Ducati's 2003 Superbike season is perfect so far. The Italian manufacturer has won all 18 races and is the new World Champion. Ducati shares 14 of those 18 victories with Michelin. Race One John Reynolds (Suzuki) took the early lead with Regis...
Ducati's 2003 Superbike season is perfect so far. The Italian manufacturer has won all 18 races and is the new World Champion. Ducati shares 14 of those 18 victories with Michelin.
John Reynolds (Suzuki) took the early lead with Regis Laconi (Ducati), Shane Byrne (Ducati), Chris Walker (HM Plant Ducati), Ruben Xaus (Ducati Fila-Michelin) and Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila-Michelin) behind him. Reynolds and Byrne started pulling away, leav ing Walker, Xaus, Hodgson and Laconi to fight for third. The unfortunate Xaus was forced to retire when his machine was stricken by an oil leak. Reynolds also ran into mechanical problems when his clutch broke. Troy Corser (Foggy Petronas Racing-Michelin) suffered a similar fate. "I'm certain I would have finished second," said a very disappointed Ruben Xaus after the race. "Walker was slower than me in certain sections. This is a real shame. I felt good and the bike was working well."
Byrne was now leading while Walker, Hodgson and Laconi fought for second. Byrne won, Hodgson finished second and Walker third.
"Six or seven laps from the end I decided to try and pass Chris to please the fans," said Hodgson. "When Ruben retired, I was faced with a dilemma : should I try to go for second or just settle for points and stay third or fourth. But I went for the most s pectacular choice. Now I know that if I score eight more points than Ruben in the second leg I will be World Champion. We'll see what happens."
Claiming to be out to please his sponsors, Sean Emmett (Ducati) started before the green lights and took the early lead. He was black flagged and John Reynolds took over first place. He was followed by James Toseland, Ruben Xaus, Chris Walker, Neil Hodgson and Gregorio Lavilla. Hodgson moved up to fifth and Chris Walker crashed. Xaus was fourth ahead of Hodsgon and the two factory Ducati men stayed in that order until the flag. Byrne took his second win of the day with John Reynolds second and James Toselan d third for another all-British podium.
Mathematically, Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus are now the only possible World Champions.
Since the start of the world Superbike championship in 1988, Michelin riders have won 262 races out of 381 and taken 11 out of 15 world titles. Michelin won 25 races out of 26 in 2002 and 14 out of 18 this year.