Corser gives Aprilia the double
25 June 2000
A fresh breeze had taken hold at the sun drenched Misano circuit as the fans prepared for the second Superbike race of the day. The wind was blowing down the back straight and could provide a helpful boost for the riders on the fastest part of the track.
The race distance was reduced to 23 laps after Juan Borja caused the first start to be aborted when his motor died.
Re-fired and raring to go, all 33 riders got away cleanly at the second time of asking. Once again Troy Corser was unable to capitalise on his pole position and it was Katsuaki Fujiwara who got the jump on the field and led into the first turn, closely pursued by Noriyuki Haga, Corser and Troy Bayliss.
Fujiwara was riding like a man inspired and gamely fought off Haga's advances on the opening lap. The Corona Alstare Suzuki man completed lap one a mere three bike lengths ahead of Haga with Corser tucked in under the Yamaha's exhaust pipes. Bayliss was continuing his strong race one form in fourth position ahead of the lead Honda of Aaron Slight. Borja was next along, followed in quick succession by Ben Bostrom, (from 14th on the grid) Peter Goddard, Alessandro Antonello, Pierfrancesco Chili, Colin Edwards and Akira Yanagawa (down from 4th on the grid).
It took Corser just over a lap to get into his stride and as the leaders accelerated away from the Curva Del Carro, the Aprilia looked to be in a perfect position to draft ahead of the leaders. Sure enough, along the back straight the Aprilia darted out from behind Haga and remained on the inside line until Fujiwara had also been passed.
Now safely into the lead, Corser set about conserving his tyres. Fujiwara was too pre-occupied with Haga to mount a concerted challenge on the Aprilia which meant that Troy could relax slightly. Behind the lead trio, Bayliss was still within striking distance as was Borja on the second Infostrada Ducati.
One surprising aspect of the early going was the total lack of progress made by Edwards and Yanagawa. By the end of lap eleven, the pair were still only 11th and 12th, almost 15 seconds behind the leaders and losing almost two seconds a lap. Colin appeared to be somewhat subdued after his race one clash with his team-mate and was having extreme difficulty in finding a way past the well ridden Aprilia of Antonello.
Positions at the front remained static until lap seven when Haga finally made a move stick on Fujiwara at Tramonto. The Yamaha looked to be eating its tyres but it didn't prevent Haga from moving right onto the tail-pipes of Corser within half a lap of deposing Fujiwara. The lead pair went into lap eight almost as one and through the first three corners Haga was content to sit behind Corser, calmly following his line and waiting for an opening.
That opening appeared to come along the back straight on the eighth tour when Haga shoved the front wheel of the Yamaha deep into Tramonto. However Haga was carrying too much speed into the turn and drifted wide, allowing Corser to re-take the lead. However at the very next corner it was Corser's turn to run wide which gave Haga the lead once again. But not for long as on the entry to the Curva Del Rio Haga's front tyre refused to respond as quickly as the rider would have liked and Corser was once again the leader. All this in the space of five corners!
Once again Fujiwara had the best seat in the house to watch the action although with Bayliss now hassling the Suzuki for third, he couldn't afford to relax. With Corser and Haga continuing to trip each other up at every opportunity, the top four had closed up with just one second separating them. Also closing up in fifth was Borja who was being closely tracked by Chili who had found a way past Slight.
As the leading quartet exited the Curva Del Carro, Bayliss caught a demon slipstream from Fujiwara and effortlessly passed him on the back straight but just three corners later at the Variante Arena chicane, all hell broke loose.
As Haga flicked his bike right for the first half of the chicane, the front tyre of the Yamaha came into contact with one of the slick white rumble strips. Almost instantly the bike was down with Haga rolling away into the gravel. Luckily the Japanese rider fell out of harms way which was more than could be said for his mount. The Yamaha slid off the circuit and then back into the middle of the track on the exit to the chicane. Bayliss, Fujiwara and Borja were the first riders on the scene and had seen the fall infront of them. Nevertheless the rider-less Yamaha forced both Ducati's onto the grass but everyone remained upright. Next along was Chili, travelling like a missile and trying to make up ground on the leaders. Unaware of the unfolding drama ahead of him, Chili aligned himself for the chicane as he would have normally done only to find the stricken Yamaha directly in his path. Chili clipped the bike which sent his Suzuki into a series of violent summersaults and its rider tumbling into the sand-trap. The bike was wrecked and Chili was left crouching in the sand. It was later diagnosed that Frankie had fractured his collarbone, an injury which could mean the end of his championship challenge.
Blissfully unaware of the action behind him, Corser suddenly found himself with some breathing space once again and took full advantage, extending his lead by three seconds in the next five laps. Fujiwara was now holding down second after somehow avoiding Haga's Yamaha while the recovering Ducati pair were swiftly closing in.
Into fifth had now come Bostrom with Slight sixth ahead of Antonello, Yanagawa, an impressive Goddard and Edwards who had dropped behind both Kawasaki's in quick succession on the eighth lap.
Fujiwara did an admirable job of holding down second, benefiting from being allowed to use his own set-up on the bike rather than having it dictated to him, but gradually and relentlessly Bayliss, Borja and Bostrom reeled him in and by half distance they were together. All three Ducati's squabbled amongst themselves with Bostrom just winning in the risk stakes, putting in some very hairy manoeuvres in his efforts to pass Borja.
On lap 17 Bayliss finally found a way passed the stubborn Fujiwara by which time Corser was seven seconds up the road. Not wishing to be outdone, Bostrom then braked impossibly late at the end of the back straight to push the Suzuki back to fourth.
In the final five laps Corser eased his pace considerably, allowing Bayliss to close within four seconds of him. However the Australian had Bostrom crawling all over him, the American putting the lie well and truly to all those who believed he couldn't cut it in World Superbike circles. The same could also be said of Fujiwara who has been largely disappointing in his 18 months with Suzuki, although he was defending his fourth place with gusto.
Coming into the final chicane for the 21st time, Bostrom suddenly dived for the inside around the second half of the chicane and barged past Bayliss. However as the pair accelerated onto the start/finish straight, Bostrom lost his foot-peg and slowed momentarily which gave Bayliss his place back. Try as he might, the 1999 American Superbike champion could not get back on terms with the 1999 British Superbike champion and had to settle for third, his first podium of the year.
The podium was one of the happiest this year with Corser, Bayliss and Bostrom all very pleased with their afternoon's work. Fujiwara was not too disheartened with fourth place as he had had by far his best weekend in WSB's to date. Borja had also put in two fighting performances which will have impressed Ducati Corse, especially as Carl Fogarty is unlikely to return this year.
More than ten seconds back of the race winner, Yanagawa finished a lonely sixth after Slight's tyres went off badly in the closing stages. The New Zealander dropped to ninth at the end behind Antonello and Goddard who proved that he still has the ability to succeed on the world stage.
Thirteen seconds behind Slight and over half a minute behind Corser, Edwards came home a dejected tenth, taking a miserly six points from what had been a disastrous weekend for the Texan rider.
Further back still, the final points scorers were Haruchika Aoki, Giovanni Bussei, Andy Meklau, Lucio Pedercini and Alessandro Gramigni.
Corser's double was the first such success for Aprilia in the 301st World Superbike race since the series was inaugurated. The Australian now moves eight points ahead of Chili in the championship and is just 38 points behind the leader Edwards. The next round of the championship is at Valencia next Sunday which is another track which combines fast sweeping turns with tight fiddly sections. If the Aprilia performs as well there as it did in Misano then Edwards could be in trouble.