Suzuki's lone factory World Superbike rider, Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla, claimed a pair of fourth place finishes around the tight and unsuited Magny Cours track in France to maintain his fifth position in the overall driver's standings.

With Magny Cours' sinuous layout not suiting the big Alstare Corona Suzuki GSX-R 1000, Lavilla had his hands full in both of Sunday's 23-lap races, recovering from relatively cautious getaways in both races to put the yellow and purple liveried machine just one place shy of the podium n each occasion.

Starting seventh, Lavilla was just two tenths of a second behind third place finisher Chris Walker in race one and although he failed to make it one rung higher on the ladder in race two, his battling performances secured fifth place in the final rider's standings, the only non-Ducati rider in the top ten.

2003 World Champion Neil Hodgson won race one, with his factory Fila Ducati teammate Ruben Xaus second. Lavilla managed to get past Walker's HM Plant/GSE Racing teammate James Toseland, but could not find a way past an inspired 'Stalker' and so had to settle for fourth.

Lavilla was also involved in an early battle for third with the two HM Plant/GSE Racing Ducati's in the second race as the two Fila boys once again danced off into the middle distance, but although he lost out to both Toseland and Walker on this occasion, Hodgson's late crash promoted an elated Toseland to second (thus clinching third place in the standings from Regis Laconi), Walker to third and Lavilla to fourth.

"That was a long hard day and two long, hard races," said the race-weary Spaniard. "If I had made much better starts, maybe I wouldn't spent so much time trying to catch the guys up front and maybe the races would've been a bit easier. I really wanted at least one podium today and I really tried my hardest, but although I could catch Toseland and Walker's Ducati's, it wasn't so easy passing them.

"I could catch them on the brakes, but if they exited the corners first, my Suzuki just couldn't match their drive and so I lost out. It's problem, I think we've had most of the season and one that we've been working on all year. At some tracks (the faster ones) the problems have been less, but at twisty tracks, I think we've suffered. Now it's time for a bit of a break, before working on whatever is next."

Lavilla and the rest of the Alstare Suzuki team will now look ahead to 2004, where Pirelli tyres will be the order of the day and the face of World Superbike racing changes dramatically.



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