By G. Venkat Ganeshan
The Ducati dominance continued in this Italian circuit, just a few miles off the Ducati factory. After the Lausitzring round, which saw both championship adversaries Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards trading wins, the Misano circuit had thrown up quite a few challenges.
When it comes to qualifying, Ben Bostrom always throws up the gauntlet to his Ducati teammate, Bayliss. Misano was not different, as Bostrom took the fourth spot, but buoyed by his performance in Lausitzring, Neil Hodgson registered the fastest time in superpole. Aprilia's Troy Corser, who was once a serious threat to the championship had to lift his spirits, and a podium position was certainly due from the wily Australian. World champion Colin Edwards had to blame himself for a poor start at the second race in Lausitzring, which hampered him from attacking Bayliss and had to settle for third place started from third. History was made at Misano with the entry of Italian marque Benelli. Though announcements were rife at the beginning of this year's championship about the legendary Italian manufacturer about their entry into Superbikes, but the time of their arrival was kept under close covers.
Misano proved to be the opportune for the Italian manufacturer. Another Italian manufacturer to have graced the Superbike championship and the Benelli squad was pilotted by ex-Suzuki Superbike rider, Peter Goddard. Another distinguishing factor was the introduction of the three cylinder machines by Benelli. Hence, SBK poses real challenges to the riders and machines alike with the two, three and four cylinder machines. The 900c.c. machine was down on power, but with more tests in the offing, soon it will join the big league.
In race one, Edwards took the holeshot, but it was the American Ben Bostrom who passed Edwards and began to pull away from the rest of the pack. Bayliss, who had a second row start was caught behind Neil Hodgson, but a wrong tire choice from the latter put paid to his hopes. Even Troy Corser had a disastrous race, as the Australian never finished below third in Misano. Again a bad tire choice had Corser scrambling for minor placings. Pierfrancesco Chili had a cataclysmic race. But Bayliss' surge continued, as he moved up the ladder and caught up with his teammate Bostrom.
Bayliss was particularly quick in the straight leading up to Tremonto corner, as he manoeuvred most of his moves at that corner. Both riders traded the lead as they were on a hot chase to take the checkered flag. Bayliss finally passed Bostrom and took the win ahead of Bostrom. To Bayliss' surpirse, Kawasaki rider, Gregorio Lavilla had a fabulous outing as he brought home the Green machine to third.
Race two was marred by a coming together of the privateers Matteo Camapana and Ludovic Holon in the second lap, which forced the race to be stopped. Holon suffered a broken collar bone. At the restart, Edwards again took the holeshot, soon Bostrom nipped past Edwards and his hot laps continued. But this time, Neil Hodgson made the right choice in terms of tire and was closing in on Bostrom. Both the riders were on identical tires and near identical machines, soon Hodgson got the move over Bostrom but couldn't pull away from the Californian. But their pace was too hot for the rest of the riders, lead by race one winner Bayliss. Edwards had another disastrous outing as he fell off from the bike in one of the tight and twisty corners at Misano. Soon he managed to restart his Honda and finished a lonely eleventh.
Hodgson's luckless run continued, as in the fag end of the race, his rear tire was blistered and had to reduce his speed considerably giving up several places. The early hot laps had put tremendous pressure on the tires. This gifted Bostrom not only the lead but also the race win followed at a distance by Bayliss. Lavilla for the second time in succession finished on the podium. The circus next moves to Laguna Seca in sunny California in two weeks time.