Motorcycling: Bayliss gives super show to tighten grip on the title

Troy Bayliss took first and second places in the British round of the World Superbike Championship here yesterday to extend his advantage in the title race.

The 37-year-old Xerox Ducati rider won his first world superbike title in 2001, but spent three fruitless years in MotoGP before returning this season to lead the Italian company's challenge. His victory was his 10th this year and he holds a 77-point lead over the Japanese rider Noriyuki Haga with only eight races remaining. Bayliss, who wore a cape on the podium to mark a sponsorship link with the new Superman Returns film, gave Ducati their 250th victory in world superbike competition.

Haga, 31, scored his first win of the year in the second race on his Yamaha R1, and holds second place in the championship ahead of Britain's James Toseland. The 2004 champion started from the front row on his Winston Ten Kate Honda, but made a poor start in both races and took second and fifth, enough to keep him in the battle with Haga to be runner-up.

"We didn't change anything on the bike for the second race, but the track temperature changed and the rear tyre didn't perform as well," Toseland said.

Toseland slotted into fifth at the start of the first race as Haga and Bayliss sprinted into the lead. But he caught Haga, had a better line in the critical Clearways corner, and eventually moved into second. By that time Bayliss had a 1.6sec cushion that gave him his ninth win of the year.

"I tried as hard as I could," Toseland said. "But Bayliss did three or four quick laps after I got past Haga, and I couldn't bridge the gap."

Haga complained of a mechanical problem. "In the last few laps I was shutting the throttle, but the engine was running on and making the front end push at the hairpin," he explained.

Bayliss and Haga duelled all the way in the second of the 25-lap contests. Bayliss could have been excused for cruising to an easy second, but he clipped a kerb and kicked up dust on the penultimate lap in his efforts to claim a double. Haga held on to give the Yamaha a second victory of the year.

Chris Walker finished seventh and eighth on his Kawasaki, and the 21-year-old wild card Tommy Hill took his Virgin Mobile Yamaha to 11th in race one.

Two 20-year-old Britons, Cal Crutchlow and Leon Camier, finished fifth and 10th in the World Supersport race on Northpoint Ekerold 600cc Hondas. The team owner, Gary Ekerold, the son of the 1981 350cc world champion Jon Ekerold, plans to take his riders to the British Superbike series in 2007 and eventually into MotoGP.

Carl Fogarty's Foggy Petronas superbikes failed to score a point in their final British appearance after a winless five-year campaign.

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