2 March 2003
Hodgson hits double top.
Neil Hodgson took a lights to flag victory in race two at Valencia, thereby claiming a dream double on his factory Ducati debut at the WSBK season opener.
The Englishman's team-mate Ruben Xaus was again forced to play runner-up after never being able to bother the #100 machine, while behind the Fila Ducatis it was again HM Plant rider James Toseland and Chris Walker who battled for 'best of the rest'.
Hodgson, who admitted he'd been cautious at the start of race one, stormed straight into the lead at his second attempt, from Toseland, Xaus and second row starter Walker. Xaus soon pushed his way past Toseland for a 999 one-two, but Hodgson was already starting to stretch his legs.
Behind the top four, Regis Laconi had a much better start to head Chili, Martin, Corser, Lavilla and Borja. But that order soon changed when Franki Chili got the first of TWO stop-go penalties, presumably for a jumped start [first one] and not stopping for long enough [second one]. The Italian veteran called it a day soon after.
Back on track and it was looking as though the first race had never finished, with Hodgson stretching away from Xaus and the HM Plant team-mates fighting tooth and nail for third – however this time Laconi was going with them, although his spirited effort was brought to a premature halt on lap 5 when he slowed sharply with mechanical problems.
Lavilla overtook Corser for 6th soon after, but the Aussie and his [literally] fire breathing FP1 were able to stay with the Spaniard and fifth placed Steve Martin for what would become an almost race long battle.
At the line, Hodgson commanded a 4secs advantage over Xaus, with a visibly delighted Toseland 8secs behind the Spaniard for his second ever WSBK podium, having finished a substantial 12secs ahead of a fading Walker.
Martin held off Lavilla for fifth, while Corser raised a cheer in the Foggy Petronas pits [James Haydon retired with apparent engine problems from the tail of the field early on] as he brought the three-cylinder home in a competitive seventh, just 2secs behind Lavilla's GSX-R1000.
Full results to follow...
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