Motorcycling: Leader Bayliss left in wake of Neukirchner

The two-time champion Troy Bayliss was yesterday denied the fastest time by Suzuki's Max Neukirchner in the first round of qualifying for the Monza round of the World Superbike series.

The German posted a time of 1 min 45.990sec to finish ahead of Bayliss (Ducati Xerox), who timed 1:46.359. Neukirchner's Suzuki team-mate, Yukio Kagayama, was third with 1:46.371, while his Japanese compatriot Makoto Tamada (Kawasaki Corse) was fourth in 1:46.404. The Czech Jakub Smrz completed the top five with a fastest time of 1:46.604.

Bayliss, who had double wins in Monza in 2001, 2002 and 2006, is hoping to maintain his outstanding start to the championship. "Monza is one of my favourite circuits," he said, "and the fans are amazing so I'd love to get another couple of great results."

The 39-year-old Australian has built up a 70-point lead at the top of the standings after five wins in eight races. His nearest rival, Spain's Carlos Checa, who fought off several top riders to secure his ride with Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, posted 1:47.135 to lie in 14th place.

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