Philip Island Preview From Honda

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
The reigning World Superbike champion, Colin Edwards arrives in Australiaconfident of making amends for a day of mixed fortunes in round two of thechampionship three weeks ago in South Africa. Edwards won the opening racebut was agonisingly forced to retire from the second Kyalami outing thanks to an engine failure only secondsafter taking the lead.

"We know what we've got to do in Australia and I'm confident I can win bothraces at Phillip Island," says Edwards...

"The Castrol VTR has always gonewell at Phillip Island and since the last race at Kyalami three weeks agothe Japanese engineers at HRC and our own Castrol Honda team staff have beenworking very hard. A Honda retiring from a race is almost unheard of inmotorcycling and they now want to guarantee it will never happen again."

Edwards added: "Michelin have worked very hard over the winter and what theyachieved for us at Kyalami in the last round will also come into play atPhillip Island this weekend - I'm confident we have the right package forthe Australian round."

Luckless Tady Okada, a newcomer to World Superbike and Edwards' teammate inthe Castrol Honda squad, is still to score his first points but the talentedJapanese rider lists the Phillip Island track as one of his favorites andhe is intent on success in Australia on Sunday.

"It's been a difficult start to the year for my team," admits Okada. "I'mdisappointed not to be on the championship leaderboard but I'm not botheredtoo much for myself, more for the team. I've seen them work very hard in theopening two rounds and it's for them that I want to do well at PhillipIsland on Sunday."

Okada adds: "I now feel more comfortable than I've ever felt on the VTRmachine and Phillip Island is a great track for me so I want to repay someof the team's work and grab my first points of the year this weekend."

Aprilia's Troy Corser continues to lead the championship, by a slender twopoints from Ducati arch-rival and fellow Australian Troy Bayliss - second inall four races so far this season. Corser set the pole position time and wasa winner at Phillip Island last year in damp, tricky conditions but thiswill be Bayliss's first Phillip Island event on a factory Ducati - theaffable Australian joined Ducati following Carl Fogarty's career-endingcrash at the picturesque Australian venue last year.

Ben Bostrom moved into third place in the championship with a second racevictory in South Africa and the Dunlop-shod Ducati rider will be hoping toimprove on two disappointing, lower leaderboard finishes at Phillip Islandlast year.

The World Supersport championship hopefuls return to action in Australiathis weekend with Honda's Pere Riba hoping to repeat a dominant openinground victory in Spain six weeks ago. The G. Ten Kate Honda-riding Spaniardwas unstoppable as he recorded an immediate win for the new Honda CBR600FSport machine at Valencia.

""Phillip Island is a circuit I really like," says Riba. "But I'm consciousof not trying too hard early in the weekend. It's been six weeks since weraced and every rider will be keen to make a strong impression from thefirst session on Friday morning. Phillip Island will take some thought, it'sthe first time there with this machine and we need to keep improving the machine during Friday and Saturday."

Italian Yamaha rider Piergiorgio Bontempi lies second in the Supersportpoints standings, virtue of his second place at Valencia, with GermanChristian Kellner, also Yamaha-mounted, third.

A trio of Australian Honda riders will all be out to impress on their homesoil this weekend. Castrol Honda's Chris Vermeulen crashed out of ninthplace in the opening round and will be want to turn that disappointment intojoy. Since the March 11 season opener in Spain Vermeulen has won the openinground of the British Supersport championship - as a wild card rider - atDonington Park.

Vermeulen explains: "That Donington race was perfectly timed for us. It cameright in the middle of a six-week break between the Spanish and Australianworld rounds plus, riding at Donington helped Michelin with some testingtime for the world round there next month."

Vermeulen is joined by fellow, Honda-mounted countrymen Adam Fergusson andKevin Curtain as the Australian riders aim to give their home fans somethingto cheer.

Fergusson - the Phillip Island lap record holder - makes his championshipdebut on the Alpha Technik Honda after missing the opening round of theseason after cracking his pelvis in a test session in February. Curtain, ona BKM Honda, arrives at Phillip Island having taken fifth place in theSpanish opener.

Phillip Island data:Superbike:2000 qualifying, fastest: Carl Fogarty (Ducati) 1m 33.159s2000 Superpole: Troy Corser (Aprilia) 1m 33.321s2000 winners: Anthony Gobert (Bimota) and Troy Corser (Aprilia)Lap record: Troy Corser (Ducati) 1m 33.019s (1999)Supersport:2000 pole position: Ruben Xaus (Ducati) 1m 36.995s2000 winner: James Whitham (Yamaha)Lap record: Adam Fergusson (Honda) 1m 37.973s (1999)World Superbike championship points after round two of 13:1 Troy Corser /Australia/Aprilia./ 822 Troy Bayliss / Australia/ Ducati/ 803 Ben Bostrom/ USA/ Ducati/ 544 Colin Edwards/USA /Castrol Honda/485 Gregorio Lavilla/ Spain/Kawasaki/456 Pier-Francesco Chili/ Italy/ Suzuki/367 Regis Laconi/ France/ Aprilia/318 Akira Yanagawa/Japan/Kawasaki/ 299 Ruben Xaus/Spain/Ducati/ 2610 Neil Hodgson/GB / Ducati/ 24World Supersport championship points after round one of 11:1 Pere Riba/Spain/Honda/252 Piergiorgio Bontempi/Italy/Yamaha/ 203 Christian Kellner/ Germany/ Yamaha/164 Katsuaki Fujiwara/Japan/Suzuki/135 Kevin Curtain/ Australia/ Honda/116 Karl Muggeridge/Australia/Suzuki/ 107 Christophe Cogan/ France/Yamaha/98 Vittoriano Guareschi/Italy/ Ducati/89 Fabrizio Pirovano/ Italy/Suzuki/ 710 Werner Daemen/Belgium /Yamaha/6
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