Phillip Island SBK

Calvin Kim
by Calvin Kim
Thanks to Glenn Le Santo for the following report:

Tady Okada finished his first WSB race of the season with a well-earnedsecond place behind team mate Colin Edwards in appalling conditions at PhillipIsland. Edwards rode a textbook race to record his second win of the seasonand seemed completely in control despite lashing rain, high winds and standingwater on the track surface. Okada had taken the holeshot but Bayliss got by inthe first corner melee. But Edwards soon took control of the race, passingOkada and then Bayliss on lap two. Bayliss finished third to take the lead inthe championship.

Okada, and his Castrol Honda, kept it together for the rest of the racedistance, despite terrible conditions, and recorded his first Superbike finishof the season in second place to give the Honda camp a one-two. There was norepeat of the engine problems that plagued him earlier in the season, but thenthe conditions hardly allowed for him to push the Honda hard.

"That was one tough race, the most mentally demanding race of my career,"Edwards admitted. "With eight laps to go I thought 'shit! How much longer isthis going to last'. I knew I had to hit the front as soon as I could but Icouldn't afford to make any mistakes in the traffic on that opening lap. Aftertaking the lead I just wanted to get my head down, put in some consistent lapsand make sure of a win. There was oil on the track and I had to change mylines to avoid it. I had a big moment midway through the race when I lost iton the brakes - but I stayed on the bike and just kept going." The Honda teamhad made some changes to his bike before the morning free practice session,fitting softer springs to the front of the bike. The changes worked so we ranwith them in the race," confirmed Edwards.

Okada was overjoyed with his second place, the first finish of the year forthe hard-riding Japanese rider. Okada took the lead into the first corner butBayliss and then Edwards got by him early in the race. He held third placeuntil passing Bayliss on lap 14 to secure second.

"It was a race I wanted to finish but in the wet weather anything canhappen so I knew I had a chance of a strong finish too," said Okada. "Themachine was perfect and I was just glad to see the checkered flag after adisappointing start to this season. I started closing on Colin at the end ofthe race but I had an idea he was taking it easy and making sure of thefinish. To finish first and second - especially in those conditions - isfantastic for the team."

There were many fallers during the race, including Neil Hodgson who hadgrabbed second on the grid on his GSE Ducati in Superpole. Hodgson had a poorstart after his machine wheelspan and turned sideways as he tried to launchoff the soaking grid. He lost the front end coming out of MG corner trying tomake up lost time. He remounted and battled his way back up to 11th.

Akira Yanagawa had a good race, using his experience to stay on boardwhile others around him dropped like flies. Ruben Xaus, who had recorded thefastest race lap on lap seven, lost control on the next lap ending his chargethrough the field for good. He had also crashed during the morning's warm up.Meanwhile Yanagawa's patience netted him a useful fourth place finish. "Thisbike was the best I have ever ridden in the wet," explained Yanagawa. "I feltI could push a lot harder on the wet surface than I usually can. I could catchthe leading riders even though I had a lot of wheelspin off the start, this isnormally very difficult for me."

Ben Bostrom, who had been back in an uncharacteristic 11th, crashed withonly two laps left. He had been even further down the field but had beenpicking off riders during the race. "I wasn't at all comfortable out theretoday. I've never seen conditions like it!"

Troy Corser, unhappy to be racing in such conditions, finished back insixth. "It was a matter of survival really," said Corser. "I just rode aroundand tried not to crash, there was nothing else to do. The rain was bad enoughbut the wind was something else. When I got back to the garage I asked theDunlop technician to cut some extra grooves into my race tire, just to try andget some extra grip in race two."

Australian Broc Parkes had his best ever finish in his first WorldSuperbike season despite crashing out on lap 11 at MG corner. He showedgreat presence of mind and kept hold of the clutch lever to keep his bikerunning. He only lost one place as a result of the incident.

First race result:

1 Colin Edwards, USA (Castrol Honda) 39m 58.665s,2 Tady Okada, Japan (Castrol Honda) 40m 03.120s,3 Troy Bayliss, Australia (Ducati) 40m 21.549s,4 Akira Yanagawa, Japan (Kawasaki) 40m 48.396s,5 Broc Parkes, Australia (Ducati) 41m 15.848s,6 Troy Corser, Australia (Aprilia) 41m 16.663s,7 Pier-Francesco Chili, Italy (Suzuki) 41m 37.275s,8 Stephane Chambon, France (Suzuki) 41m 38.304s,9 Robert Ulm, Austria (Ducati) one lap down,10 Martin Craggill, Australia (Ducati) one lap down. Superbike WashoutThe second race in the Phillip Island round of the World Superbikechampionship was abandoned after torrential rain caused chaos at themeeting. Before the organisers made the decision to stop the racing therewas controversy as Troy Corser tried to persuade other riders to join himin boycotting the race. Out on the track rivers of water and mud flowedacross the racing line and pools two feet deep began to appear at theedge of the track. The organisers decided that Steve Martin and Edwardsshould take a sighting lap to check the conditions.

