Rookie Ryuichi Kiyonari
has taken a stunning maiden World Superbike victory after coming out top in a thrilling exchange between himself and Troy Bayliss
that went down to the very final corner.
The Ten Kate Honda rider was forced to battle back from a tardy start to catch long-time leader Bayliss and shadow him until the 21st lap when he made a move stick at Hawthorn Bend.
However, Bayliss stayed just as close in the final four tours, very nearly snatching the lead back from the double BSB champion on the penultimate corner. That in turn, though, nearly allowed Max Biaggi
through into second, the Italian producing a superb performance to catch the leaders in the final laps.
A race that saw the pendulum of momentum swing between a variety of riders throughout the 25 laps, Bayliss got away best from the lights as those alongside him bogged down. Indeed, heading into Paddock Hill Bend, Bayliss had dragged through fifth place Troy Corser
in second, while Tom Sykes popped his Suzuki into third briefly before going on to be swallowed up by the chasing pack.
Nonetheless, he remained in contention in fifth, just behind Noriyuki Haga
and Max Biaggi, but ahead of Yukio Kagayama
and Kiyonari, the front row sitter getting away badly to be seventh by the end of the first lap.
Up at the front, Bayliss and Corser made a brief breakaway from the pack, with Haga holding onto third having briefly lost the place to a charging Biaggi. However, after falling behind Sykes at Druids on lap two, the Italian was pushing just a bit too hard when he ran wide at Surtees, allowing Kagayama and Kiyonari through too.
Attention soon turned to Kiyonari, who was past Kagayama at Paddock Hill Bend and straight onto the rear of Sykes. The wild-card Brit posed a stiff challenge for his former British Superbike rival, holding sway until lap five when Kiyonari dipped beneath him at the same corner. Later on in the lap, Kiyonari was up to third when he passed a seemingly struggling Corser, the Australian having just lost second to Haga too.
However, just as it looked like Haga would be getting ready for another legendary fight with Bayliss, he quite suddenly low-sided mid-way through Surtees and came off the bike. Quickly jumping back on his Yamaha, Haga was nonetheless well out of contention now.
It left Bayliss exposed to a flying Kiyonari, the pair rapidly establishing a gap over now Sykes, who was the latest rider to dispose of Corser in his steady slip down the order.