Motorcycling: Fogarty off to a flier in fight for superbike supremacy

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The Independent Online
CARL FOGARTY, returning to the circuit where his hopes of winning the 1993 title foundered, emerged from the start of the World Superbike Championship with a slender lead yesterday.

The 27-year-old Blackburn rider, three times the world Formula One champion, crashed at the Leicestershire track in the penultimate round last October, effectively handing the crown to his American rival, Scott Russell.

There was no such calamity in either of the two races that constituted the first round before an animated Bank holiday crowd with whom Fogarty was clearly a popular competitor.

Riding his new Ducati 916 for the Bologna-based Corse Ferrari stable, Fogarty, who had been fourth- quickest in practice, powered home in the opening race.

He could finish only third in the second 25-lap tour of the 2.5 mile circuit, eventually won comfortably by Russell on a Kawasaki. Nonetheless, Fogarty will have a one- point advantage over Aaron Slight, of New Zealand, who gave Honda an encouraging start with two second places, when the series continues in Hockenheim, Germany, on Sunday. Russell, fourth in the first race yesterday, is a further point adrift in third place.

'Each year you learn something,' Fogarty said. 'I know that sometimes I will have to settle for places. I'm very pleased with how it went today, particularly since it is a brand-new bike. To go out and win the first race was fantastic.'

Fogarty's new-found patience permitted him to be content with finishing third in the second race, even though he had gone ahead on lap 11 when Russell's machine appeared to develop a problem. The incident had cost him five seconds and Fogarty was in front.

'It felt like the bike was tightening up and was going to stop,' Russell said. 'But once Carl went by it cleared up.'

Russell launched a determined pursuit and regained the advantage on lap 16. Fogarty was then passed by Slight, but there was no catching Russell, who established a track record of 1min 35.02sec (152.41kph, 94.70mph) on lap 22.

Other Britons fared less successfully than Fogarty. The national superbike champion, James Whitham, from Huddersfield, was second-quickest in timed practice, but broke his wrist in a crash in the warm-up. Terry Rymer, the 1990 British champion, was taken to hospital after an accident in the opening race which left him with a deep laceration of the right elbow and suspected pelvic injuries.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 35