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the brits are coming!

Sunday 15th june 2003

Words: Simon Bradley
Pictures copyright SBK International

Silverstone was scorching hot this weekend, and we're not just talking about the weather. British SBK rounds always get a little interesting as the best riders in British Superbikes get a chance at the World Series as wildcards, and this year was no exception. Everybody knew that a fast track like Silverstone would even the playing field slightly between the still heavily favoured vee twins and the fours, but nobody could have predicted that the star of the weekend would be BSB new boy Yukio Kagayama on the Crescent Suzuki GSX-R 1000.

Eyebrows started to be raised at Superpole when the diminutive Japanese rider took the big Suzuki to second place on the grid behind champion elect Neil Hodgson and ahead of all the other factory teams. With Gregorio Lavilla in fourth and BSB Suzuki rider John Reynolds in fifth it was clear that just for once it might not be a Ducati benefit this weekend.

Race one saw an incredible start from the Suzukis of Lavilla and Kagayama, with Reynolds snapping at their heels along with Hodgson, Xaus, Walker, Toseland, Laconi, Chili and fellow BSB wildcard Michael Rutter. At half distance the gap from first to tenth was just over 2 seconds, and the lead was swapping almost continually. The longer duration of SBK races over national ones started to show as the Crescent bikes began to have tyre problems. Kagayama made a mistake that saw him take to the grass and gravel, miraculously staying on and popping out just in front of his team-mate and still taking a well deserved fifth place.

Lavilla made a terrible mistake at the entrance to the new chicane, locking the front and throwing away a podium finish, gifting it instead to Ruben Xaus. Small consolation to pass his space to a fellow Spaniard, but at least he was uninjured. Things settled down a little at the front to see Hodgson take the win from Toseland and Xaus, with Laconi fourth and the Crescent Suzuki pair fifth and sixth. All of the top five had held the lead at some point in the race, as well as the luckless Lavilla.

Race two saw the Suzukis streak off again while Hodgson made a dreadful start that saw him start the second lap in ninth place. At the front Lavilla and Kagayama broke away slightly while Reynolds and Xaus had a coming together that saw the Spaniard take to the grass and rejoin a long way back. Reynolds needed to pit to repair the damage to his right handlebar and as a result dropped back to 20th. This made life a lot easier for Hodgson, who would have found both of them difficult to pass on his way back up the field, but he was riding a storming race and little would have held him up for long.

The latter part of the race saw a titanic scrap going on at the front between Lavilla, Hodgson, Xaus, Toseland and Kagayama, with Laconi just tucked in at the back. All of them had the lead at some point and all of them could have taken the win, which would have been richly deserved. But there can only be one winner, and in race two today it was...

Hodgson. By just half a second from Lavilla who in turn was a mere fifteen hundredths of a second ahead of Xaus.

Without a doubt this was the best meeting of the year, and bodes well for Brands Hatch in August.

Results

Race 1

1 N Hodgson, Ducati
2 J Toseland, Ducati
3 R Xaus, Ducati
4 R Laconi, Ducati
5 Y Kagayama, Suzuki
6 J Reynolds, Suzuki
7 P-FChili, Ducati
8 M Rutter, Ducati
9 C Walker, Ducati
10 M Borciani, Ducati

Race 2

1 N Hodgson, Ducati
2 G Lavilla, Suzuki
3 R Xaus, Ducati
4 J Toseland, Ducati
5 Y Kagayama, Suzuki
6 R Laconi, Ducati
7 P-FChili, Ducati
8 C Walker, Ducati
9 M Rutter, Ducati
10 J Reynolds, Suzuki

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