Imola (Italy), 27 September '03: Today saw an intense day of activity at the Autodromo Enzo & Dino Ferrari Circuit in Imola, the scene for the penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship. Ruben Xaus (Ducati Fila) clinched the battle for Superpole with a spectacular lap of 1'48.636 and will start from pole for the first time ever in three years of WSBK racing. Newly-crowned champion Neil Hodgson lines up in third, eight-thousandths of a second slower than Regis Laconi (NCR Ducati) and fellow Brit James Toseland (HM Plant Ducati), who completes the front row.
"It's important to work well all weekend and I succeeded in getting a great set-up with my race tyre, so I'm really happy" declared Ruben. "In my head I have all the information I need for a good race; the braking points, changes in direction, passing places and in addition my 999 is perfect. It's not true that I really like this track but probably my riding style suits it a lot because you are really loose over all the bumps. Tomorrow I want to win both races because Neil beat me at Assen, but above all I want to win for Ducati".
"The Imola circuit is really tough, and at almost two minutes it's quite a long lap so it's easy to rush into a corner, hit the bumps a bit wrong and miss the apex. This place can really bite you" declared Neil. "You know you're not going to get the perfect setting round here, you've just got to go out and ride round the problems. My Superpole performance was really average, I was mainly concentrating on getting the right race set-up in the qualifying sessions, but there's always tomorrow and I'm going to attack in both races. I'm really motivated and want to come away with a couple more wins on Sunday".
An extraordinary welcome from the thousands of fans in the SBK Ring in the Imola paddock was given to Claudio Domenicali, managing director of Ducati Corse. Domenicali, who received the constructors' trophy, the twelfth won by the Bologna manufacturer in 16 years of World Superbike, from Paolo Flammini of championship organisers FGSport, declared: "Today Ducati is a reality throughout the world thanks to Superbike because Superbike has given a lot to the company. Ducati has believed in this championship right from the start, and it has become our 'warhorse' from 1988/89 and the first world title won in 1990 onwards. The World Superbike championship is important because it allows us to experiment with a massive amount of technical solutions which we then apply to our road-going motorcycle range. This year has been fundamental for us both thanks to the victories of Neil and Ruben and to the success of the 999 Factory bike".
STARTING-GRID: 1. Xaus (Ducati Fila) 1'48.636; 2. Laconi (NCR Ducati) 1'49.042; 3. Hodgson (Ducati Fila) 1'49.051; 4. Toseland (HM Plant Ducati) 1'49.228; 5. Chili (PSG-1 Ducati) 1'49.245; 6. Corser (Petronas) 1'49.880; 7. Martin (DFX Ducati) 1'49.921; 8. Borja (DFX Ducati) 1'50.188; 9. Lavilla (Suzuki) 1'50.318; 10. Walker (HM Plant Ducati) 1'50.413.
TV COVERAGE : Eurosport - Sunday 28 September: 1200 Race 1 (live), 0130 Race 2 (highlights). EurosportNews - 1200 Race 1 (live), 1530 Race 2 (live). RAI - Sunday 28 September: 0125 Race 1 & Race 2 (highlights).