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Saturday Photos From Portimao

You need to find a corner piece to start


Clean room





The never did get to drop one of those ones


Red is the new loud


The guy on the phone won the Supersport race


I think that's a corner piece. No, wait ...


The World's Fastest Tool Chest


Obviously, they weren't all out on the track at the same time.

Craig Jones Honored In Portimao

After the final Superbike race, as the traffic poured out of the parking areas, and headed off down the brand new access road towards the highway, and home, a small ceremony was held in memory of Craig Jones. The official ceremony, the unveiling of a statue to be held on Saturday, had been canceled due to the miserable weather, and so a smaller, more private ceremony was held in its place.

The owner of the circuit, Paulo Pinheiro made a small speech, largely inaudible due to the sound of the traffic leaving, but the ceremony was all the more moving and private, perhaps for the very reason that it was cut off from the rest of the world by the noise.

Just how impromptu the ceremony had been was made clear by the sudden arrival of Troy Corser, still in his leathers, straight from his post-race debriefing. Corser was greeted warmly by the family, and it was clear from his demeanor that the tragic loss of Jones had affected him personally.

Craig Jones was killed during the World Supersport race at Brands Hatch on August 3rd this year, while battling for the lead with Johnny Rea and Andrew Pitt. His fearlessness and his ragged-edge riding made him a fan favorite, and he was widely tipped as a future world champion. Craig Jones was 23 years of age.

This Is The End - Bayliss Bows Out In Style

Troy Bayliss ended his World Superbike career in the only way which could possibly hope to match his amazing career: With a second dominant win of the weekend, crowning his championship with a double at the inaugural World Superbike round at Portimao, Portugal. While Bayliss didn't lead from the start, it only took him a couple of laps before the Australian sliced his way to the front with surgical precision, and checked out. 

The 8 second lead he had by halfway was a comfortable cushion, which allowed him to give away a couple of tenths a lap, and still leave him over 3.6 seconds clear over the line. Adding to the joy at Ducati, his team mate came home in 2nd, comfortably ahead of the fight for third. The final podium spot was more closely contested, but Max Neukirchner looked like he had it wrapped up by halfway after fighting his way through the field. But Neukirchner couldn't maintain his pace towards the end of the race, and was pipped to the podium by Leon Haslam, the British Superbike hero giving notice of his intentions for 2009.

The scenes in the pitlane were intensely emotional after the race, the entire Xerox Ducati team going up onto the podium to celebrate, and say farewell to Troy Bayliss. There's a palpable sense of sadness in the press room, and around the circuit, now that we will never see the man who is arguably the world's greatest superbike rider race again. There's also some doubt, as the press and the paddock find it impossible to believe that Bayliss could walk away at the peak of his career. But seeing Bayliss' face, the sheer relief that it was all done, convinced me, at least, that this was the final chapter.

At least, on a racing motorcycle, as Bayliss is due to go home to Australia and race in the V8 Supercars series. That should scratch any itch he may still feel just enough for him to resist temptation.

Triumphant Return - Sofuoglu Victorious In Supersport Race

The World Supersport race at Portimao was won, as expected, by Kenan Sofuoglu. But he didn't get the victory without a fight. The early part of the race saw 6 men tightly together and scrapping for every inch. Barry Veneman led early on, ahead of Andrew Pitt, Sofuoglu, Josh Hayes, Joan Lascorz and Broc Parkes, but after the dust finally settled, and Sofuoglu finished waving his fist at Hayes down the front straight, the Turkish rider finally seized control of the race and made a break.

Hayes was then left to fend off Sofuoglu's team mate Andrew Pitt, but the Ten Kate Hondas just had too much speed along the front straight for the American to resist. With Sofuoglu and Pitt spread out and leading, Hayes battled Lascorz all the way to the line, the crowd cheering their local team - the circuit owns the Parkalgar Honda race team - willing the American onto the podium. 

But it was not to be. With 2 laps to go, Lascorz drafted past Hayes along the straight, and despite being quicker round the difficult rolling section at the rear of the track, the American could not get back past the Spaniard, Lascorz taking the final spot on the podium. 

Repeat Performance - Another Australian On A Ducati Wins WSBK Race 1

It will surprise no one to learn that Troy Bayliss won the first World Superbike Race at Portimao in Portugal. As if the Australian needed his place in history cemented any further, Bayliss took off almost from the start of the race to win completely unchallenged.

Bayliss was helped by a monster battle for 2nd which took up most of the first half of the race. The BSB riders started off strongly, turning in some spectacular and terrifying passing between Cal Crutchlow, Leon Haslam and Johnny Rea, while the regulars Noriyuki Haga, Ruben Xaus, Troy Corser and Carlos Checa joined the fun. But as the race wore on, the BSB riders wore themselves out, leaving Haga, Corser and Checa to fight for 2nd. Haga dropped out with a mechanical problem, leaving Corser and Checa to spend the rest of the race dividing the podium places between themselves. In the end, it was Carlos Checa who won that battle, splitting the Australians on the podium.

