Motorcycling: Neukirchner forces his way into title contention with triumph at Misano

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The Independent Online

Max Neukirchner moved into contention at the sharp end of the World Superbike standings after claiming victory in race one at Misano yesterday.

The Alstare Suzuki rider is up to second place in the riders' standings behind Troy Bayliss after his second win of the season was followed by a seventh place in race two, won by Sterilgarda Ducati's Ruben Xaus.

Ducati Xerox rider Bayliss came third in both races to keep his lead healthy, with the Australian on 259 points, 49 clear of Neukirchner. Carlos Checa, Bayliss' nearest challenger at the start of the weekend, is third on 207 points.

Neukirchner's race-one victory came after he rose steadily from 10th place on the grid to tussle with the leaders with 10 laps left.

Having dispatched Bayliss for third he made light work of passing Xaus before also going past Troy Corser on the Yamaha Motor Italia, holding off a renewed challenge from the experienced Australian.

Race two was restarted on lap three after an engine failure for DF Racing's Karl Muggeridge which left oil on the track. On lap 17 Xaus passed Corser for second place, making his move on Bayliss two laps later before easing to his first win of the season.

On Saturday, the reigning MotoGP champion, Casey Stoner, claimed his second win in six days at the Dutch TT in Assen, with James Toseland in ninth.

The Australian rider's third win of the season cut the gap at the top from 45 to 29 points.

The Ducati Marlboro rider finished ahead of Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who moved to the top of the standings over Valentino Rossi after the Italian finished in 11th place due to a crash in the opening lap.