27 April 2003
Hodgson doubles up again in perfect style at Sugo.
A truly dramatic day of race action at Sugo saw Team Ducati Fila rider Neil Hodgson secure two wins on his full factory 999 machine, giving him a perfect six-from-six start to the 2003 season.
The clear championship leader, now by a margin of 44 points, had to start from fifth place in each race, but enjoyed a seven second win over second place man Regis Laconi [Ducati NCR] in the 25-lap opener. Laconi had started from pole, and took his first podium finish of the year in race one, a seventh in race two.
A four-rider crash at the first corner of race one saw Troy Corser [Foggy Petronas], Ivan Clementi [Bertocchi Kawasaki], Pierfrancesco Chili [PSG-1 Ducati] and Chris Walker [HM Plant Ducati] all crash, without serious injury. The race continued, with some riders having to make up significant ground after being run off track, even if they did not fall.
James Toseland [HM Plant Ducati] escaped the first corner collision, and ended up third, after local wild card rider Atsushi Watanabe [Team Suzuki] went straight on at one corner on lap five, returning to finish eighth after restarting in last place, only 1.470 seconds behind Hodgson.
In race two the hard charging Gregorio Lavilla [Alstare Suzuki] had an excellent race with Hodgson, losing out over the line by only 0.8 seconds after having led three laps in the early stages. Pierfrancesco Chili put in another of his gritty rides to take third place on his 998 Ducati.
For Ruben Xaus, Hodgson's team mate, Sugo proved to be a major obstacle to his championship ambitions, as he fought his way to a pair of fourth places. Remote from the leading group.
Toseland's third in race one was converted to fifth in the second race and his team mate Walker ended the day with two no scores after he crashed, re started and was forced to retire in race two.
With Lavilla fifth in race one, surging through from an off track excursion after the first lap pile up, local wild card rider Hitoyasu Izutsu [HRC Team] could only finish sixth on both races, failing to emulate his Kawasaki double race win in the 2000 SBK season.
Ivan Clementi made up for his exit in race one with a fighting eighth in the re-run, ahead of Juan Borja [DFX Ducati] and Mauro Sanchini [Bertocchi Kawasaki]. The last top ten places in race one were shared out between Lucio Pedercini [Pedercini Ducati] in seventh, through Watanabe, James Haydon [Foggy Petronas] to Juan Borja [DFX Ducati] in tenth.
In the overall championship standings, Hodgson has a perfect score of 150, from Xaus on 106 and Lavilla on 75.
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