Apr 28, 2001
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Cabin Honda's Makoto Tamada continued his domination of the Sugo round of the Superbike World Championship again Saturday. So far he's been fastest in all practice and qualifying sessions and he capped his performance with a faultless Superpole to claim pole for Sunday's race.<BR><BR>Tamada-San was the only rider in Superpole to dip under the 1:29 second mark with a time of 1:28.797, a fraction slower than his qualifying session time of 1:28.658. After Superpole he modestly dismissed his performance, saying "The time is slower than the fastest lap here in the All Japan Superbikes last year, so it is not that good, really." It might not have been fast enough to win an All Japan race but he's on target for a World Superbike race win, or even a double, if his form continues on race day.<BR> <BR>Second on the grid is last year's double World Superbike winner at Sugo, Kawasaki rider Hitoyasu Izutsu, who turned a lap in 1:29.203 to edge out the fastest World Superbike regular, Troy Corser. Of course, Izutsu is a semi-regular; he's already competed in both the Valencia and Phillip Island rounds. The All-Japan Superbike series is yet to start but Izutsu, who plans to do more rounds in the World Superbike series, admitted it will be hard competing in both.<BR> <BR>Corser's third on the grid came with a respectable time of 1:29.417 in Superpole and he was philosophical about the local domination of the meeting so far. "It's been a long time since a non-Japanese rider has won here," Corser pointed out. "Tamada-San is very fast but with other regular riders struggling I am happy to get as many points as possible here for the Championship." <BR><BR>Ben Bostrom and Neil Hodgson dug Ducati out of what has been a difficult weekend so far by qualifying fourth and sixth respectively in Superpole. Tamada's teammate Shinichi Itoh was fifth-fastest, with Akira Yanagawa seventh. World Champion Colin Edwards completed row two in eighth.<BR> <BR>Title leader Troy Bayliss and Infostrada teammate Ruben Xaus both failed to make the Superpole cut, which is limited to the 16th fastest riders in regular qualifying. When asked about what is obviously an embarrassment to the factory Ducati team, manager Davide Tardozzi said, "It is a disaster! This is the first time the team has missed the Superpole. We are trying to understand what the problems are, which are mainly tire problems. We have a meeting later today (Saturday) to try and solve the difficulties. Troy Bayliss is half-a-second slower than last year, and that was his first year on the bike and on Michelin tires. The bike is better, Troy is better, so I can't understand the problems."<BR> <BR>Whatever Tardozzi and the Ducati team's problems are, it seems Bostrom and Hodgson may already have sorted out theirs; Bostrom qualified for Superpole in 14th position so to take a front-row start was a great leap forward for him. The same applies to Hodgson, who was provisional ninth going into Superpole so improved by three places.<BR> <BR>It will be a difficult race for the regulars on Sunday, but Troy Corser must be the favorite to break the local domination at the moment.<BR> <BR>Final World Superbike Superpole times:<BR>1. Makoto Tamada, Japan, Honda, 1:28.797<BR>2. Hitoyasu Izutsu, Japan, Kawasaki, 1:29.203<BR>3. Troy Corser, Australia, Aprilia, 1:29.417<BR>4. Ben Bostrom, USA, Ducati, 1:29.510<BR>5. Shinichi Itoh, Japan, Honda, 1:29.548<BR>6. Neil Hodgson, GB, Ducati, 1:29.634<BR>7. Akira Yanagawa, Japan, Kawasaki, 1:29.755<BR>8. Colin Edwards, USA, Honda, 1:29.803<BR>9. Tamaki Serizawa, Japan, Kawasaki, 1:29.880<BR>10.Akira Ryo, Japan, Suzuki, 1:30.020