Hodgson's choice proves decisive

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The Independent Online

It cost £100m to build the impressive Lausitzring circuit in eastern Germany but, following an anticlimax of a first race for Neil Hodgson, the British rider could have found a multitude of better uses for the money. By the end of race two, however, he was feeling like a million dollars.

Hodgson qualified in pole position, and his victory in the previous round at Donington Park, raised mounting expectations of his World Superbike season but that was rapidly diffused by his misguided tyre choice for the first race before an inspired late challenge in race two restored faith.

The GSE Racing rider trailed the championship leader, Troy Bayliss, by two seconds with just three laps remaining but, by the final few corners, the margin had been narrowed to such an extent that a mistake by the Australian at the final turn almost allowed his fellow Ducati rider through.

While Bayliss's display in the first race, when he was second to the comfortable winner, Colin Edwards, was sufficient to reinforce his championship standing, Hodgson's eighth place had the opposite effect. His team had struggled all weekend to find a tyre to survive the rigours of this new track, situated between Berlin and Dresden, and a last-minute gamble did not pay dividends.

Although he matched Edwards over the first 11 laps, the tyre quickly lost grip and a procession of riders on different compounds cruised through. "I was kicking the cat after the first race or, to be more precise, strangling the Dunlop technician," said the 26-year-old from Burnley. "He made a bad choice because he said the tyre would improve after 12 laps and it did exactly the opposite. But we all make mistakes and it was my final decision, so I can only blame myself. Maybe it was good practice for the second race, because it felt like I was riding in the wet for the second half of the first race."

Hodgson, lying in fifth place, now trails Bayliss by 74 points as a two-horse title race develops between the Australian and Edwards, who suffered from a poor start in race two and finished the first lap in 15th position before picking his way through the field to complete the podium.

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