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James Toseland’s home win, Donington Park WSBK

Raceline Photography

By Rob Every
April 4 2007

James Toseland gave his home crowd in England exactly what they wanted in the first race as the series returned to Donington Park, a clear race win, followed by acute heartache as his bike let him down while leading again in the second race - which was won on the last corner by Nori Haga for Yamaha. The rather cold weather and high winds caused many problems for riders in the Superbike and Supersport paddock, as three of the top riders in Supersport were rendered unable to race on Sunday, and Yukio Kagayama was forced to abandon his Suzuki after a heavy crash on Friday. The wind also affected Superpole, with Yamaha’s Troy Corser losing the front at the first corner on his lap.

The riders were understandably cautious in race one for a lap then, as Troy Bayliss forced his way in front - a track the Aussie knows well, of course, from two years racing in the UK and GP racing. But on the Honda Toseland went with the reigning champion, and looked to be trying really hard as Bayliss set the early pace on the Ducati, clearly very at home on the sweeping parkland circuit.

Régis Laconi started brilliantly on the front row, and also in the race, but quickly became a slight roadblock as faster riders struggled to get by the Kawasaki - Corser was quickly past, as was Rubén Xaus. Max Biaggi had his by now usual appalling start, and was out of the top six but looking likely to move through the field.

Very early on though and a hugely important moment in the championship - Bayliss was out and out hard, losing the rear end of the Ducati on the very fast Coppice turn, and on his way down practically ripping off his little finger. Toseland was not too far behind as the pair had opened up the field, with Troy actually seeming to draw away slightly from the Ten Kate Honda.

Bayliss’ injury was enough to prevent him starting the second race, and Toseland could see a possible 50 point gap between himself and surely his biggest rival opening up if he could win both races!

JT was in the prime spot after the incident, as the leading pair had opened up a decent advantage over Corser, who was looking very assured in third. The Yamaha seemed to be able to run at Toseland’s pace but no quicker. That progress was provided by Biaggi, of course, who was typically scything his way through the field and eventually managing to nick third place and a solid rostrum finish.

Xaus was also riding very well, but Laconi dropped away considerably and was passed by team-mate Fonsi Nieto. There was to be disappointment for Xaus as the Spaniard crashed his Ducati at Craner Curves near the end of the race - interestingly though he was ahead of Lorenzo Lanzi on the factory bike at the time!

Biaggi overtook plenty of people to nab third and Haga rode well, if not on Corser’s pace, for fourth. A good ride here for Jakob Smrz, the former 250 GP man riding well for tenth on a very private Ducati.

After the crowd had seen Neil Hodgson, Fred Merkel, Aaron Slight and others celebrate the 20 years of Superbike World Series with a ride around; there was much anticipation of a Toseland double.

It was made clear that Bayliss would not start, and Toseland grabbed his opportunity to lead the field in race two, forcing past Haga on the run down to the Old Hairpin. Biaggi this time got a much better start and was in the pack in about fifth on the first lap, quickly moving past Laconi.

Then, as in race one, there was a real race shake up as Toseland’s bike just completely stopped over the line to start the fifth lap. The Honda rider was seen trying to get gears and bump the bike, but it appears the gear ignition cut out system may have failed, which forced a visibly angry James out at Craners. He showed his anger by almost throwing the bike into the tyres!

As he cut out, though, Haga nearly ran into him, and this closed the field right up, and now Biaggi was in his best position since the Qatar weekend. Corser had adjusted his bike and was going well, but Haga was also there as the three riders rode together for the remainder of the race. Nori had slowed slightly in the first race, but in this one was right on the leading pace.

Just behind them Xaus was riding a blinder of a race in fourth, in front of Lanzi again, even managing on occasion to catch the group by fractions, but his year old Ducati was not quite quick enough.

To the lead battle though, and Corser tried his hand in front before Haga really barged his way past mid race; then Biaggi, who had to bridge a gap to get there, got in front and looked like he might pull away from the Santander Yamaha pair. Haga though was in no mood to settle. He matched Max’s every move, and it seemed Corser just did not have quite the pace to race with them - he could follow, but not get too involved in the fairing bashing.

It came down to the last laps. Max had a few times run into heavy braking areas very deep, as he did in Qatar against Toseland, and each time Nori had squeezed by only to be outdragged by the Suzuki. The pair had allowed Corser to close again, and into the last lap Biaggi looked secure, but then disaster for the Roman Emperor - he ran into the last tight hairpin bend too hot, pushed the front and Haga nipped up the inside hardly believing his luck no doubt!

A first win for Yamaha in ’07 and a result that really closes up the series. Bayliss looks likely to be back for the next round, and his chances have been aided by the failure to Toseland’s bike, which the Briton must have been cursing - he had 50 points in the bag but that’s racing!

Points standings:
Toseland 115; Biaggi 110; Haga 88; Corser 81; Lanzi 66; Bayliss 64; Neukirchner 46; Xaus 45; Rolfo 36; Nieto 30.

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