Troy Corser romped home to victory in the first of Sunday's two races at the 2.95-mile Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia as sun bathed the Eastern Spanish track for the first time, Troy Bayliss and Ben Bostrom completing the podium.

Troy Corser's factory Aprilia RSV1000 was just as irresistible in the sun as it was in the blustery conditions that preceded Sunday's first 23 lap race that signalled the start of the 2001 World Superbike Championship, the Australian rider leading all but three laps of the twisty 2.95-mile circuit as he won with relative ease.

From pole-position on the massive 32 bike grid, Corser was more or less able to dictate the race as he wished once he had overhauled team-mate Regis Laconi who had made the best start of all from second spot on the grid and led the pack into the first turn.

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Factory Castrol Honda team-mates Colin Edwards and Tadayuki Okada had also muscled their way ahead of Corser on the run down to Turn One, their brutish VTR 1000 SP machines revelling in a straight line but decidedly unhappy around the plethora of slow and medium speed corners that characterise (Valencia - character??) the Ricardo Tormo track.

It took Corser just over a lap to depose both the reigning World Champion and his team-mate and then a further laps to steadily close Laconi down, making the decisive move going into Turn Four on lap three. From then on the race was in Corser's hands as he gradually broke a spirited challenge from Laconi and moved clear from the Frenchman before the battling Ducati's of Ben Bostrom and Troy Bayliss had the opportunity to tag along behind him.

Setting a number of fastest laps during the middle portion of the race, traditionally Corser's weakest point, the gap back to second spot opened to nearly five seconds in the latter stages and a near perfect performance was only spoiled by a potentially disastrous last lap collision with a backmarker as Corser tried to duck underneath Johann Wolfsteiner when there was no real need to.

That said it was a highly accomplished performance from the slimmed down and re-focused Corser who has set out his stall and made his bid for a second World Title right from the off and he enters race two as red hot favourite to defend his race one success. The final gap back to second could have been much more than the final 3.6 seconds but Corser won't be concerned with that.

With Corser giving a demonstration run at the head of the pack, the main interest was focused around the battle for second, eventually won by the factory Infostrada Ducati of Troy Bayliss after an almighty struggle with Ben Bostrom and Laconi, the American rider taking the final podium spot as the Frenchman faded slightly in the final stages, finally finishing more than six seconds behind Corser. Bostrom was perhaps happiest of all after a scary morning warm up incident in which Bertrand Stey's White Endurance Honda struck him after the French rider had collided with another bike and crashed as Bostrom was walking back to the pits, his bike also in the gravel. Bostrom was uninjured but Stey broke a bone in his and despite taking the start, he retired after four laps, the pain causing too much discomfort.

Both Castrol Honda's were unable to sustain their pace from the opening laps and were gradually overhauled by the two Ducati's and the leading Kawasaki of home-town hero Gregorio Lavilla, comfortably ensconced as the best placed Spaniard after the retirement of Ducati's Ruben Xaus. Edwards plugged on home to sixth, 22 seconds behind Corser and 11 seconds behind Lavilla in what has become a salvage operation until the Championship heads to Kyalami in three weeks time while Okada endured a tough WSBK baptism and retired with a mechanical problem after just six laps.

However Okada made it further than both GSE Racing Ducati's in what was a disastrous race for the British team, Neil Hodgson crashing on lap three as he fought to stay with Bayliss and Bostrom and Toseland performing the same manoeuvre only three laps later. Both riders were ok and both will take the start of race two where they will be working hard to regain some lost pride.

Pierfrancesco Chili's awful weekend got a little better as he fought through to seventh place, the gritty Italian veteran grabbing the place on the line from Akira Yanagawa and Hitoyasu Izutsu. The Japanese newcomer had manfully held down the place until the final three laps when a costly error allowed his team-mate and Chili to nip through, the Team Alstare Corona Suzuki rider then harrying Yanagawa onto the final straight to snatch the place by two tenths of a second.

Robert Ulm completed the top ten after a lonely ride ahead of Stephane Chambon in the second factory Suzuki who scored points on his WSBK debut and Australian Steve Martin on the Pirelli shod DFX Racing Ducati. Team Pedercini Ducati team-mates Lucio Pedercini and Marco Borciani battled ferociously to the flag, team boss beating employee by two hundredths of a second for 13th place.

Final points scoring position fell the Juan Borja on the bulky looking Team Panavto Russia Yamaha R7 after a quiet ride on a bike that will improve as the season goes on while ex-British Superbike Championship contender Marty Cragill finished 19th, one lap down on the Team Pacific Ducati.