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Hodgson, Xaus share wins in action packed finale
19 October 2003
The World Superbike finale at the new venue of Magny Cours proved to be an incident packed affair, which ended with wins shared by outgoing Ducati Fila riders' Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus – although Xaus left France the happier of the pair.
Hodgson made a brisk start to race one, coming off the line from a front row grid position, before tangling with his old HM Plant Ducati team-mate James Toseland.
The latter had won his first career Superpole the day before the races, and was in determined form, but would slip down the order to fifth after his tyre choice proved fallible.
Xaus had shaken of a less than perfect start to run out second, shadowing - but never quite able to reach - Hodgson. The Brit had the bizarre experience of his boot fastenings coming loose mid race, although the distraction proved unimportant to the final result.
Each factory Ducati rider set a new lap record in the final stages of the first race, with Hodgson taking the best at this new Magny Cours track layout, with a 1min 41.227secs effort on lap 22 of 23, which he would later improve on in race two.
Further back, a dust-up between Chris Walker and Gregorio Lavilla went the way of Walker in the opener with Lavilla fourth. Lavilla was once more easily the best four-cylinder rider in the field.
Race two gave Xaus his seventh race win of the 2003 season, the Spaniard charging from a terrible start to win by ten seconds – but that gap doesn't tell the whole story: after pulling a slight lead, Hodgson reeled the #11 back in with just a handful of laps top go – but fell when he lost the front at a frustratingly low speed, shortly after setting his new lap record.
Hodgson's exit gave Toseland a second place finish, after just managing to hold off race long rival – and HM Plant Ducati team-mate – Chris Walker. The position has particular significance for Toseland since Regis Laconi (sixth in race one) had to pit after apparent tyre problems, dropping him out of the points and handing a delighted James third in the championship standings.
Walker duly took his second third place finish of the day, from Lavilla and privateer rider Steve Martin. Martin's finish matched his best of the season at Valencia, using a new type of Pirelli tyre.
In the World Championship Hodgson's 13 wins have contributed massively to his final total of 489 points, with Xaus second on 386, having taken seven victories. Toseland – with one glorious Oschersleben win to his credit - has 271, and Laconi dropped from third to fourth overall with 267 points and no wins.
Walker rode his heart out for his podium finishes and sixth in the championship, while Pierfrancesco Chili suffered the agony of a double DNF and remained on the 197 points he came to France with. He finished seventh overall – although he has the personal satisfaction of a race win at Laguna Seca nestling in his list of 2003 results.
Steve Martin's season in WSBK delivered him eighth overall, from Pedercini Ducati rider Lucio Pedercini and Martin's own team-mate Marco Borciani.
Meanwhile, the bizarre happenings at Magny Cours included a crash on the second race warm-up lap for Foggy Petronas Racing rider Troy Corser. His eighth place in race one was encouraging for his team but James Haydon, in his last races for the Anglo-Malaysian race team, crashed after Ivan Clementi clashed with him in race one, and then highsided out in race two.
Corser finished the championship in overall 12th, losing out to Borciani and Mauro Sanchini on the final day of action in the 2003 season.
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