The big meaner bikes are back in town. The 2001 Superbike Championship opened up in style in Valencia in Spain. The off-season was marred by several unsavory incidents for Superbike. Firstly, there have been talks about shelving the SBK series as...
The big meaner bikes are back in town. The 2001 Superbike Championship opened up in style in Valencia in Spain. The off-season was marred by several unsavory incidents for Superbike. Firstly, there have been talks about shelving the SBK series as a whole so that GP racing goes four-stroke from 2002. A move that has been initiated by the Japanese manufacturers. Conspicuous by their absence was Yamaha. Though Juan Borja rode the satellite team Yamaha machine but there was neither Noriyuki Haga nor the factory Yamaha squad. Some critics point out that this has laid the foundation stone for the twilight of World SBK. But let's not jump into conclusions.
As always super pole had its fair share of accidents, when Regis Laconi on his debut SBK ride was run over by a back marker and his boots was cut into smithereens however he escaped unscathed. Suzuki's Pier Francesco Chili suffered a wrist injury due to a fall during Sunday's free practice session.
However, it was all Troy Corser on the Aprilia who set the track ablaze with faster laps one after another to secure pole. Current World Champion, Colin Edwards was off-color as he never got into the groove of the circuit but managed to sneak into the front row of the grid. If Corser took pole, then his teammate and GP export, Regis Laconi wasn't far behind as he clinched second place making it an historic Aprilia 1-2. Neil Hodgson on the satellite Ducati team rounded off the front row. As the Ducati Team Corse had to fight for the second row with the second factory Honda of Tadayuki Okada. Okada, again another GP export was quick to learn and was consistent in setting up decent times.
Ben Bostrom, who secured fifth place ahead of Troy Bayliss and the third rider and debutante, Reuben Xaus in eighth position spearheaded the Factory Ducati attack.
As soon as the lights turned green, Regis Laconi got the holeshot into the first turn as the other riders safely waded through the first couple of corners. Soon Corser took the lead from Laconi and the Honda team retreated with Edwards and Okada on a downslide. The Ducati boys were on the raise as Bostrom and Bayliss took the fourth and third spot respectively.
Okada's Castrol Honda suddenly came to a grinding halt as he trudged around the circuit and his first outing in a SBK event came to a standstill. The top eight soon had the Green liveried Kawasaki machines of Gregorio Lavilla and Akira Yanagawa but the Suzuki of Chili and former Supersport champion, Stephane Chambon languished in ninth and tenth postions respectively.
The Honda squad had got screwed up their set up and the wrong tire choice proved detrimental for their outing. As Edwards never found the pace to challenge the Aprilia and the Ducati riders. Meanwhile, Corser never looked back as he rode a flawless race but soon the Ducati riders caught up Regis Laconi and the rookie showed signs of inexperience as he went down fighting to fourth place behind Bayliss and Bostrom. But managed to hang on to that fourth position ahead of the Kawasaki of Gregorio Lavilla and World Champion, Colin Edwards. Chili finally had something for consolation as he rounded off the top eight and had to ponder over the set-up. However, it was all Corser on the first race as he won in style ahead of Bayliss and Bostrom.
In the second race, Corser made it a flag to flag victory as he took the lead in the first corner which witnessed Okada crashing out. Okada couldn't stop his Honda as he ran into Regis Laconi taking both the riders out.
The Okada crash proved disastrous for Ben Bostrom as he passed under yellow flag and was awarded a stop and go penalty. To add insult to injury, Bostrom was again awarded a stop and go for pit lane speed limit violation. Hence Bostrom's race was said and done as he drooped into the pit lane. Hence the Ducati attack was depleted sans Bostrom.
But the Honda crew worked during the break as they changed the set-up that was tuned for a soft set up and it paid hopes Edwards was faster and made a clean getaway. He maintained his track position in second place and was catching Corser. Following Edwards were Bayliss and Lavilla. But soon Edwards started to wear off as he let off Corser of the hook and Edwards began to fade out with the tire problems as the bike skidded and was all over the track. This gifted Bayliss and Lavilla who were on a dog-eat-dog battle for second position. But this played into the hands of Corser as he remained untouched and took a memorable double, sixth in his impressive career.
Edwards managed to hold his fourth position ahead of Hodgson and Yanagawa. Chili again had a forgettable outing as he finished in seventh position courtesy of the wrist injury suffered during free practice.
The second Ducati of Reuben Xaus managed to cling on to eighth spot. But Valencia was all Aprilia and Corser especially. The win gave Corser the maximum 50 points can he secure Aprilia its first World Superbike title or will this be Bayliss' turn or can Edwards win back-to-back championship, we have to wait for twelve more rounds.