Donington: Kiyonari splashes to victory
7 September 2008
Ryuichi Kiyonari kept his cool in terrible weather conditions to claim victory in the second World Superbike race of the weekend at Donington Park.
The race began controversially under heavy rain, although the conditions would only be responsible for three retirements over the course of the 23 laps.
Nonetheless, while Kiyonari looked rather wild as he allowed his Ten Kate Honda to dance beneath him, he was able to resist the attentions of Cal Crutchlow, who smoothly worked his way up the order to ensure a second wild-card podium of the day.
There were initially some doubts as to whether the race would even go ahead after a massive rain shower shortly before the start of the race created rivers across certain parts of the circuit. Nonetheless, the race went ahead as planned, despite some furious gesticulation from several riders over the first lap.
The first few corners were certainly taken gingerly as Kiyonari assumed the lead of the race, ahead of Bayliss, Ruben Xaus, Max Biaggi and Chris Walker.
Indeed, Walker, a renowned wet weather specialist, was charging up the order from 13th on the grid, but he ran wide on the run up to McLeans and skated across the grass. Remarkably he kept it upright, although it did delay a few riders behind as he rejoined the circuit.
Despite the protests, all the riders negotiated the first lap unharmed as the race settled into a rhythm. Still, it was immediately clear who was most comfortable on their bikes as Kiyonari pulled away, followed by Bayliss, Corser and Crutchlow, the HM Plant Honda rider easing up to fifth place by fourth lap. Team-mate Leon Haslam followed in sixth.
Indeed, Crutchlow's smooth riding style was serving him well as he quickly latched onto the back of Corser's Yamaha, eventually snaking past into third at Goddards on lap five.
It meant Crutchlow was soon chasing Bayliss, the Aussie rider seemingly happy to let Kiyonari eke out a comfortable advantage over just a few laps. Crutchlow caught the championship leader but was never close enough for a lunge.
However, he wouldn't need to in the end as Bayliss became the first casualty of the tricky conditions. Although the track was not quite as sodden as it had been earlier, Bayliss would lose his Xerox Ducati coming under Starkey's Bridge, a crash that looked nasty but otherwise left him unhurt.
Now Crutchlow was second and as the rain made an intermittent presence over the remaining laps, the erratic, but nonetheless enjoyable, looking Kiyonari began to see his advantage over the wild-card rider drop.
With the gap getting to as low as 0.7secs with only a couple of laps to go, the arrival of more rain would eventually prompt Crutchlow to ease off and let Kiyonari claim his third win in four races.
Nonetheless, Crutchlow was still an excellent second to complete a fine weekend for the British contingent.
It could have been better if Haslam had been able to maintain his early momentum and catch Corser. However, while a mistake left him seemingly happy to settle for fourth, he would eventually end up off the track when he crashed at the Old Hairpin with just two laps remaining. It meant Corser was a comfortable third, a good result given how often he has been off the bike this weekend.
Fourth instead fell to another of the British riders, James Ellison, who defied a run through the gravel at Coppice midway through the race to battle back to fourth. Setting several fastest laps on the way, Hydrex Bike Animal Honda have certainly made their mark this weekend.
Michel Fabrizio left it late to come good on the second Xerox Ducati after managing to get the better of Biaggi, Gregorio Lavilla and Ruben Xaus, the quartet fighting for position for much of the race.
Carlos Checa was ninth, ahead of Tom Sykes, the race one podium winner seemingly unhappy with his bike in the wet conditions. Lorenzo Lanzi, Jakub Smrz, Roberto Rolfo, Max Neukirchner and Regis Laconi rounded out the points places.
Meanwhile, Noriyuki Haga had the ignominy of being disqualified after failing to serve a drive-thru penalty, given after he didn't stop immediately in the first race following his engine failure. The Japanese rider had pitted once already, but it was not in the allotted window and, as such, was black flagged.