The World Superbike season has kicked off in style in Qatar this morning with former champion Troy Bayliss taking the win after a thrilling final lap battle with Max Biaggi.
This was an historic day for the Bologna factory as the Ducati 1098 was first and second in its first competitive outing on track.
It was the battle of the Ducati 1908s as Bayliss on the factory motorcycle took the challenge to privateer rider Biaggi on the Sterilgarda Go Eleven.
Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner took the lead ahead of pole man Troy Corser and put in a brilliant ride in the early stages having been in the top ten throughout practice and qualifying..
Ducati’s Troy Bayliss, who did not get the best of starts, managed to filter through the field to get up to seventh by lap two.
And leader Max Neukirchner showed his intentions for the season with a best lap of 1:59.624 on lap two.
The lead trio of Neukirchner, Troy Corser and Noriyuki Haga began to pull away from the rest of the field by lap three.
Lap five saw Yamaha’s Troy Corser overtake Neukirchner to gain the lead. Sterilgarda Go Eleven’s Max Biaggi had also joined up with the front group to challenge for a podium slot.
Noriyuki Haga set the fastest lap at 1:59.2 before he crashed out of the race as he high-sided his Yamaha YZF-R1 on lap seven almost taking out Max Biaggi as well. The experienced Japanese rider did manage to get going but was well down the field and well out of contention for this race.
But leading once again up front, Max Neukirchner was showing the usual front runners what he’s capable of and held off Ducati’s Troy Bayliss who was hot on his exhaust pipe.
On lap eight, Bayliss took the lead, just seconds after nearly sending himself in to the gravel trap. The Australian immediately took control of the race to pull away from Neukirchner.
And the excitement continued as Bayliss ran wide on lap nine. Neukirchner, Max Biaggi and Troy Corser took advantage but Bayliss seemed to have bigger problems as he went wide once again two corners later.
Max Biaggi put his mark on Max Neukirchner on at the beginning of lap 11 and momentarily took the lead, but the German was all out for his first victory.
With Troy Bayliss’s problems seemingly sorted for the moment he put Corser in his sights and tried to take his fellow countryman. But the move did not come off and he had to stay in fourth.
Max Biaggi finally managed to take the lead going in to lap 12 and Bayliss had not given up either to work his way through to second with five laps to go.
Biaggi’s team-mate, Ruben Xaus, had been working his way up through the field and knocked Neukirchner down to fifth on lap 14.
And with the riders struggling to hold on to their worn tyres, Troy Bayliss set himself up to challenge Max Biaggi for the lead heading in to lap 16 and began the battle of the Ducati 1098s.
Max Biaggi seemed to have held off factory Ducati rider Troy Bayliss but the Australian had other ideas two corners form the end. The pair swapped positions at the final corner but Bayliss was victorious in the end to take the win.
Qatar World Superbikes race one top ten results:
1. Troy Bayliss AUS Ducati Xerox
2. Max Biaggi ITA Sterilgarda Go Eleven
3. Troy Corser AUS Yamaha
4. Ruben Xaus ESP Sterilgarda Go Eleven
5. Max Neukirchner GER Team Alstare Suzuki
6. Carlos Checa ESP Hannspree Ten Kate Honda
7. Fonsi Nieto ESP Team Alstare Suzuki
8. Yukio Kagayama JPN Team Alstare Suzuki
9. Michel Fabrizio ITA Ducati Xerox
10. Jakub Smrz CZE Guandalini Racing Ducati