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WSSQatarFebruary 26, 2005
World Supersport Championships 2005
Round 01.Losail International Circuit - Doha, Qatar

Honda Riders Monopolize Supersport Podium in Qatar

Katsuaki Fujiwara (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) surged to a superb win at the inaugural Losail Supersport meeting, despite bogging down off the line and running almost last into the first corner. Catching the long time leader, his team mate Sebastien Charpentier, on lap 16 ‘Fuji’ ran away and clear to record a five second margin of victory in his first race for the Ten Kate squad. Honda riders filled the first three places, with Michel Fabrizio (Team Italia Megabike Honda CBR600RR) third, proving the prowess of the latest version of the all-conquering CBR series at the first time of asking.



K. FUJIWARA (Winston Ten Kate Honda)


S. CHARPENTIER (Winston Ten Kate Honda)


After a peerless qualifying performance from Charpentier gave him pole position in his first race for the Winston Ten Kate team, his early lead hinted at invincibility, but a worn front tyre dropped his pace and allowed Fujiwara to catch him. Sebastien nonetheless set the new fastest lap at this new WSS venue, with a time of 2:04.686. After many changes of weather conditions, the race itself was held on a dry circuit, in warm sunshine.

In fifth place, again suffering from a worn front tyre, came Fabien Foret, Fabrizio’s team-mate. He had to exercise caution in the latter stages, but put a valuable 11 points on the board in any case. Class rookie, Tatu Lauslehto (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) was tenth, a great performance in his rookie ride at this status of competition.

In qualifying, Charpentier had been supreme, running to an impressive best of 2’03.841, at the zenith of an all-Honda front row. All bar one of the 18 Supersport riders in Qatar set their best times in the fully dry first day session, with final qualifying proving to be unexpectedly wet. Katsuaki Fujiwara was second in training, followed by the Megabike Honda duo of Michel Fabrizio and Fabien Foret.



M.FABRIZIO (Italia Megabike)


F. FORET (Team Megabike)


Fujiwara’s win saw him overcome odds which looked insurmountable after the first lap.
“This is my first season with the Honda and the bike is very different from my previous one. I stalled on the start line when the lights changed and I had to restart it! My front tyre was also not perfect but today we had a very well set-up bike, thanks to my crew. We made some adjustments to the bike between testing and now, and we have to remember that this is a new CBR600RR as well. First time on a Honda and we got a race win, so thank you to Honda.”

For Charpentier, second place was a disappointment, but 20 championship points were not.

“It was a little crazy because I started the race OK but then my front tyre lost some grip, and it did not have the endurance for me to push more at the end - or for sure I would crash. Maybe my choice of a soft tyre was not good but I don’t know why, because in practice I could do ten or 12 laps at a very fast pace. But after five or six it was difficult today. Finishing second this weekend is good because last year I left the first round with no points.”

Fabrizio battled hard for third, a good start to his first full season of World Supersport competition, following on from a couple of wild card rides for Megabike in 2004.

“I think I had something that the other riders had in terms of front tyres, losing the front grip. Normally you only lose this at the end. I have a very good team and we are growing up very fast, so it is good to be close to the strongest two in Supersport.”

Foret, resigned to his fate after only six laps, exercised his experience of past championship campaigns and recognized that his time will come.

“My front had started to go after only six laps. I think other riders’ styles allow them to ride around this problem more than me, so there is not that much I could do about it. I had no feeling, so I could not push any harder or I would have crashed. It was important not to crash in the first race, and then put myself under more pressure.”

Class rookie Lauslehto regretted a cautious start but has reason to feel satisfied with a top ten finish at the first attempt.

“My start was OK, not great but not bad, but maybe I was a little too careful on lap one. I made up some places after that so for my first time in this class, especially after all the changes in weather, top ten is OK.”

World Superbike Round 1 of 12

With race one interrupted by rain, and such a competitive field in World Superbike this season, the two 18-lap Superbike contests were unpredictable right to the end. Mid race rain in the opener, did little good for the strong Honda entry, with the top finisher proving to be Chris Vermeulen (Winston Ten Kate Honda, in eighth place. A much improved performance from the young Aussie, winner of four races for Honda last season, saw him fourth in race two, and fourth in the championship fight.

Qualifying and Superpole were peculiar periods at this track new to almost the entire SBK grid, with Superpole going to Regis Laconi (Ducati) on a 2’01.593. A wet second day meant that all riders had to rely on Superpole qualifying times set in the first session only, meaning that Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda) did not quite make the top 16 cut for Superpole, mainly thanks to a raging flu, shared with his team-mate Vermeulen.

