Late push gives Bayliss impressive start to his final season

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The Independent Online

Troy Bayliss snatched victory on the final lap in race one and followed up with a fourth-place finish in race two to lead the standings after the opening round of the World Superbikes in Losail, Qatar.

The Ducati rider swept past Max Biaggi after an 18th-lap tussle to cross the line 0.396 seconds ahead of the Italian, who lies second in the overall standings after coming third in the second race. That race featured a first World Superbikes win for the Spaniard Fonsi Nieto, who passed Biaggi and second-placed Ruben Xaus on the final three laps to finish 0.301sec ahead of his compatriot.

Troy Corser, who took pole position in qualifying for both races, had to settle for disappointing third and seventh-place finishes respectively.

Bayliss, the Australian, looking to sign off with his third WSBK title after deciding to retire at the end of the season, fought back from dropping to eighth at the end of the fourth lap in race one. Starting from the second row of the grid, the 38-year-old recovered to close to second on lap nine behind Alstare Suzuki's Max Neukirchner, who had made the best start from fourth on the grid to lead into turn one. He slipped to fourth on the following lap after running wide and made the same mistake twice more to lose further ground.

However, Bayliss responded to dispatch compatriot Corser and Neukirchner in successive laps and twice exchanged the lead with Biaggi on the final lap before edging out his rival on the last turn.

If Bayliss' win was a victory for the old guard, Neito's maiden success was a significant upset. He picked off Biaggi and Xaus in final three laps as the straight-line speed of his Suzuki proved decisive in the closing stages.