By Glenn LeSanto
World Superbike racing was at its best in the first race at Monza with a huge battle up front between Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards. Earlier in the race the battle had been a four-man affair, with Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus also engaged in the fight. But Hodgson, who had led in the early stages, retired his GSE Ducati with engine failure and seconds later Xaus crashed in a separate incident.
Bayliss led the pack into the difficult first corner, a very tight right-left flick through the Variante Interne chicane at the end of the superfast main straight. Hodgson followed Bayliss into the chicane, with Edwards on the Honda RC51 on his tail. Xaus was a short gap back in fourth. Edwards and Bayliss immediately began what was to develop into a race-long dual, with Edwards passing the Info Strada Ducati of Bayliss going into the Ascari turn, also a chicane, at the back of the circuit on lap one. Bayliss, who was faster than Edwards all race on the second half of the circuit, outbraked Edwards going into the final turn, the Curva Parabolica.
As the riders entered the first chicane on lap two, Hodgson squeezed past Edwards and then did the same to Bayliss going into the second chicane. But, as they entered the Curva Parabolica at the end of the lap, Bayliss got by on the brakes again to retake the lead. The three riders continued to battle away like this until they were caught by the charging Xaus, the Infostrada Ducati teammate of Bayliss. Now the race was a four-way battle between Bayliss, Hodgson, Xaus and Edwards. For a few laps, it looked like Tady Okada would join the fray on his Honda, but he crashed out in the first chicane at the start of lap four.
Edwards and Bayliss managed to shake off the Ducatis of Xaus and Hodgson by middle distance, but neither rider could lose the other, so they stayed almost neck-and-neck for the rest of the race, swapping position several times a lap. Edwards would grab the lead in the first half of the lap, where he seemed faster than Bayliss, only for Bayliss to take it back in the second part of the lap. So it was at the end of the last lap when Bayliss pulled off an audacious pass going through the fast final turn. The pair rubbed elbows as Bayliss powered his way through to take the race victory and a three-point Championship lead over Troy Corser.
Hodgson and Xaus were having their own battle behind the leaders when Hodgson’s engine blew up and Xaus crashed. Their misfortune handed the last step on the podium to Akira Yanagawa on the factory Kawasaki.
Championship leader going into the race, Troy Corser, very late on the brakes, ran into the back wheel of Suzuki’s Pier Francisco Chili going into the first chicane on lap three and both crashed. Chili was able to continue but dropped from fifth to eventually finish 14th, while Corser retired to the pits. Corser later apologized to Chili.
American Ben Bostrom crashed out, having only completed one lap.
After the race both Bayliss and Edwards agreed that they had the track divided between them, “We both have our fast sections,” commented Edwards. “I have the advantage in the first section but it’s no secret that I haven’t got comfortable with the second part yet, especially Ascari. So the race was a real cat-and-mouse thing.”
“I’ve felt good here all weekend,” beamed Bayliss, obviously pleased to take his first win of the season and to regain the title lead. “Things were a bit hairy out there, especially in the final bend, where we touched as I passed Colin. Like Colin said, neither of us have the advantage on the entire circuit, so there was no way either of us could break away, so it was always coming down to the last lap. But I got the win and I’m really pleased to be leading the title.”
Lucky for Bayliss that he had the advantage where it mattered, on the last part of the circuit.
First Race Results, Superbike World Championship, Monza, Italy
1. Troy Bayliss, Australia (Ducati) 32:55.293
2. Colin Edwards, USA (Honda) 32:55.359
3. Akira Yanagawa, Japan (Kawasaki) 33:11.852
4. Gregorio Lavilla, Spain (Kawasaki) 33:11.916
5. Regis Laconi, France (Aprilia) 33:12.093
6. Stephane Chambon, France (Suzuki) 33:29.163
7. Lucio Pedercini, Italy (Ducati) 33:40.959
8. Giovanni Bussei, Italy (Ducati) 33:44.484
9. Mauro Sanchini, Italy (Ducati) 33:44.545
10. Marco Borciani, Italy (Ducati) 33:47.497
Bayliss Wins First World Superbike Race At Monza
© 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By Glenn LeSanto