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toseland is the man of the weekend

Sunday 1st june 2003

Words: Simon Bradley
Pictures copyright SBK International

Despite equalling Colin Edwards' record of nine race wins in a row, Neil Hodgson finally saw his winning streak broken, ironically by his own protege and former team-mate James Toseland at the baking hot Oschersleben circuit in Germany.

With an all British front row broken only by Frankie Chili's Ducati in second place, race one was the familiar story of Hodgson fighting his way through to the front and then staying there despite the best, and very impressive, efforts of Chili to dislodge him. Also familiar was the sight of Reuben Xaus throwing his bike into the gravel while assured of a podium finish. Less familiar, though, was the drama of the first lap. Gregorio Lavilla, in an uncharacteristic mistake, lobbed the GSX-R 1000 into the gravel on turn one, clobbering James Toseland on the way and causing huge disruption in the rest of the field. Toseland, who had been in third place, managed to ride through the gravel without dropping the bike and ended up still on the track but at the back of the field. Hodgson was also badly affected, ending up back in seventh after taking avoiding action, while Walker found himself in the lead despite carrying the painful legacy of a very nasty highside in qualifying yesterday, added to his existing catalogue of injuries. Then things really started to hot up as Hodgson stormed up through the pack, forcing his way to second place behind an on-form and very fast Chili, while Xaus was established in third and Walker dropped back to fourth as his enforced lack of fitness started to tell. Around ten laps in, Chili waved Hodgson past in what appeared to be a tactical move and tucked in behind him for the chase. It later transpired that Chili had a fuel leak and didn't want Hodgson to fall on the fluid while tucked in so close behind - a sporting gesture that sums the man up very well. Further down the field, the luckless James Hayden was enjoying a close look at the gravel trap as his Petronas FP-1 popped out of gear and threw him off at very high speed. Although not badly hurt, Hayden would not be considered fit for the second race. But during this time, something else remarkable was happening. Toseland was carving his way up through the field from the very last place and with ten laps to go had got back up to third place. He was lapping consistently at around 1.5 seconds faster than Hodgson and Chili, who were duking it out in front, and soon set about catching them. It wasn't to be, though, and despite an herculean effort by Chili on the last corner, which so nearly paid off, Hodgson took his ninth, and probably hardest, win of the season.

Race two saw a clean start by everyone, with Toseland making an early break from Hodgson and Walker. Chili was slower off the line and ended up back in sixth place behind Xaus and Laconi. At this point, several individual races started. Hodgson made an early attack on Toseland, getting through but running too hot into the next corner and allowing Toseland to pass him back. With both riders going for the same piece of track there was a heavy contact between them and although both stayed on, Hodgson came off distinctly second best with a holed fairing and what appeared to be a bent or dislodged clutch lever. TV coverage showed it to be a racing incident in the purest sense, with no blame to be apportioned, and the racing continued, hard and close, up to the dying stages of the race when it was obvious that Hodgson's Ducati had given its best and that he would have to settle for second. A few seconds behind the battle for first was a titanic struggle for third which saw Chris Walker fight through his injuries to stay ahead of a hard charging Laconi, Xaus and Chili all the way to the chequered flag. Chili was the only real threat, but after he had managed to pass Xaus and Laconi he seemed to falter before dropping back and finishing in a lonely 11th place, presumably with a mechanical problem of some sort.

There is no doubt that 22 year old James Toseland was the man of the weekend and has truly come of age. Hopefully he can keep this sort of form the rest of the season. This weekend was one to make British bike fans proud - the dogged determination and grit of Chris Walker, the consistency and skill of Neil Hodgson and the exuberance and talent of James Toseland conspired to make an all British podium for the first time in a very long while. I'd suggest you get used to it, because if things carry on like this it won't be the last time either.


Race 1

1 N Hodgson, Ducati
2 P-FChili, Ducati
3 J Toseland, Ducati
4 R Laconi, Ducati
5 C Walker, Ducati
6 S Martin, Ducati
7 M Borciani, Ducati
8 V Iannuzzo, Suzuki
9 L Pedercini, Ducati
10 G Bussei, Yamaha

Race 2

1 J Toseland, Ducati
2 N Hodgson, Ducati
3 C Walker, Ducati
4 R Laconi, Ducati
5 R Xaus, Ducati
6 S Martin, Ducati
7 J Borja, Ducati
8 V Iannuzzo, Suzuki
9 M Borciani, Ducati
10 L Pedercini, Ducati

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