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Foggy on the Island

With round two of the World Superbike championship coming up this weekend at Phillip Island, Australia, I started thinking about Carl Fogarty. Fogarty had an uncharacteristically difficult time in the opening round of the series, finishing 3/DNF. He lies seventh in the points. The points lead is shared by Yamaha’s Noriyuki Haga and Honda’s Colin Edwards.

Fogarty has a nagging shoulder injury, but is ready to race. The British press (surprise!) is predicting Fogarty’s victory — something Fogarty is quite in agreement with. Fogarty’s determination to rebound from a disappointing round one makes this race interesting, but there’s more.

Fogarty knows Phillip Island well, and has had success there in the past (more than one victory, and many, many podiums). What will be most interesting, however, is the continuing evaluation of Honda’s v-twin superbike versus the well-developed and well-ridden Ducati of Fogarty. Furthermore, the resurgence of Yamaha’s Noriyuki Haga (back on his beloved Dunlops — he can slide to his heart’s content) underscores the other story of this season — the competitiveness of the four-cylinder bikes (which matched the results of the twins in round one — a first, a second and a third place in the two races).

Lastly, for Americans, former AMA Superbike champion Ben Bostrom, after a lackluster performance in round one, faces his second weekend of World Superbike racing apparently lacking in confidence. Although on a Ducati (something he rode last year in the AMA series, as well), Bostrom is coming to grips with Michelin tires. Expect him to struggle again (at least by his standards) this weekend.

The big story is really Carl Fogarty, however. You should remember that four-time champion Fogarty (each championship achieved aboard the v-twin Ducati) has claimed his Ducati had no real advantage over the well-developed four-cylinder bikes. Indeed, he claimed the Honda RC45 was faster (it probably was — on top speed) and the bike to beat in years past. Fogarty’s Ducati dominated the RC45 (with the exception of John Kocinski on that bike in 1997), however, and Fogarty himself lost the championship the one year he rode an RC45. Thus far, Colin Edwards, with his own v-twin (the Honda RC51) has Fogarty’s number, but Edwards could not consistently beat Fogarty while riding the RC45. We will see what happens this weekend.