Cal Crutchlow, the 22-year-old with a burning ambition to win the British Superbike championship this year, swapped a plastic cast for a leather riding boot on his injured right leg and blazed to first and third places in the third round of the series at Brands Hatch yesterday.
"Leading for 16 laps was hard when you've got a dislocated ankle," Crutchlow said after his third-place finish on his factory Honda in the first race. "Now I'm going straight to the ice bucket to get the swelling down."
The treatment worked, for Crutchlow inherited the lead of the second race after the early pace-setter Leon Haslam (Honda) went straight on at Surtees corner. Then, when Crutchlow was under pressure from Tom Sykes (Suzuki) and the championship leader Shane Byrne (Ducati), the Suzuki's engine blew in the closing stages. Sykes crashed into the dirt, and the race was stopped.
"I got an awful start and dropped back to ninth," Byrne admitted. "I got right back to them, but it was too late."
Byrne takes a 44-point lead to the fourth round at Donington Park on 26 May, while Crutchlow will use the time to have treatment on his injuries at Coventry City football club.
The German rider Max Neukirchner, 25, scored his first win in the World Superbike championship in the Italian round at Monza yesterday on an Alstare Suzuki. Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) won the second race from Neukirchner, and the former British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda) recorded his first podium position in the series with third place.
The championship leader Troy Bayliss finished third in the first race on his Xerox Ducati and retired from the second, but still holds a 78-point lead over Honda's Carlos Checa.