Ahead of the final round of the season
Andrew Pitt continued his rich vein of form at Imola yesterday, scoring a podium finish in the day's opening race to move up to fourth in the championship ahead of next weekend's final round of the season.
The Yamaha Motor Italia
rider backed up his hard fought third place in race one with a tremendous fourth around the demanding Imola circuit in race two. Meanwhile team-mate Noriyuki Haga fought set-up problems to post a fourth and sixth place finish, keeping his hopes of finishing second in this year's championship well and truly alive.
Race one saw both the red Yamahas fighting for the lead, with Pitt overtaking pole man Troy Bayliss (Ducati) on the second lap. The Yamaha man rode confidently at the front for five laps, only to slip back to fifth after the rear of his machine slid violently as he exited a corner. Despite struggling for rear grip, the Australian was able to regain a good rhythm and pass his way through to third, behind the Hondas of Alex Barros and James Toseland, by lap 19 of the 21-lap race.
Haga too found himself plagued by rear grip problems. After holding third in the opening laps, he had no answer to the advancing Barros and Toseland. The Japanese stuck diligently to his task and was rewarded with fourth place at the flag, overtaking Bayliss as he crossed the line for the final time.
Both of the Yamaha riders made slight adjustments to their machines for the second outing and it looked like the changes would pay dividends as they occupied second and third behind Bayliss in the opening laps.
Pitt was able to push his fellow Australian harder than anyone else, but eventually the Yamaha man succumbed to front end grip problems and was passed by the slow-starting Barros and Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki), who crossed the line in second and third. Bayliss took the chequered flag for his 11th win of the season, with Haga behind Toseland in sixth.
Norick Abe was Yamaha Motor France's leading rider in Imola, scoring 12 points from ninth and 11th place finishes to move him up one place, to 13th, in the championship. Team-mate Shinichi Nakatomi had one of the best weekend's of his rookie world Superbike season, finishing 11th and 12th in the races, although the team's third member, Frenchman Sébastien Gimbert, had a disaster at one of his favourite circuits. Still racing with an injury sustained in Assen he retired from both races.
Bayliss' performances secured him his second world title with one round remaining, while Barros' win makes him the eighth different race winner in what has proved an exciting season. The battle for the silver medal is very much alive, with Haga trailing Toseland by just two points following today's races. Pitt currently lies fourth in the series and will also be looking to defend his eight point advantage over Barros in France.
Andrew Pitt (Yamaha Motor Italia): "Overall I'm pretty happy, although I'd have liked to have got another podium in the second one as well. In the first race the rear grip was gone after a few laps but after I had a big slide I was able to find my rhythm again and work my way through to the podium. For the second race we made quite a few changes and moved some more weight onto the front of the bike. It was a definite improvement and the bike worked better for longer, but as the fuel went down the front started pushing a bit. I thought that maybe I could get past Kagayama, as he was making some mistakes, but by the end the front tyre was gone and I couldn't take the risk. At the end of the day we've come to a track that we felt wouldn't be one of the best for our bike and got some good results to move up to fourth in the championship. On Friday we were struggling but my team is working very hard and it's always great to give them a podium at one of their home races, so it's been a good day."
Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha Motor Italia): "In the end it was not such a bad result. All weekend we found it difficult to get a perfect feeling with the bike and this made the races hard work, especially around this demanding circuit. In both races I was able to make a good start and fight for a few laps. In the end I had to ride for the points. Ten years ago I think I would have crashed trying to win the race, but today I was able to use my head and think of the championship. Now we go to Magny-Cours two points behind Toseland, so this is not so bad and possible for us to overcome."
Norick Abe (Yamaha Motor France): "So many riders crashed in race one that the result maybe looked better than it was. I was lucky to be ninth. We had problems with rear grip, lots of sliding and moving. Then between the races we changed a few small settings and maybe the bike worked better, because the lap times were faster. But we were still sliding everywhere, uphill and downhill!"
Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Motor France): "I started from the 22nd position on the grid and then I passed some riders. My lap times and positions went better and better from Friday to Sunday. I finished the second race 1.8 behind Abe and my fastest lap was on the 19th of the 21 laps, so for my first time on this track, it is good progress."
Massimo Meregalli (Team Coordinator - Yamaha Motor Italia): "Of course, we would prefer to be winning the races but I think that today we did a good job as we had a problem getting race distance out of our tyres. Andrew rode very well in both races and is now fourth in the championship. Noriyuki has had some small problems over the weekend and although we lost some points to Toseland he made sure he didn't crash and got as many points as possible. We have two riders in the top four of the championship and our targets for Magny-Cours are now clear: for Noriyuki it is to finish second in the championship, while Andrew must defend his fourth place."
Martial Garcia (Team Manager - Yamaha Motor France): "It is a good overall result with one ninth position, two 11th and one 12th. Our two riders are in fact the first privateers on this very difficult and dangerous track with a bad surface, so we have many reasons to be happy. Sébastien Gimbert, injured at Assen and the Bol d'Or, tried everything but unfortunately had to retire. Abe is now 13th in the championship standings and Nakatomi, for his first year, is 17th which is good because the level is very high. We hope that Sébastien Gimbert will feel better at Magny-Cours and that he will be able to express himself properly on bike."
Press Release Yamaha