Edwards Beats the Wild-cards

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Castrol Honda's Colin Edwards and wild card rider Makoto Tamada, riding aCabin Honda, won a race each in Sunday's fourth round of the World Superbikechampionship at Sugo in Japan.

Edwards was the first race victor, flanked by Tamada for the last three lapsin the thrilling 25-lap encounter. Tamada, Edwards and Noriyuki Haga alltook turns to lead but the determination of Edwards shone through as he tookhis first win of the year on the new SP-2 machine.

"I was confident of being able to win here but when you've got a couple ofriders like Tamada and Haga -- and at their home track -- tailing you it'snever going to be easy," said Edwards, the first non-Japanese rider to wina World Superbike race at Sugo since 1995...

He continued: "I knew it would take some hard work to beat them but I feltcomfortable with the machine and tyres to do it. Since Friday we've knownthat we were in good shape as far as race set-up went. Michelin have reallydone their homework since the races here last year and it¹s credit to themthat I was in a position to win today."

Runner-up Tamada commented: "With four laps to go I decided to sit behindColin and see where I could pass him. I tried my best to overtake but Colinwas braking really hard and I couldn't pass him anywhere."

Haga took third place, 4.4 seconds down on race winner Edwards while NeilHodgson finished fourth, for the third time this year, after holding secondplace on the opening lap. Championship leader Troy Bayliss was fifth asEdwards closed the points deficit to the head of the championship standings.

Tamada's win in the second race of the day was in typically explosivefashion as the 25-year-old took the lead from Hodgson with nine laps to goand then smashed the lap record a lap later. He crossed the finish line 3.2seconds ahead of Edwards.

Once I was leading the race I concentrated hard. I wanted to record somefast laps and not make any mistakes," said Tamada. "As soon as I looked upat the pitboard again and saw I had a three-second lead I knew I had won therace. I'm really happy and I hope everybody in the world remembers my namenow."

Tamada's team is managed by Tady Okada, last year's team-mate to ColinEdwards at Castrol Honda. Okada commented: "This is the first win for me asa team manager and it's nice to be on the podium again. Tamada was reallygood in that second race and made me very proud."

Runner-up Edwards was pleased to have reduced the points deficit to Baylissin the championship from 45 at the start of the day to 24. The American hasnow taken more podium finishes than any other rider this year with sevenfrom the eight races so far.

Edwards said: "I'm amazed at the pace this year. Today's races were about 20seconds faster than last year's and it's the same everywhere. It's a creditto the series and to the tyre manufacturers.

"In the first race my rear tyre was sliding with about four laps left sowhen I found myself in third chasing Hodgson I knew I'd have to make my movebefore that point of the second race. Once I was in second I tried to putone clean lap together and catch Tamada but he was gone, it was hopeless.After that I just started thinking about blocking and protecting secondplace."

Hodgson improved to third place his best finish of the year to move intothird place in the championship. Bayliss passed Kawasaki's Akira Yanagawaand his Ducati team-mate Ben Bostrom to take fourth with Haga fifth.

Points after 4 of 13 rounds:1. Bayliss, 174 points2. Edwards, 150 points3. Hodgson, 98 points4. B. Bostrom, 95 points5. Haga, 87 points6. Xaus, 86 points7. Toseland, 57 points8. Walker, 52 points9. Hitoyasu Izutsu, 47 points10. Tamada, 45 points.
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