Colin Edwards has become the 2002 World Superbike champion after a titanic race two decider with defending champion Troy Bayliss.
All eyes were locked on the pair as they duelled for the whole 25 laps of the Imola circuit. For Bayliss to retain his title he needed to win and his Infostrada Ducati partner Ruben Xaus to finish second, ahead of Edwards.
Bayliss and Edwards were only ever separated by a matter of tenths for most of the race, but their pace ultimately proved too hot for Xaus and he dropped back.
Bayliss may have been racing for pride in the last three laps, but he was determined to go out with a win. But a small mistake from the Australian on the penultimate lap let Edwards stretch out in front for the flag – a record-breaking ninth victory in a row – and the title.
Colin Edwards goes into the final race of the 2002 World Superbike championship with a six point lead following his victory in a dramatic two-part race.
Despite reigning champ Troy Bayliss taking the chequered flag, Edwards was able to stay close enough to take the win on aggregate time. Edwards had been leading by 0.7 seconds when the red flags came out, eventually winning by 0.514 seconds from Bayliss.
Ruben Xaus rode to a lonely third, despite Bayliss slowing the pace from the front to try and involve his Ducati teammate in the battle for the lead. Despite Xaus qualifying second on the grid, he just wasn’t capable of matching the two championship contenders. Fourth was a fortunate Neil Hodgson, who fell immediately before the red flag, having delayed the start of the race when his bike wouldn’t start. Hodgson managed to keep fourth ahead of Noryuki Haga, and an excellent ride from HM Plant teammate James Toseland in sixth.
Toseland finished ahead of Chilli, Lavilla, Parkes and Bostrom. Chris Walker took eleventh and Mark Heckles was twentieth.
With race two to come, Edwards now leads by six points, meaning Bayliss will need to do more than just beating the American into second place. The championship could now rest equally on the shoulders of Ruben Xaus and Neil Hodgson to put themselves in front of Edwards.
1)K Fujiwara 2)S Chambon 3)C Vermeulen 4)F Foret 5)J Teuchert 6)A Carlacci 7)I MacPherson 8)S Cruciani 9)C Cogan 10)R Frost 11)J Ellison 12)R Ulm 13)M Lagrieve 14) P Young 15)M Laverty 16)L Brian 17)J Proietto 18)C Cipriani
WSS final standings:
1)F Foret 2)K Fujiwara 3)S Chambon 4)A Pitt 5)C Kellner 6)C Kellner 7)C Vermuelen 8)J Teuchert 9)I MacPherson 10)J Whitham 11)K Curtain 12)A Corradi 13)P Bontempi 14)K Muggeridge 15)C Cogan 16)S Cruciani 17)W Daemen 18)R Ulm 19)A Carlacci 20)J Ellison 21)M Lagrive 22)G Nannelli 23)D Giugovaz 24)J Hanson 25)R Frost 26)J Oelschlager 27)S Easton 28)S Charpentier 29)L Brian 30)D de Gea 31)J McGuinness 32)C Zaiser 33)P Young 34)M Laverty 35)C Mariottini 36)A moodley