Portimao: Bayliss ends era in style
2 November 2008
Troy Bayliss has signed off his World Superbike career in the best way possible after completing a double victory in his final races at Portimao.
A 52nd career win to conclude a third title winning season, Bayliss could not have ended his career in a more comprehensive manner, claiming pole position and leading all but one lap throughout the day.
Although similarly dominant as his first race win, Bayliss very nearly came unstuck in the opening stages but when he snatched the lead at the start of lap two, there was no stopping him from claiming one last emotional Superbike triumph.
Getting away well from pole position, Bayliss was rather more cautious into the first turn, allowing Max Biaggi and Jonathan Rea to swallow him up through the tight opening bend.
Forcing him wide as the field shuffled through, Bayliss was briefly on the edge but managed to gather it back in time to see Biaggi lead ever so briefly before Rea dived up the inside and pushed both of them off-line.
Although Rea recovered to stay in front, he was soon edged out by the fast-starting Ruben Xaus, who eventually managed to work his way to the front as he rounded the first lap.
However, the Spaniard had barely any time to enjoy being up front for the first time since his Misano win as Bayliss, recovering from his tardy first few corners, simply nudged into his slipstream and swept through into the lead.
Bayliss was followed by Rea, with Xaus down to third suddenly, while Troy Corser, Leon Haslam, Noriyuki Haga, Cal Crutchlow, Carlos Checa and the delayed Biaggi followed.
With the knowledge that the rest of the field had now adopted a firmer rear tyre for this race, Bayliss wasted no time in trying to establish a gap, an endeavour that was helped by Xaus, Rea, Corser and now Haga's feud just behind.
Rea took himself out of the podium equation on lap four when he made a failed attempt to punish a small mistake by Xaus, the Ten Kate Honda rider having to sit up and allow the two Yamahas through instead.
Two became one Yamaha on lap five though when it was revealed Haga would have to observe a drive-thru penalty for jumping the start. Cementing his loss of second place in the standings, Haga's indiscretion left the battle for second place between Xaus, Checa and Michel Fabrizio.
Corser had been part of the fight but almost as soon as Haga pitted, he dropped back with an error at turn one on lap six to slip down the order again.
Having crashed out on the first lap in the earlier race, Fabrizio was determined to make amends and go into the off-season on a high, although he didn't help himself initially with one of his trademark slow starts.
Nonetheless, he was on a charge up the order, passing Rea for third on lap six before embarking on an enjoyable tussle with Xaus for second, the Italian eventually getting the better of his Ducati counterpart on lap nine.
Rea, meanwhile, was about to drop of the reckoning altogether when he was caught out in a three-way scrap heading into turn one. Caught out on the outside, Rea couldn't lean in and was simply forced to bobble over the gravel trap and out of the points.
Rea's demise wasn't the only surprise on lap ten though as Xaus' valiant attempts to stay second eventually ended with him high-siding at the final corner. Although he almost caught the wayward Ducati as it snaked beneath him, it eventually gave way at considerable speed, throwing Xaus to the ground, albeit thankfully unharmed.
His accident was bad news for Checa though, who had been stalking him closely at that point, the Honda rider forced to take a long route around the rider-less bike to drop from third to tenth.
With the order shaken up, Bayliss now had a clear lead over Fabrizio at the half way point, while Max Neukirchner was now up to third, the German having picked off his rivals carefully from a lowly 15th on the grid as he looked at the prospect of being rewarded with a possible podium at the end of what has been a breakthrough season.
Corser was back up to fourth, ahead of Crutchlow and Haslam, although the latter rider would pass his team-mate soon afterwards to snatch fifth. Like Neukirchner, Fonsi Nieto was putting in a good show for Suzuki in seventh, while Regis Laconi was producing Kawasaki's most convincing performance for some time in eighth.
With tyres beginning to fade, albeit more evenly than they did in the first race, the latter stages were all about Haslam as he found an extra burst of speed on the HM Plant Honda.
Catching Corser, who was now all but confirmed in the runners-up spot, Haslam flapped his way through to fourth on lap 15, while the equally hard-charging Nieto followed through soon afterwards.
Indeed, with Nieto beginning to put the pressure on, Haslam knew he needed to catch and overtake Neukirchner quickly in order to resist the Spaniard. It was a feat he duly achieved with just over one lap remaining, jumping onto the podium in the process.
Another couple of laps may have seen him catch Fabrizio too, but the chequered flag had fallen and at the front the champagne corks were already popping for Bayliss, who rounded the corner for the final time to complete an outstanding weekend at the end of an outstanding career.
Fabrizio made it a perfect race for the championship winning Ducati Xerox team as he heads into 2009 hoping to go some way to filling his predecessor's shoes.
Haslam joined Tom Sykes and Cal Crutchlow in scoring a wild-card podium, his third place very much giving rivals a glimpse into 2009 and the force the strong British contingent is expected to be next year.
Suzuki ended what looked like being a tough weekend remarkably well in fourth and fifth, Neukirchner leading Nieto, while Corser secured second place in the standings with a quiet run to sixth place.
A late spurt helped Checa recover to seventh, while the as-yet-unemployed Lavilla gave prospective bosses something to think about over the winter with a second strong top ten finish of the day. Crutchlow faded back to ninth, while Laconi delivered another solid result at the end of a difficult season for Kawasaki in tenth.
Just behind, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Jakub Smrz and Biaggi finished their season in the points with 11th, 12th and 13th, while the recovering Haga and Rea saved some face by finishing 14th and 15th respectively.