Vermeulen recovered from a late session Superpole crash to take a second row start position, eighth fastest and top Honda rider. Max Neukirchner had a remarkable fifth in regulation qualifying in his rookie Superbike race, but on a dry-wet-dry Superpole session, run under ‘wet’ rules, he finished, 14th, with his team-mate Pierfrancesco Chili 10th. Ben Bostrom’s qualifying woes left him 28th, last man bar one on the grid.

In race one a rain shower at the mid-race point stopped the track action, but the circuit dried out again before the re-start - despite a ‘wet’ race being declared - to avoid further stoppages. The overall race result was decided on aggregate time, and Troy Corser, four seconds in the lead after leg one, taking the win from his Suzuki team-mate Yukio Kagayama and factory Ducati rider Regis Laconi. Top Honda rider was Chris Vermeulen, in eighth, with his Aussie compatriot and team-mate Karl Muggeridge ninth. Pierfrancesco Chili and Max Neukirchner failed to score, with Chili out on the warm-up lap and Max clashing with two other riders and falling from the restarted section. Ben Bostrom clawed his way from second last place on the grid to 16th, just missing out on points.

Race two, run in clean dry conditions, saw the first race top trio once more fight it out up front, with Kagayama, Laconi and Corser sharing the spoils this time around, while Vermeulen secured fourth place, after a massive fight with up to seven other riders disputing fourth place. Pierfrancesco Chili, out of race one before it had properly started, battled hard and ended up at the head of a multi-rider scrap for the top ten positions. He took fifth behind Vermeulen, suffering from arm pump. Neukirchner had a brilliant showing in fifth for the early laps of the race, slowly dropping back to finish a still creditable eighth in his first ever SBK meeting.

Muggeridge, fighting to regain a second points scoring result after his chain adjuster broke in warm-up, crashed with Chris Walker (Kawasaki) but a grim weekend for returning SBK star Bostrom culminated in a technical retirement before race two got underway.

With Vermeulen fourth in the standings with 21, behind Kagayama (45), Corser (41) and Laconi (36) the next best rider at this early stage is Chili, ninth overall, with his precocious team-mate Neukirchner 11th. Muggeridge is 12th and Bostrom has yet to score.

For Vermeulen, day one of the season proper was an up and down affair.

“The bike was so much better in race two. We changed the rear suspension to try and get the front working a bit better because we are still getting used to the new front forks. As race two went on, I just got more and more comfortable. With a couple of more laps I could have been on the podium and with more time to test properly, who knows.”

Muggeridge, suffering from a viral infection and unexpected technical glitches on race day, was keen to get Qatar behind him.

“It’s been a week to forget. Not a lot of time on the bike and then a small component failed, making me start race two from pit lane. I was happy with the way I was riding and the bike even though I’m still lacking energy due to my illness. At least I got a few points from the first race and I’m going to treat my home race in Australia as the start of my season.”

Chili, showing that his 40-years have diminished little of his competitive strengths, found the spirit willing but the flesh finally weak at a key moment.

“In the last two or three laps of race two I had a drop in power from my braking arm, or for sure I would have caught Troy. I have finished my body! In the last laps I made a mistake three times so I told myself to relax and finish the race.”

Young German hope Neukirchner had an unfortunate first race, but a dazzling second.

“Race two was really good, but in race one I had a little crash. I had a real good start in the second and the conditions were fine. The engine cut out sensor was a problem in race one and then the other riders braked a little earlier than usual and that caught me out, and we collided. But race two was a lot of fun.”

Bostrom was disappointed at his luck, but acknowledged that the team preparation has been, unavoidably, far from ideal.

“You could see how my weekend was from the points table. It’s a bummer. We had a small bike problem right from the start and so it was a tough weekend. But this was really like us testing at our first race so we will have two bikes and more parts at the next tests, new motors as well. We are down at the bottom this weekend but we will be accelerating up at a rapid rate from now on.”


World Supersport Championships 2005
Round 01.Losail International Circuit - Doha, Qatar


line

1 K. FUJIWARA (Winston Ten Kate Honda)
2 S. CHARPENTIER (Winston Ten Kate Honda)
3 M.FABRIZIO (Italia Megabike)
4 K. CURTAIN (Yamaha Motor Germany)
5 F. FORET (Team Megabike)
6 B. PARKES (Yamaha Motor Germany)
7 S. CHAMBON (Gil Motorsport)
8 J. FORES (Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra)
9 G.NANNELLI (Ducati SC Caracchi)
10 T. LAUSLEHTO (Klaffi Honda)
11 A. BERTA (Ducati Selmat)
12 T. MIKSOVSKY (Intermoto Czech Republic)
13 P. SZKOPEK (Intermoto Czech Republic)
14 M.BAIOCCO (Lightspeed Kawasaki)



K. FUJIWARA (Winston Ten Kate Honda) & S. CHARPENTIER (Winston Ten Kate Honda) & M.FABRIZIO (Italia Megabike)

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