Motorcycling: Kiyonari makes mark with help of local knowledge

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The Independent Online

The rookie rider Ryuichi Kiyonari claimed his first wins on the World Superbike stage with an impressive double here yesterday. The Honda rider, who is the reigning British Superbike champion, drew on his knowledge of the Kent track to outclass his more recognised rivals.

Kiyonari chased down the runaway championship leader, Xerox Ducati's Troy Bayliss in the opening race to claim his maiden victory before going toe to toe with, and beating, his Japanese countryman and 11-year veteran Noriyuki Haga in race two.

"I am very happy with the way this weekend has gone," Kiyonari said. "I had a lot of pressure from Haga in race two and on many corners it made me make mistakes. I am very happy for the wins." Bayliss extended his lead at the top of the championship standings to 82 points, with four rounds remaining, after he claimed second place behind Kiyonari in the first race.

Despite a disappointing 11th-placed finish in race two, after starting on pole, the Australian was content with his weekend's work. "I am just focusing on getting podiums at this stage," said Bayliss, whose nearest rival Max Neukirchner recorded finishes of seventh and fourth.

But the day belonged to Kiyonari who had served notice of his affinity with the Brands Hatch circuit on Saturday when he finished third quickest during qualifying.

Despite a lacklustre start to the opening race, when he dropped back to seventh place, the Honda rider's track knowledge proved crucial as he quickly picked off his rivals as he chased down Superpole winner Bayliss.

Kiyonari was on the back of the Australian by the seventh lap when Haga slipped out of contention when he lost his front end at Surtees.

Kiyonari eventually took the lead four laps from the end of the 25-lap race before easily outpacing Bayliss, who was forced to hold off the late surge of the Italian Max Biaggi to claim second.

Kiyonari and Haga dominated the second race as they embarked on an enthralling battle well ahead of the field.

They traded the lead on several occasions before a last-lap mistake from Haga, who was losing ground on his younger colleague, finally settled their duel.

The Australian Troy Corser claimed third place in the second race to draw to within 10 points of second-placed Neukirchner in the overall standings. Donington Park will host the next round of the season next month as the riders enjoy a four-week break.

Earlier during the FIM Supersport World Championship race at Brands Hatch today, rider Craig Jones (Team Parkalgar Honda) crashed at Clark Curve and appeared to be struck by a following rider, sustaining a serious head injury. The race was immediately stopped.

Jones was initially treated at the scene by the MSVR Medical Team, and then transferred to the Circuit Medical Centre for further assessment and treatment before being flown by the Kent Air Ambulance to the Royal London Hospital – the leading trauma centre in the region.

* Four-time world champion Sébastien Loeb of France won the Rally Finland yesterday for the first time and closed in on the overall championship lead. Finland's Mikko Hirvonen, the overall leader, finished nine seconds behind in second place after 340 kilometres (211 miles) of special stages. The 34-year-old Frenchman is now just one point behind Hirvonen in the world championship standings.