The last round of the 2002 World Superbike Championship is set to be an all time classic. The second half of the season has seen an unbelievable effort by Colin Edwards to get back on top of the championship. Just a few months ago, at Laguna Seca, Troy Bayliss was a huge 56 points ahead of archrival Edwards…
…But since then, the Honda rider has chipped steadily away at this points difference. Then came Assen, and an upset in the second leg, which handed Edwards the series lead by a single point!
While it's anyone's guess as to who will take the crown on Sunday – with every WSBK fan having a different opinion - Crash.Net
instead decided to listen to the contenders themselves, and both Bayliss and Edwards air their views below on the build-up to Imola and the season so far…
''I don't think anyone can believe what's happened in this year's championship,'' admits Edwards, Superbike World Champion with Honda in 2000. ''I suppose it was looking like Troy would walk the championship after he won six in a row at the start of the season. It was never easy for me and the team in some of those early races. I'd get a lead in a race and just wait for Troy to come by then have no reply. But since the second race at Laguna Seca in July we've moved up a gear and now we're in the position I think we deserve.''
Even when he was finding it hard to keep up with Bayliss, Edwards was already extremely consistent. His two Assen wins mean that he has now claimed 23 consecutive podiums. The previous record was held by Carl Fogarty with 12 straight podiums in 1995 and 1999.
''The statistics confirm how determined we've been this year to cling on to hopes of winning the title,'' argues Edwards. ''I now want to keep the momentum going with two wins at Imola.''
Edwards is looking strong for Imola, especially with Bayliss a little downhearted after his Assen mistake. ''Now I've got to go out and do it all again at Imola,'' winces the Australian 2001 world champion. ''I'm pretty mad with myself for the crash, but what can you do? I have to admit I'd rather be in front of Colin at this point though.''
But Bayliss remains as determined as ever. ''The day after Assen, Kim and I were checking in at Amsterdam airport,'' recalls Bayliss. ''Then some dude comes past and says, ''Hey Troy, bad luck for yesterday, better luck for next year.'' I just stood there and thought to myself: ''This one's not finished yet...''
Edwards was given a crucial opportunity to test at Imola just before this weekend's brace of races. With a time of 1min 48.10secs, the Texan was faster than the lap record of Ruben Xaus set last year.