Motorcycling: Latins salute `King Carl'

By Andrew Martin in Misano, Italy
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The Independent Online
THE FLAG of San Marino flies above the circuit here at Misano, but it is the cross of St George that is waved passionately from the grandstands. Italians have a place in their Latin hearts for Carl Fogarty, the British rider whose mesmerising dominance of the World Superbike series has ensured their beloved Ducatis crowd the podiums.

Fogarty did not disappoint his fervent local support yesterday, conjuring two victories at a track he loathes and where he had never before savoured triumph. With seven of the championship's 13 rounds now completed "King Carl", recently voted the fifth most famous sportsman on the planet by an Italian poll, is moving unerringly towards an unprecedented fourth world title.

His dislike of this compact, twisting ribbon of a track is well known and if an upset were to happen in this series then yesterday should have been the moment. Instead only his Ducati team-mate Troy Corser seized the occasion and the Australian rider's spirited push in the first race presented a captivating duel of the famous scarlet motorcycles.

Having doled out a psychological drubbing on Saturday by seizing pole position, Fogarty reached the first corner of the opening race in fourth place, but moved to within striking distance of Corser's rear wheel by the sixth lap. By the end of the next lap he was in front, stealing the inside line at an acute hairpin.

In the overbearing heat, tyre wear is rapid and, with his bike constantly bucking beneath him, Fogarty had to summon all his reserves to resist Corser. On the final lap the two machines were running in parallel, but the bike bearing the No 1 on its nose cone edged fractionally in front before bursting over the finishing line. Pandemonium erupted in the pits and in the stands.

"If I can win on circuits I don't like that can only mean good things on circuits I do like," Fogarty said.

The damage to his rival's confidence was now complete, the message abundantly clear: I can even beat you on tracks I despise. And he was as good as his word in the second race. Brushing aside the flickering challenge of Noriyuki Haga, Fogarty charged to the front and preceded to build an unassailable lead, the faults in his Ducati now remedied. Only Corser could stay with him, albeit briefly, but the meeting and the points were Fogarty's.

Fogarty does not like the next venue either, California's Laguna Seca, but on this form he is unstoppable.

Results, Digest, page 9