James Toseland watched helplessly from far back on the track as the Japanese rider Noriyuki Haga tore a big chunk from the Briton's championship lead in the German round of the World Superbike series yesterday.
Toseland entered this 11th round of the contest with a 66-point advantage, but saw that shrink to 41 as Haga blazed his Team Yamaha Italia machine to first and second places on the 2.64-mile Lausitzring circuit.
Handicapped by a tyre problem in the first of the two races, Toseland limped to ninth place on his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda as Haga streaked to his fourth win of the season. "We had an out-of-round tyre, and it chattered the whole time," Toseland said. "There was nothing I could do about it."
He changed to his spare bike for the second outing, and improved to fourth place as the Australian Troy Bayliss raced his Xerox Ducati to his 40th win in world superbike competition. Two rounds remain in the series, which means that 100 points are available to a rider who can win all four races.
But Toseland should be able to assume his place in the Yamaha Tech 3 team in MotoGP next year as the world superbike champion if he can recover the rhythm that has given him eight race wins so far this season.
From his second-row grid position, Toseland barged through to fourth place in the first turn of the opening race. Bayliss, Haga and the Italian Max Biaggi (Alstare Corona Suzuki) were ahead of him, and he never looked like catching the leading group.
Even worse, from the 10th of the 24 laps he began to appear uncomfortable, as Michel Fabrizio (Honda) relegated him to fifth place. Then he started looking like a minnow among sharks as four other riders pounced.
At the front Bayliss also encountered tyre problems, and Haga got by on lap 15 to take his fourth win of the season. Biaggi motored into second place ahead of Troy Corser (Yamaha Italia), and Bayliss slumped to fourth.
Haga summed up the day when he said: "I was riding consistently and looking after my tyres."
Bayliss' win in the second race from Haga leaves the Australian in fourth place in the points table, and he knows that he must now surrender the championship that he currently owns.
Biaggi, who finished third in that outing, was pleased with his two podiums, but effectively the title battle is now between Haga and Toseland.Reuse content