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Cluzel resists charging Lowes for Monza win
6 May 2012 CLICK HERE
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Jules Cluzel has made it four different winners in the opening four World Supersport races after prevailing in a thrilling final lap exchange with a charging Sam Lowes.
The Frenchman looked set for a fairly comfortable first WSS victory after long-time leader Lowes ran off course midway through the race and dropped more than four seconds to his PTR stablemate.
Undeterred, the British rider put in a tremendous fight back during the closing stages to get himself onto Cluzel's tail as the pair rounded the final lap, the PTR Bogdanka Honda rider pushing hard to get himself into a position to attempt a pass into the last corner of the race.
However, with particularly slippery conditions at the Parabolica making any out-braking manoeuvre off the drier line a risk, while a brave Lowes was indeed able to nose ahead, he subsequently ran wide, allowing Cluzel to dive back beneath and power to the chequered flag.
Marking Cluzel's first win at WSS level, and also a first victory for PTR since Eugene Laverty raced for the team in 2010, the Frenchman's breakthrough result has subsequently launched him into title contention.
Following the cancellation of the first World Superbike race because of the weather, the Supersport race began as planned now the rain had stopped, though with the final sector proving particularly treacherous, particularly in comparison to the drier first-half of the circuit, the conditions remained very tricky. It was something that Broc Parkes found to his cost when he crashed at turn three having reached the corner out front.
Handing the advantage to Lowes, both he and Cluzel proceeded to put a comfortable margin between themselves and the chasing pack, a cause that was aided further when Ronan Quarmby high-sided out of third position on lap two, prompting the following field to scatter around him.
Indeed, though Lowes maintained the lead of the race, a close following Cluzel would allow his fellow Honda rider to 'test' the ever-changing track conditions before him. It was a strategy that would duly pay dividends on lap seven when Lowes got it wrong under braking for Ascari, sending him across the gravel trap at high speed. Though he was able to stay upright, a feat in itself, Lowes re-joined having dropped more than four seconds to Cluzel.
Taking time to regain his rhythm, Lowes's renewed victory challenge wouldn't come until the final three laps as he took big chunks out of Cluzel's advantage.
With Cluzel seemingly struggling more with his tyres on the steadily drying surface, Lowes was back behind him with just half a lap of the race remaining. Identifying the final corner as his best place to pass, Lowes attempted to make his move stick, but his wide exit simply enabled Cluzel to squeeze through.
Joy for Cluzel, though Lowes will have to wait longer for the chance to win a maiden WSS race, the result nonetheless gets him back into the title fight, just ten points behind Kenan Sofuoglu.
In fact, Sofuoglu very nearly didn't even make the race after crashing on the sighting lap, but the low speed impact ensured he was able to get back up and onto the grid in time. Running third initially, a mistake on lap seven dropped him behind both Imre Toth and Stefano Cruciani, but a charge would see him regain the position before the chequered flag.
Despite losing out to Sofuoglu, fourth and fifth still signals the best-ever WSS finish for Toth and wild-card entrant Cruciani, as well as their respective Toth Honda and Puccetti Kawasaki teams.
Maintaining his perfect scoring record this year, Alex Baldolini notched up another fine result on the Suriano Triumph in sixth position, ahead of the best of the Yamaha contingent Massimo Roccoli.
With Italians sweeping positions fifth to tenth, Andrea Antonelli, Vittorio Iannuzzo and WSS debutant Raffaele de Rosa flew the flag in eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
Outside the top ten, Jed Metcher was a solid 11th on the RivaMoto Yamaha, the Australian finishing ahead of erstwhile championship leader Fabien Foret, who spent much of his race outside the top ten as he struggled with the conditions. The Frenchman has now slipped behind both Sofuoglu and Lowes in the title hunt.
Another rider to score in each race this year, Luca Marconi was 13th for VFT Yamaha, while British duo Kieran Clarke and Martin Jessopp claimed their first points of the season in 14th and 15th.
Despite the conditions, the race wasn't significantly high in attrition, though notable failures to finish included Sheridan Morais, who fell heavily on the exit of Ascari, and Vladimir Leonov, the Assen podium winner crashing out of sixth position on lap six.