Hitoyasu Izutsu was the star of the Kawasaki trio in last Sunday's seventh round of the 2001 World Superbike Championship as he pushed World Champion Colin Edwards all the way for a place on the podium in race two.

Izutsu left the 2.67-mile, twelve turn Lausitzring circuit with a ninth place finish in race one and fourth in race two, the reigning All Japan Superbike Champion chasing Colin Edwards to the flag during the highly treacherous second race. Although only competing in selected rounds of this year's World Championship alongside regular Team Fuchs riders Akira Yanagawa and Gregorio Lavilla, Izutsu has adapted well to some of Europe's more technical circuits such as Valencia and, now, Lausitzring and has shown some of the same potential that Yanagawa and Noriyuki Haga displayed when they first emerged onto the World Superbike scene.

Izutsu's performance in the wet conditions, where he battled with the likes of Edwards, Ruben Xaus and Frankie Chili, was the most encouraging aspect of an altogether disappointing weekend for the Team Fuchs outfit despite Lavilla's hard earned sixth place in the opening, dry race of the day.

The Spaniard's final placing was all the more memorable as he overcame one of the biggest fears of all riders - stalling on the grid when the flag drops. The race start was then aborted, as it is very dangerous to have a stationary bike on the grid. Before the re-start could be taken however, both Lavilla and Yanagawa were pushed off the grid by their mechanics and were forced to start the second green-flag lap from the pit-lane in what was a nerve-wracking few minutes for the Fuchs team.

However while Lavilla made good ground once the race finally got underway, Yanagawa made a poor start and could only fight his way up to 12th where he scooped just three Championship points.

"We had a little problem in the morning session with the ignition, so we changed to a new one," said Lavilla of his race one aborted start. "As I put the bike into gear for the start of the race, the engine just stopped. We quickly checked everything and I was able to use the bike in the race but I had to keep the revs up so it wouldn't stall. I couldn't find a good rhythm in the first few laps after the ignition problem and by that stage the leaders had pulled out a gap that I couldn't bridge. I'm happy with sixth considering the start."

It was clear however that race one was an occasion that Yanagawa wanted to remove from memory as quickly as possible. "At the start of the race, there wasn't a lot of grip and I was having a lot of vibrations through the rear tyre," announced the disgruntled Japanese rider. "This gave me no confidence at all to push the bike into corners, so I rode steadily so I could finish with as many points as possible."

Izutsu made a steady start to his day moving up six positions from his starting slot to finish ninth after beating Stephane Chambon and Ben Bostrom to the line in a three way dice for the place. "I made a good start picking up a couple of positions but I thought I could pass a few more by the end of the race. I'm happy to finish the race but I would have preferred a higher place," he commented.

Izutsu was very pleased to show his riding talents in the wet in race two however saying, "It is really good to show everyone that my Sugo result wasn't just home track advantage. It is great to race here with so many fans of the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team cheering me on."

Yanagawa's weekend went from bad to worse in the second Superbike race. He finally ended up with tenth place after finishing the first lap in a miserable 20th position. Afterwards he said, "At turn one I was pushed off the track and had to rejoin in last position. The bike was really good and I was able to make up a lot of time and move up the field, but I couldn't catch everybody. I just wish I had made a better start. If I had, I'm sure things would have been better."

Lavilla also had a terrible second race and finished almost a lap behind race two winner Troy Bayliss in 16th place and outside the points, saying, "We tried some new suspension settings to try and make the bike handle a bit better than in the wet on Friday - unfortunately we went the wrong way and paid the penalty. The rear tyre had very little traction with those suspension settings and I couldn't get a good drive out of corners. I thought it was safer to ride for some points instead of crashing and getting none."

As the 2001 Championship heads into it's second half of the season Yanagawa is the best placed Team Fuchs rider in seventh place overall with 99 points from 13 races. Lavilla is just 12 points behind his team-mate in eighth place overall while Izutsu, despite only starting seven of the 13 races thus far is a more than impressive 12th overall behind only the full-time factory riders and Neil Hodgson's privateer Ducati although he currently leads Infostrada Ducati rider Xaus who has started every race of the year thus far.