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The best World SBK show of the year in France

Raceline Photography

By Rob Every
October 9 2006

In a paddock bursting to the seams with rumour and counter rumour, the racing could have been almost incidental at the French Magny-Cours circuit, but the Superbike elite put on the best show of the year to give all the fans a treat with James Toseland and fittingly Troy Bayliss winning the races. After finally managing to find a new berth for himself on the Yamaha Italia bikes for 2007, Troy Corser looked a new man in France - getting Superpole and riding brilliantly in the first race on the Alstare Suzuki that allegedly is to be ridden by Max Biaggi.

Bayliss was there from the start as front row men Toseland and Haga were looking to settle second place in the championship. Haga though made a huge mistake into the fast turn one, the Santander Yamaha went wide onto the rumble strips and forced Nori out of the throttle and way back into the pack.

Up front the pack were battling away but soon gone from that pack was Andrew Pitt, an early crasher on the other Yamaha, the Aussie no doubt and understandably unsettled by his apparent sacking from his team after riding superbly in the second half of 2006! Pitt picked up and carried on though.

Toseland, Corser, Kagayama and Bayliss were pounding round together with Toseland up front, occasionally passed by the outgoing champion. Haga was scything through the field though, and was soon bridging the gap between the lead men and the rest of the field. Nori was soon right with them, after doing what he does best and passing where other people can’t or won’t, the Japanese star was in the lead.

The rest of the race was a superb nip/tuck battle between Haga, Toseland and Corser. Toseland looked more in control and to have a faster bike, Corser was superb in places and looked back to his very best, and Nori was fast but also suffering from traction problems. It was settled in Toseland’s favour by the end though, the Brit making second in the series much more his as Haga and Corser followed him home.

Fading a bit was Bayliss in fourth and Kagayama in fifth. Great ride in sixth for Chris Walker, the Brit yet again beating the two guys who are staying with the PSG-1 team for 2007, go figure!!

On to race two and quite one of the best races you will ever see in Superbike! Haga this time got a much better start to stay with the pack, as also looking for a ride Karl Muggeridge was up front as well. It appeared again though that the Yamaha was struggling for speed, as Corser and especially Toseland breezed by Nori on the straights.

The race again settled into a battle between Corser and Toseland up front, then a slight gap to Haga and Bayliss who again looked to not have the speed in the bike at a track he had never ridden at before. The battle up front was simply superb though, Haga was forcing through tiny gaps, Corser and Toseland were sliding their bikes, backing them into the turns and really looking like they were enjoying themselves.

Further back Lorenzo Lanzi was finally looking like a rider again in sixth, as Andrew Pitt sorted himself out for a charge through the field after an early mistake ran him wide. Where was the man that all the paddock were talking about and apparently the key to a lot of rides being sorted, Alex Barros? Nowhere was the answer, the last round winner was tooling round in tenth place, looking very disinterested in it all and frankly making all the fuss look pretty much about nothing!

The real action was up front and from looking dead and buried, all of a sudden Bayliss woke up, his style changed, the elbows came out and he was right with Corser and Toseland after despatching Haga with a mega tight move into turn two. For the last few laps then the threesome were back and forth past each other, Bayliss finally managed to get through with an audacious move on Toseland at the final mickey mouse chicane, and Corser did the same albeit in rather more conventional fashion on the last lap.

Bayliss proved what he has achieved is no illusion, on a track he had little time on - and on a bike that was getting eaten alive on the straights, he still beat them all. What a thoroughly deserving champion the Taree man is!

Final championship standings:
1 Troy Bayliss, Ducati · 431
2 James Toseland, Honda · 336
3 Noriyuki Haga, Yamaha · 326
4 Troy Corser, Suzkui · 254
5 Andrew Pitt, Yamaha · 250
6 Alex Barros, Honda · 246
7 Yukio Kagayama, Suzuki · 211
8 Lorenzo Lanzi, Ducati · 169
9 Chris Walker, Kawasaki · 158
10 Fonsi Nieto, Kawasaki · 139
11 Michel Fabrizio, Honda · 125
12 Karl Muggeridge, Honda · 123

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