK, and more thankfully he only ran his team mate off track instead of knocking him off the bike. Soon after, Corser overtook his team mate into second place. So lap two saw the standings as Bayliss, Corser, Haga, Toseland and Rolfo, the young Brit doing very well and starting challenging for third.But sadly he lost the back on lap three and the bike just spat him off. The hearts of all racing fans ached for him as he ran back to the bike and desperately tried to get it started. There was more of an optimistic mood when he actually did start the bike and re-joined the race in eighteenth despite the radiator being damaged and the coolant pipe being completely snapped. By lap four Troy Corser had overtaken Troy Bayliss and Nori Haga immediately started on the Aussie Xerox Ducati rider, who dug his heels in and held second place. Meanwhile, while this was going on a very impressive battle was taking place for sixth, where Josh Brookes was on the tail of Max Biaggi. Not for long, though, as the Alto Evolution Honda rider forced his way past the vastly experienced Italian and started to pull clear. And while that was happening Toseland was still racing on his number one, very damaged bike and had got up into seventeenth and started the pursuit of At the front of the pack it stayed about this close for most of the race. Sometimes closer... (Pic: Richard Handley)number sixteen. Lap ten and Troy Bayliss took Troy Corser leaving a mini battle of the team mates as Haga started looking in for second. James was sixteenth by lap eleven, almost going up a place a lap and a gap started to build between Bayliss and Corser, but it was not over yet! Sadly, on lap thirteen Brookes came off the bike while in a comfortable sixth. He was OK but ended up out of the race leaving us all hoping that his luck will improve for race two. By lap fourteen the crowd were amazed at the fact that Toseland was now twelfth leaving the standings for the end of lap sixteen Bayliss first followed closely by Corser and Haga with a very big gap until Roby, Laconi, Biaggi, Nieto, Xaus, Smrz, Lanzi, Neukirchner and then Toseland. On lap nineteen there was a bit of trouble as the top three tried to lap a few riders and they, for some reason, started trying to overtake the leaders back and race against them, but this was soon stopped by the marshals. James Toseland, meanwhile, had got up into tenth position. By lap twenty four Yukio Kagayama and Fonsi Nieto had both crashed and retired into the pits. The rain was really taking its toll on this race. By lap twenty five the standings were still Bayliss, Haga and Corser whilst James was in eighth place. The leaders however lapped Toseland as his engine was starting to give up, and he gracefully moved out of the way and let them all pass, leaving the finishing standings from race one with Bayliss as the winner followed by Nori Haga and Troy Corser. James Toseland finished a worthy eighth for some useful points.

Toseland seems to have something missing from his the word "quit"Race two started off badly when it ended up being delayed for half an hour because of the large amounts of water on the track, it was possible to see the size of the puddles from the media office. The riders did, however, keep in good spirits and Karl Muggeridge summed it up quite well. "At least we know what tyres to use!"

After a while it became apparent that the water was not going to clear off the track and race two swas cancelled. Here is what a few of the riders had to say about it:

"I wanted to get out there and it's annoying that it has been cancelled but when safety becomes an issue then that is more important" James Toseland


"I would like to have gone out but it was unsafe because as soon as you go past a dry patch all the water just collects again!" Troy Corser

"I'm gutted, I want to get out there baby!" Josh Brookes - who then galloped around his bike when the TV camera came in...

Nori Haga tests the new Yamaha R-1 based jetski in the Woodcote Reservoir...Race One

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

Race Two

Race cancelled

Championship Standing after six rounds:

1 James Toseland 237
2 Nori Haga 214
3 Max Biaggi 201
4Troy Bayliss 189
5 Troy Corser 151
6 Lorenzo Lanzi 116
7 Ruben Xaus 113
8 Roby Rolfo 90
9 Max Neukirchner 87
10 Regis Laconi 62




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