15 June 2003
Hodgson battles hard for Silverstone win.
Brit Neil Hodgson took a hard fought first race of the day in the World Superbike championship at Silverstone today in a race that saw action at every turn.
Hodgson maintained his starting place at the head of the field briefly in the first lap but it was wildcard rider and British Superbike favourite Yukio Kagayama who was the man on the move and soon to the head of the field.
The emphasis for Kagayama was certainly on the 'wild' in wildcard as the Japanese rider pushed hard in the early stages. Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla decided he wanted some of the action too and courtesy of a fastest lap on lap two was right up with, and then past, Hodgson for second place. Lavilla and the big Suzuki then set about the similarly mounted Kagayama, taking the Japanese rider into Stowe on lap three. Hodgson looking on decided that this was actually a rather good idea, and he too took the Japanese Wildman, and then began to plan his attack on Lavilla.
Further back, by the time they crossed the start/finish line to signify the end of lap four, the top ten on track lined up Lavilla, Hodgson, Kagayama, Reynolds, Walker, Toseland, Laconi, Xaus, Rutter and Chili.
By lap five Hodgson was back into the lead, but only briefly as Lavilla powered past the Englishman going through Bridge, a place the Suzuki looked very strong.
Hodgson continued his battle to find a way past Lavilla, the Ducati looking very strong and trying from Copse to Maggots to make a move. Not having quite enough power to make it past, the failed move allowed Kagayama, for the Japanese rider had in no way fallen back from the battle, just enough of a chance to get through later on the lap, on the inside at Bridge.
By lap nine the top group was separated by some 2.6 seconds, but that covered some ten riders from Lavilla down to Chili. On this lap Hodgson made another bid for the lead, passing first Kagayama and then Lavilla to take the lead into Maggots. No rest for the wicked however, as Lavilla took the place back, then Hodgson took it back before making a mistake allowing Lavilla into the lead and Xaus into second place. Xaus?! It seems the normally crash-prone Spaniard was actually having a measured race and had been working his way through the field.
“I think the wildcards were not so ready to go the race distances,” the Spaniard explained afterwards. “I took it easy and was calm, then I was just passing, passing, passing for the lead.” And the lead he gained on lap eleven. Lavilla was unhappy at this and was soon back in the place he regarded as rightfully his. Xaus, however, is not a man to back down from a fight, and sure enough retook the place the following lap.
What of Hodgson at this point? Well, the Englishman seemed to have got a little flustered and a few mistakes from him in third place meant that he had come into the clutches of Regis Laconi. This didn't last long however, and Hodgson soon knocked himself back into shape and back past both Lavilla and Xaus and into the lead.
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