The second round of the Superbike World Championship did not have the same excitement as the first round had. However, Kyalami has always produced a double winner. The tight twisty circuit makes overtaking nigh impossible. Hence qualifying is all...
The second round of the Superbike World Championship did not have the same excitement as the first round had. However, Kyalami has always produced a double winner. The tight twisty circuit makes overtaking nigh impossible. Hence qualifying is all the more important as a good position gives the rider more probability of occupying the podium.
Superpole went to Ducati rider, Ben Bostrom. Bostrom who was unceremoniously dumped from the Ducati Infostrada squad last year swapped saddles with Borja and did remarkable job with the NCR privateer Ducati. This soon prompted the works Ducati to resign the 25-year-old American.
Bostrom did live up to his billing as he took superpole with a time of 1min41.689s, which eclipsed the previous record held by Carl Fogarty. His teammate, Troy Bayliss was in the second spot giving Ducati an high chance of winning the race. World champion, Colin Edwards was in third spot so too Valencia winner, Troy Corser. Hence the first row had all the major title contenders of this year's championship.
Leading the second row was the privateer Ducati of Neil Hodgson. Hodgson had done a terrific job by qualifying GSE Ducati on the fifth spot and he was ahead of the works Honda rider, Tady Okada. Disappointing was the performance of the Suzukis. The Suzuki team has been facing problems with the bike set-up as both Chili and Stephane Chambon were way off the pace.
Chili clocked the seventh best time with a 1min42.802s while Chambon had engine troubles and he never managed to set a competitive time and started from 16th position.
Last year, it was Edwards who won both the races after the appeals court ruled out Haga for a drug test. Hence Edwards who had a near appalling outing at Valencia wanted to restore pride and points to the team and also to him.
As the race began Corser got the holeshot into the first corner but soon Edwards passed him and took the lead but Corser retook the lead from Edwards soon Bayliss slotted his Ducati and lead for the first few laps. But Edwards was always at the back of Bayliss and looked threatening.
It was only a matter of time before Edwards took the lead from Bayliss Corser managed to hold station in third position with the pole-sitter, Ben Bostrom in fourth. Though the Kawasakis didn't enjoy a front row start but it was with the sheer excellence of their riding skills that both Akira Yanagawa and Gregorio Lavilla were in the top eight.
Neil Hodgson was in fifth place giving the privateer Ducati squad something to cheer about. But luck had its say as there was a leak in his oil pipe which forced him to abandon the race. Talking of mechanical gremlins, Okada too had electrical problems that forced him to retire. Though the Hondas are the fastest of the lot but the reliability problems they face especially with Tady Okada's bike is of humungus concern to the team.
Hence with the lead Honda spearheading the field Honda engineers were working on Okada's bike so that the bike can restart without any technical hitch for the second race. However, Okada hasn't scored a single point in his 2001 campaign. The veteran 500cc rider hasn't come to terms with Superbike especially the four-stroke machines. With both Hodgson and Okada out, this gave opportunity to Chili and Laconi to enter the top eight and finally Chili finished in sixth place and Laconi in eighth.
As Edwards took the checkered flag comfortably ahead of Bayliss and Corser managed to hang on to third position. There were frantic rearrangements in many of the top runners for the second race, however, Edwards crew remained cool as they never changed the set-up which was perfectly suited for the conditions. A tinge of dark clouds hovered around the circuit gave the teams a slight worry about the rain threat, but every rider started on slick tyres.
As the lights went off, Bayliss got the holeshot into the first corner, with his teammate, Bostrom in second position. Soon Bostrom took the lead from Bayliss in the fourth corner and was on a charging mode as he pulled away from the rest of the pack. As things settled, Edwards and Bayliss started to eat out the lead of Bostrom. Hence the fight for the top-spot was having a three way battle. Yanagawa who had a fifth place finish in the first race got off to a decent start but ran off in one of the fast corners and was thrown out off the bike but walked off uninjured. Hence the temporary yellow flags were out but Okada overtook Hodgson under the yellow and was soon to be awarded a 10 sec penalty, but the disaster continued for Tady as his engine seized this time and had to retire unceremoniously.
The Honda camp have to find out the solution for the mechanical troubles which Okada is facing. Soon they realised that even Edwards bike wasn't spared as his engine also suddenly came to a grinding halt and his double was totally spoilt. Hence this gave Bostrom a breathing space, as Bayliss who was on a charge earlier settled for second place and Corser came a distant third and leads the World Championship standings. Hodgson was the best of the privateers as he finished fourth ahead of Reuben Xaus in fifth and Regis Laconi in sixth. The lone Kawasaki of Gregorio Lavilla came in seventh ahead of Pierfrancesco Chili's Suzuki. The Honda camp has to address the technical problems which they are facing at the moment. Unless a realiable engine is produced their vision of securing a consecutive world title with Edwards would seem to be a mirage.