Motorcycling: Opening fillip for Haga and Fogarty

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The Independent Online
By Andrew Martin

THE old master and the young pretender shared the honours in the opening round of the World Superbike championship at Phillip Island, Australia, yesterday. Carl Fogarty, twice a world champion, won the first of two 22-lap races with Noriyuki Haga, in only his third outing at this level, finishing third. The result was reversed in the second heat.

Haga gave notice of his abundant skills with a thrilling ride on his Yamaha to edge the Honda-mounted Aaron Slight by .071sec in the second run. The 23-year-old Japanese led for all but three laps and demonstrated great composure while under pressure from Fogarty and Slight late in the race. "Before the race I didn't think I could win," Haga said. "I like to lead races and I tried to do that."

Fogarty won the opening heat by 1.04sec from the widely heralded Australian, Troy Corser, the two Ducati riders holding off a spirited charge from Haga in the closing laps.

Fogarty, whose rapid recovery from knee surgery in the off-season indicates his desire for success is far from sated, last won at Phillip Island in 1994.

"I absolutely can't believe it," Fogarty said."I usually want to be [winning] but I'm surprised. If someone had said it would have happened like this I'd have told them they were completely crazy."

However, in race two both Fogarty and Corser suffered traction problems after choosing the wrong compound rear tyres, fading to third and sixth respectively.

Haga had two incident-packed heats in his first full season in World Superbikes, colliding a number of times in race one with the Suzuki rider Peter Goddard. The Australian's race ended on lap 12 when he crashed out of second place while trying to hold Haga at bay.

"I was feeling quite comfortable but a big gust of wind hit the bike and I ran wide, hit a little dip in the track, and the front tyre let go," Goddard said.

Haga was again in the action on the final lap of race one when he was involved in a passing incident with a backmarker, who subsequently forced Slight off the track. The New Zealander crashed out of contention, while Haga went on to claim third place. Slight had an opportunity to turn the tables on the Yamaha rider in race two, but had to settle for second place.

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