Troy Bayliss finally won his first race of the 2001 World Superbike Championship when he brilliantly passed Colin Edwards going into the final corner after 18 truly breathtaking laps around the beautiful Monza circuit.
Even though the re-profiled Goodyear and Della Roggia chicanes tried their best to stifle the racing and claimed more than their fair share of victims during the first World Superbike Race at the 5.770km Monza circuit in sunny Northern Italy, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards kept the Monza crowds on their feet throughout Sunday's opening 18-lap event with the Australian Infostrada Ducati rider claiming his first win of the 2001 season by six hundredths of a second.
Edwards' Castrol Honda VTR1000 appeared to have the upper hand over Bayliss going into the final lap after the pair had swapped the lead almost a dozen times since the lights went green. However Bayliss rode superbly through the Ascari chicane to put him in a prime position on the run down to the Parabolica for the final time.
What followed was a heart stopping display of bravery and precision as Bayliss out-dragged the Honda inch by inch, his elbow brushing Edwards' faring twice as the two desperately tried to out-brake each other. Both encountered lurid, near high sides going through the final turn but despite a late lunge, Bayliss held it to the flag.
Edwards was magnanimous in defeat after losing out in a similar way to Pierfrancesco Chili last year but any hopes the veteran Italian had of repeating his feat in race one this year on the Suzuki GSX R750 evaporated at the start of lap three when he tangled with Troy Corser going into the ridiculously tight first chicane, already the scene of a first lap pile-up that claimed Robert Ulm and Steve Martin.
Whereas Corser was done for the race on the Aprilia RSV1000, Chili remounted and to the delight of his passionate fans, previously dismayed at his misfortune, he used a combination of speed and attrition ahead of him to claim 14th place and two points at the flag.
Any one of a number of riders could have taken the final podium spot and both Ruben Xaus and Neil Hodgson will be ruing their luck after battling for third for most of the way. The Spaniard looked set to take the spot after fending off sustained pressure from Hodgson after both fell away from the lead battle at around the lap ten mark but then it all went wrong with just two laps to go when Xaus' enthusiasm once again got the better of him and Hodgson suffered a cruel mechanical failure within yards of one another.
Tadayuki Okada was also in contention for a podium early on and looked particularly aggressive on the opening two laps, moving from eleventh to fifth behind Edwards, Bayliss, Hodgson and Xaus. However the first chicane also got the better of him and he joined the list of fallers, which already included Ben Bostrom and Corser, at the start of lap four.
Third across the line eventually after a terrific race-long duel was Akira Yanagawa on the reliable four-cylinder Kawasaki ZX-7RR as he continued his string of podium results at Monza. Yanagawa, team-mate Gregorio Lavilla and the lone surviving Aprilia of Regis Laconi were separated by millimetres as they crossed the line, 16 seconds behind Bayliss but covered but within three tenths of one another. All three riders led this battle at one point and the trio was a quartet until lap nine when the well-ridden Aprilia of factory test-rider Alessandro Antonello cried enough, but eventually Yanagawa's resilience paid off as he headed his team-mate for the final three laps, even holding off a determined lunge on the exit of the Parabolica on the final lap.