The enthusiastic crowd at the picturesque Misano circuit were treated to glorious sunshine and a beautiful blue sky for Sunday's World Superbike action. The temperature was in the mid-seventies as the 33 bikes made their way out onto the grid for the first race of the day.

Troy Corser had controlled qualifying and Superpole almost as he liked and with Colin Edwards and Frankie Chili starting from the fourth row after crashes in Superpole, he knew that this was his best chance to gain some ground in the Championship.

As the lights turned to green, Corser got too much wheel spin and actually lifted his front tyre off the track. This loss of momentum allowed fellow front row starters Noriyuki Haga and Katsuaki Fujiwara to sprint ahead into the first turn. That situation remained stable for all of half a lap, for as the pack streamed down the back straight, Corser nipped out from behind Fujiwara and calmly out-braked both his Japanese rivals in one fell swoop. The Suzuki rider also lost a place to the last member of the front row, Juan Borja before the end of the first lap.

As the field poured across the line Corser already had daylight between himself and Haga. Behind Borja and Fujiwara, Peter Goddard was a superb fifth on the lead Kawasaki ahead of Troy Bayliss, Akira Yanagawa and the Honda twins, Slight heading Edwards. As the leaders entered turn one, Robert Ulm on the Gerin Ducati departed the scene into the gravel although half a lap later there was sensation. Approaching the Tramonto corner at the end of the main straight, Edwards came into contact with his team-mate as he tried to move himself up the order. Both riders came off and into the gravel where neither was able to continue. As the marshal's furiously tried to remove the two wrecked Castrol machines, the Honda garage took on a decidedly icy feel.

All this confusion meant that Chili had risen to seventh, riding through the pain barrier after his dramatic high-sider in Superpole. This was a perfect opportunity for him to slash the gap between him and Edwards in the championship, all that he had to do was finish.

By lap three Corser had broken clear of Haga and was increasing his lead by one second per lap. This was a masterful display by the Australian whose Aprilia was ideally suited to the conditions and he was using far less track surface than both Haga and Fujiwara who were both lighting the rear tyres up at every opportunity.

Bayliss took just two laps to get past Goddard and had moved onto the rear of the scrap for second where he was soon joined by Chili who also passed the Australian rider. Indeed there was now a noticeable gap appearing between Chili and Goddard who was soon to be further demoted by his team-mate Yanagawa.

The crowd's attention was now drawn to the developing battle for second. Borja was looking positively frightening on the Infostrada Ducati and on lap six he swept past Haga to take the position while Bayliss on the second works Ducati was also on the move, forcing his way past Fujiwara at the slow Quercia turn on lap eight.

By lap ten (of 25) the gap from 1st to 2nd had increased to five seconds although Corser looked capable of extending his lead almost as he liked. Behind the Aprilia though, the action was still fast and furious. After several unsuccessful attempts on lap nine, Bayliss really wound the Ducati up along the back straight on lap ten. Carrying far more speed he blasted out of Haga's slipstream to the inside where he managed to pass the Yamaha on the inside approaching Tramonto. Not satisfied with that, Bayliss kept his bike on the inside and snatched second from his team-mate as they rounded to turn where he was followed by Haga. Somehow Borja managed to keep the attacking Yamaha at bay, although several corners of running side-by-side allowed Bayliss to make a slight break.

Just after half distance, the battle for second lost Chili who pulled into the pits with a problem at the rear of the bike. Almost simultaneously, Ben Bostrom moved past both Kawasaki's to take up sixth, the Californian finally racing on a circuit where he has some experience. Infact, over the next few laps Bostrom dragged Yanagawa closer to the tail of fifth placed Fujiwara who was now keeping a safe distance between himself and those ahead.

Judging by the way Bayliss, Borja and Haga were going at it, Fujiwara looked to be in the safest place of all and had a grandstand seat as the two Ducati's and the lone Yamaha battled on ahead.

On lap 16 Borja went too deep into turn one as he tried to pass his tem-mate. The Spaniard kept the bike out of the gravel but fell to fifth, now only three seconds ahead of the advancing Bostrom. Fujiwara meanwhile saw this as the perfect opportunity to make his move and was soon crawling all over the back of Haga.

Coming down the back straight on lap 18, Borja braked impossibly late into Tramonto and cut across the front of both Haga and Fujiwara. In an effort to avoid a collision, Haga picked the Yamaha up which allowed Fujiwara to sneak through on the inside of the turn to take third.

This was Bostrom's signal to make his move on Haga, who looked to be struggling on his heavily worn rubber, however he was beaten to the punch by Yanagawa who passed the American going into the first turn on lap 21 and then Haga on the back straight. Bostrom also succeeded in passing the ailing Yamaha at the Variante Arena chicane a lap later and quickly set off in pursuit of Yanagawa.

As Corser entered his final lap, his lead was a shade over nine seconds and he was visibly cruising around the final 2.5 miles. Bayliss now had a small breathing space over Fujiwara who came home to score his first podium result for the factory Suzuki team. Juan Borja stayed on his bike to claim a good fourth place while Yanagawa was equally pleased with fifth after a poor start.

Ben Bostrom scored his best result of the year with a fighting sixth place on the NCR Ducati while Haga could only struggle home in seventh with his tyres in pieces. Haga was fifteen seconds behind Corser at the end of the race while behind him there was a long gap before Goddard led home the remaining points scorer's.

Somewhat surprisingly, the race had been one of attrition with only 20 of the original 33 starters running at the end. Amongst the other significant retirees was the second factory Yamaha of Vittoriano Guareschi which had shown so well in qualifying and Giovanni Bussei on the Bertocchi Kawasaki who was on course for a top ten placing. The carnage continued until the very final lap when Mauro Sanchini and Jurgen Oelschlaeger eliminated themselves from 13th and 14th places at the infamous Tramonto turn.

Haruchika Aoki made a successful return on the satellite R & D Bieffe Ducati finishing in ninth place, just edging out the second Aprilia of Alessandro Antonello and the surviving Gerin Ducati of Andy Meklau. Alessandro Gramigni took a lonely twelfth place while thanks to Sanchini and Oelshlaeger eliminating themselves, Lucio Pedercini was promoted to13th while Frederic Protat and Lance Isaacs were the two lucky riders who inherited points finishes on the last lap.

With this win, Corser now moves within a single point of Haga for third in the championship, less than 20 points behind the second placed Chili. If the Aprilia performs in the same manner in race two as it did in race one, Colin Edwards could have a new face behind him in the championship.