Hodgson stretches lead as rivals fall by wayside

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Neil Hodgson extended his lead in the World Superbike Championship after two incident-packed races at Laguna Seca in the United States on Sunday.

The Ducati Fila rider finished second in race one as his major title rival Ruben Xaus crashed out. He followed that by again finishing second in race two, which was won by the Spaniard.

The first contest provided a popular victory for the Italian veteran Pierfrancesco Chili, who scored the 16th World Superbike win of his career in beating Hodgson, with the HM Plant Ducati rider James Toseland third.

Chili, 39, was taken out in a multi-bike accident at the start of the race, but was able to restart after the red flag was shown. The PSG Ducati rider then benefited from the misfortune of others.

Hodgson's Ducati Fila team-mate Xaus crashed out of the lead, while a handful of laps later NCR Ducati's Regis Laconi suffered the same fate. The Alstare Suzuki rider Gregorio Lavilla also tumbled out of contention when a podium place seemed likely.

Chili was the quickest man left standing, with Hodgson creeping into second after an unusually subdued ride. Chili said: "I cannot believe it. I think I was ever so lucky."

Hodgson added: "That's the best second place I've ever had. It's really difficult to pass, so you just hope people make a mistake and, thankfully, they did."

Chili's joy was short-lived as he crashed out of race two on the first lap while Xaus again set the pace. This time, though, the erratic Spaniard held it all together and took maximum points ahead of Hodgson, with Chris Walker third. Walker's HM Plant Ducati team-mate Toseland had been battling for second with Hodgson when an accident ended his race.

Hodgson leads the championship by 122 points after the weekend's races.