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Crash.net's WSBK season review – Part 2

28 December 2007

Troy Bayliss had denied James Toseland a first ever double victory by beating the Honda rider to the line during a daring race two showdown at Assen, but he could do nothing to prevent Toseland standing on the top step of the podium twice in front of his home fans at Brands. Bayliss didn't even finish race one, after an accident, then crossed the line just seventh in race two.

With Noriyuki Haga and Max Biaggi having one good and one bad race at Brands, a weekend where Toseland was announced as a Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP rider for 2008, the Englishman took a 66 point lead over Haga into round eleven of thirteen, at Lausitz in Germany.

Any hopes Toseland may have had of nursing his points lead to the finish of the season suffered a blow when a cracked swingarm, the legacy of a practice fall, left him ninth and fourth, while Haga and Biaggi both clawed back points with 1-2 and 2-3 finishes respectively.

Bayliss, now riding purely for wins, won race two in Germany, and repeated that pattern at the penultimate Vallelunga round, marking what would be the last ever WSBK victory for the 999.

Biaggi wowed his home fans by winning race one at Vallelunga, his third and final victory of the season, then took second in race two - propelling him back above Haga (4-3 finishes) and within 29 points of Toseland heading into the season finale, where 50 points were still up for grabs.

JT's late season jitters had continued at Vallelunga - where he fell in Superpole, recovered to force Haga aside on his way to an aggressive third in race one, but then fell again in race two, limiting him to eleventh place.

The final round of an unpredictable season, at Magny-Cours, thus started with the top three riders - Toseland, Biaggi and Haga - covered by 33 points, with fourth placed Bayliss mathematically out of the championship equation.

Toseland, desperate to leave WSBK as a double world champion, proved his nerve by winning his final Superpole appearance - but saw all his advantage undone after tangling with Lorenzo Lanzi at turn one of race one. In what was close to a worse case scenario, Toseland went spearing off track but - with his heart in his mouth - managed to keep his Honda on two wheels and rejoin at the back of the field.

James went on to fight his way up to seventh, just one place behind an off-form Biaggi, while Haga took the win. The world title thus came down to the 25th and final race of the year, which Toseland began 17 points clear of Haga. The Yamaha star was on peerless form at Magny-Cours, duly winning race two for his second double of the season, but a safe sixth place for Toseland gave him the world crown by just two points.

From the 25 races, Toseland took 8 wins, 14 podiums and 2 pole positions, making him a worthy winner, while Haga's haul of 6 wins, 15 podiums and 2 poles at least helped Yamaha lift the manufacturers' crown.

Biaggi's 17 podiums from 25 races marked an incredibly high level of consistency for a WSBK rookie, while Bayliss still claimed a highly competitive 7 wins, 13 podiums and 6 poles.

The only other rider to win a race was Ruben Xaus, whose race one triumph at Valencia was also the only win by a non-factory rider and marked the spectacular Spaniard's first victory since 2003, when he finished title runner-up to team-mate Neil Hodgson on a factory Ducati.

Xaus also took a third place at Assen, but still finished 95 points behind a winless Troy Corser, whose first season at Yamaha ended with a solid fifth in the points and nine podium finishes.

Italians Lorenzo Lanzi and Roberto Rolfo were left firmly in the shadow of team-mates Bayliss and Toseland, costing them their seats for 2008, and they finished exactly equal on points - Lanzi getting the nod for seventh due to a single podium finish, something Rolfo was cruelly denied when he ran out of fuel at Monza.

Max Neukirchner completed the year ninth on the 'satellite' Alstare Suzuki, but impressed enough on the full factory machine at Magny-Cours to keep the ride for 2008, when he will be joined by Fonsi Nieto and retained factory favourite Yukio Kagayama.

Nieto finished twelfth for Kawasaki in 2007, two places behind team-mate Regis Laconi, as the green machine disappointingly failed to take a single podium. Laconi will be joined by former double MotoGP race winner Makoto Tamada next season.

DFX Honda's Michel Fabrizio finished the year sandwiched between the ZX-10Rs, during a tough 2007 for all the non-factory riders, but the Italian will get his big chance alongside Bayliss in the factory Ducati team next year, riding the new 1098R during what could well be Troy's final season of racing.

The forthcoming arrival of the 1098 caused significant controversy this season, with Ducati threatening to quit if it was not allowed to run the 1200cc racer - which had already replaced the 999 model in the showroom - while some rival teams declared a similar intention if the big-capacity machine did race.

Ducati was prepared to surrender the v-twin's previous tuning advantage in return for the extra 200cc and a compromise was eventually reached that will see the 1098 start next season 6kg heavier than the 1000cc four-cylinders and with 50mm air restrictors fitted. Both those limits will be 'updated, if needed, during the championship by a system analysing the race points obtained'.

Joining the likes of Bayliss, Fabrizio and Xaus on the new machine will be Biaggi, who has secured a seat at Sterilgarda after parting company with Alstare Suzuki - but can he be a title contender at a non-factory team?

Haga (will he ever win a world title?) and former double world champion Corser will remain together at Yamaha Italia in 2008, while Ten Kate has hired a formidable line-up of MotoGP star Carlos Checa and reigning double BSB champion Ryuichi Kiyonari to replace Toseland and Rolfo. Reigning WSS champion Kenan Sofuoglu will also ride a third Fireblade for the Dutch team's all-rookie line-up.

Four new events are planned for an expanded 15-round 2008 season - at Miller Motorsports Park (USA), Portimao (Portugal), Nurburging (Germany) and Sentul (Indonesia) - although Silverstone and Lausitz will disappear from the calendar.


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