When Colin Edwards arrived back in the pits his body language soon madehis opinion of the conditions obvious as he gave an emphatic thumbs down."I really want the points," said Edwards, "but this isridiculous. There are rivers of water and mud across the track. On thatlap I came around Hay Shed, taking it really easy, and still the frontjust went away and I almost lost it. There is no way you can race inthat." Edwards also gave his version of the events leading up tothe race being called off. "The organisers didn't seem to want tomake the call, and after some discussion they asked us to take thissighting lap and tell them what we thought. When we got back after thelap Steve just looked over at me and gave the thumbs down. It was betterthat it was done with just two riders as if we had all gone out then someof the riders would just have gridded up and that would have made itdifficult for us to call it off."

Minutes before the race was called off Corser had been at the pit laneexit, in his leathers but without his bike, helmet or gloves, approachingall the riders and attempting to persuade them not to go out. At onepoint an animated conversation ensued between Troy Corser and his formerteam manager at Ducati Corse Davide Tardozzi who seemed to be admonishingTroy Corser for trying to influence the rest of the riders. "It wasnothing," claimed Tardozzi. "We were discussing the way tohave the race stopped. I didn't think it was right for him to justhold up his hand asking the riders to stop. I thought that the ridersshould be able to go out and look for themselves. But I have known Troy along time and there is no problem between us."

Troy Corser explained his actions. "The clerk of the course said itwas too dangerous but the organisers wouldn't listen to him. Heasked me to try to get the race stopped." SBK owner Paolo Flamminisaid he regretted stopping the race, "But it would not be properracing in these conditions," he said. "The race had to bestopped and it is for safety reasons we have decided to call off the restof the meeting." Flammini denied that the decision had been causedby pressure from the riders. "No, it is not because of any actionby riders, it is because you cannot race in this."

Giovanni Bussei, who rides for Ducati NCR was disappointed that all theriders hadn't been involved in the decision. "All the ridersshould have been on the sighting lap, so we could have all decided if itwas safe to ride or not, it shouldn't have been decided by just oneor two riders." There will be a meeting on Thursday before Sugo todiscuss how situations such as this would be dealt with in the future.

Ben Bostrom, who had struggled in race one with the conditions andcrashed on the final lap of race one, was relieved to hear the race hadbeen called off. "To race in these conditions wouldn't havebeen about skill, it would have been down to luck who did anddidn't crash. There's no way you can ride competitively inthis" he said. When asked why he had struggled in the conditionshe admitted that he hadn't felt at all comfortable riding thisweekend. "I don't know why, this should suit my sliding styleof riding but it hasn't worked out that way."

As a result of the cancellation, Troy Bayliss takes his championship leadgained in the first race to the meeting in Sugo in Japan. The WorldSuperside race (sidecars) was also abandoned.

Australian dominate wet Supersport raceAustralian riders dominated their home round of the World Supersportchampionship at Phillip Island, filling the podium after a crash-packed racein dreadful conditions. Kevin Curtain survived the rain soaked track and someentertaining early race battles to take a brilliant win, his first ever in theseries. His fellow countrymen Adam Furgesson and Andrew Pitt followed him homein second and third.

Furgesson's podium place was a considerable achievement given thathe had crashed badly in pre-season testing and broken his pelvis, femur andcollarbone. He limped up the podium steps with a big smile to collect hisfirst piece of Supersport silverware in what was his debut race at worldlevel. Andrew Pitt also survived the conditions and the aggressive riding ofall the leading bikes to get third place.

James Whitham crashed out while in fourth. Fujiwara, MacPherson andVermeulen also all crashed out while fighting for a podium finish.

"I still can't believe it, it's just so awesome to win near home," saidCurtain after the race. "We have a very good package which will help us toachieve the same in the future."

"You couldn't see which way the corners were going" commented Pitt. "It wasjust a case of trying to survive to the end."

"It was a good way to make a comeback," said Fergusson. "I was very downafter missing Valencia, and I'm still only 90% fit. If it had been dry I mighthave struggled to make it to the finish, so in a way the wet helped me alittle."

All three podium men were riding on Michelin tires.

World Supersport championship round two, race result:

1 Kevin Curtain, Australia (Honda) 39m 32.490s,2 Adam Fergusson, Australia (Honda) 39m 34.710s,3 Andrew Pitt, Australia (Kawasaki) 39m 45.164s,4 Vittoriano Guareschi, Italy (Ducati) 39m 50.105s,5 Pere Riba, Spain (Honda) 39m 52.653s,6 Dean Thomas, Australia (Ducati) 39m 56.389s,7 Paolo Casoli, Italy (Yamaha) 40m 04.234s,8 Jorg Teuchert, Germany (Yamaha) 40m 26.151s,9 Ivan Goi, Italy (Honda) 40m 28.687s,10 Christophe Cogan, France (Yamaha) 40m 32.461s.
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