Thursday, 2nd March 2006
There could hardly have been more contrasting fortunes at the opening round of the World Superbike Championship as those in the Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra pit, where Troy Corser's race two victory added a little welcome gloss after disappointing weekends for both Yukio Kagayama and Fabien Foret.
The Australian claimed points in both legs of the opening event in Qatar, finishing fourth in race one before fending off countryman Troy Bayliss for the race two victory, but Kagayama and Foret both failed to open their account after succumbing to mechanical problems and errant rivals. As a result, Kagayama insists that he will be looking for points as the series heads to its second round, on Corser's home soil at Phillip Island.
"The first round this year was a bit disappointing because I didn't finish a race," the Japanese rider sighed, "My friend Nori [Haga] took me out when I was in the lead of race one with just one lap top go. That was the end of that. In the second race, my bike had electronic problems which got worse with every lap and I had to retire. Last year in Qatar, I won a race, but, this year, fortune did not smile on me. I aim to make up for it in Phillip Island."
New team-mate Foret suffered similar misfortune, as mechanical problems sidelined him early in both races, and says that he is chasing the same goal as Kagayama this weekend.
"I didn't score any points in the first round, so now my priority is now get some good results at Phillip Island," the diminutive Frenchman insisted, "Qatar was a disappointment for me, because I had actually gone well in the limited dry track time I had, but, in both races, the bike broke down. But this bike is just at the start of its development life, and it was encouraging to be almost competitive straight out of the box. If we can get the work done and do some testing, it will be a very good package."
Phillip Island is a circuit highly regarded by riders for its challenging layout, and nearly always produces spectacular racing. The opening round of the season showed that this year's series is going to be more competitive than for some time, meaning that reigning champion Corser could have his work cut out if he is to achieve his aim for the coming weekend.
"Phillip Island is a real racer's circuit - and a blast to ride," he revealed, "If you know what you are doing, you can really enjoy yourself. And, if your bike works good there, you can normally use it as a base set-up elsewhere. It's something special winning at the Island and that's what I'll be chasing again this year."
Pre-season testing aside, Corser has already had the chance to ride at the Island this year, having been given the honour of carrying the Queen's Baton on a high-speed lap of the circuit ahead of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Riding his regular Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra GSX-R1000, and resplendent in a set of white-and-green leathers that matched the uniform of the regular baton runners, the Aussie lapped the circuit just as dawn was breaking over the Bass Strait, hitting speeds of over 220kph and pulling a series of wheelies at Siberia as he delivered the baton on to the next leg of its journey through Australia.