Edwards closes gap as Bayliss hits mechanical trouble

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The Independent Online

Colin Edwards' World Superbike title defence was boosted yesterday after his title rival and series leader, Troy Bayliss, suffered mechanical problems in Oscherleben, Germany.

Bayliss's retirement from race one, the first time he has failed to finish this season, coupled with Edwards' second place in the afternoon battle, allowed the American to close the gap to 24 points with four races remaining. Edwards also profited from the use of an experimental Michelin tyre, first utilised in the Suzuka Eight-Hours race last month, that suited the bumpy and physically demanding surface. The harder rubber compound was also to the liking of the Ducati rider, Ruben Xaus – the protégé of the retired four-times world champion, Carl Fogarty – who became the first Spaniard to win a World Superbike contest. Xaus suffered a poor start in the opening race, but chased Edwards down to finish second. The Castrol Honda rider, Edwards was not allowed to develop such a clear advantage second time around and Xaus powered away to claim an emotional win.

Under the threat of being replaced as one of Ducati's main factory stars by Neil Hodgson, Xaus improved his future employment potentials. ''Ducati told me to win or to go home,'' Xaus grinned. There was less cause for mirth in Hodgson's GSE Racing camp as the English rider finished with seventh and tenth places.

Ben Bostrom, the winner of the previous five races and chasing a record-equalling seven successive victories, illustrated the problems faced by riders on Dunlop tyres with third and fourth-placed finishes that helped Ducati clinch the manufacturers' championship.

In the British Superbike championship, the series leader, Steve Hislop, beat rival John Reynolds into second place at Brands Hatch. Reynolds, however, reversed positions in the second race.