Johnny Rea was the best British rider home in 4th, a promising debut on the Ten Kate Honda Superbike, while Leon Haslam was the best of the BSB riders in 7th.

The ease with which Bayliss won race 1 must surely be a worry for the rest of the field. They can't afford to spend time scrapping with each other if they want to have a chance at beating the World Champion.

Australian On A Ducati Wins Championship Shocker

What is it about Australians on Ducatis? The Superstock 1000 FIM Cup race was won this morning by Brendan Roberts, who also clinched the championship with the win.  The Australian, who rides for the Xerox Ducati Junior team, kept his head whilst others were falling about him. The race was led early on by Chris Seaton aboard the Celani Suzuki, but Roberts closed his countryman down, passing him on lap 9 and never relinquishing the lead again.

Roberts had had to contend with Xavier Simeon early on, but the Belgian Alstare Suzuki rider, who was leading the series going into the race at Portimao, crashed on lap 8, and rejoined to finish 11th. Maxime Berger, the Hannspree IDS Ten Kate Honda rider, completed the podium.

Berger finished 2nd in the championship to Roberts, with Alessandro Polita in 3rd.

The day has started well for Australia and for Ducati. Chances of it continuing are very, very good. 

Portimao World Superbikes - Sunday Morning

It's sunny and bright here in the Algarve, and if it wasn't quite so chilly and damp, it would be absolutely beautiful. The good news is, they got the access road from the motorway to the track done yesterday, and the better news is it was filling up nicely as we arrived here. 

The warmup sessions were held on a track that was cold and wet, especially through the scary downhill final turn and along the straight, and times were some 20 seconds off the times set in the dry. Johnny Rea led the way in the Superbikes, ahead of Troy Corser and Cal Crutchlow. Corser seems pretty bent on winning a World Superbike race on the Yamaha before he leaves to join BMW. He has two more chances, and will face the might of Troy Bayliss, who will not want to retire without a fight.

Kenan Soguoglu was quickest during the Supersport warmup, and if you were the betting type, you'd have a sizable sum on the Turk to win the race today. He's looking happy, and more importantly, he's looking fast. Sofuoglu was followed by Gianluca Nannelli and Mathieu Lagrive, who have both been fast in the cold and wet, but not so quick in the dry. The American Josh Hayes was down in 12th.

The Portuguese organizers are putting on a real show here, with a special dance performance featuring some young people prancing around in interestingly metallic costumes. And if that isn't enough, there's the Portuguese Air Force demonstration team flying over before the first World Superbike race. It's a good day to watch some racing.

Interview: Barry Veneman, Suzuki World Supersport Rider

With Suzuki focusing its efforts and - at least as importantly - its money on its MotoGP effort, the Hamamatsu factory has neglected the World Supersport series over the last few years. But this does not mean they have had no presence: Dutch tuner Marc Hoegee has fielded a team for the last few years, but short of funds, the team always seemed to be the nearly men, never quite making it on to the podium.

All that changed during the summer, with Barry Veneman getting ever closer to the podium he has been chasing for the past two years. At Magny Cours, he finally made it. We caught up Veneman on Saturday at the final World Supersport round at Portimao in Portugal.

Q: Earlier in the season, you were a team that was hovering on the brink. Then at the last round at Magny Cours, you get a podium. What happened?

BV: Well, it wasn't just at the last round, it had been going on for longer. We got some new parts in the middle of the season, which gave us some more horsepower. Then we also managed to make the bike lighter. And I've changed, I've gotten stronger as a rider. I made a decision to concentrate on my riding a lot more – I have a day job as well as this – and that's made a huge difference. I've been able to train more, and it's also meant I've had a chance to spend some more time with my family.

That's made me feel better on the bike, made me more confident. Before, we always felt like we were capable of getting in the top 10, but today, while I was riding around here, I was thinking to myself "I've got to be able to get a front row here," and I did, I'm in third.

Q: You think you'll be able to get on the podium here?

BV: That might be a bit more difficult than at Magny Cours. There's a lot of riders here who are out on do-or-die missions, trying to get a ride next year or prove a point. So it could get ugly. At Magny Cours, I had the same attitude: I was either going to get on the podium or crash. We're finishing the season strongly, so I don't need to risk that here.

Q: What do you think of the track

BV: It's amazing. We go to so many of these new tracks which have been designed by computer, but this is totally different. You can tell that whoever built this loves racing. You don't really find this kind of track in Europe. It reminds me most of all of Brands Hatch, but with perfect facilities.

Q: It reminds me a bit of Spa Francorchamps

BV: Sort of. Put some trees around here, and you could be right. But Spa flows a bit more, it's faster. This place is special though, there's a few corners which are just great. That final corner (coming downhill onto the front straight) is really special. And that corner in the dip (the Craig Jones corner), that's pretty special too.

World Superbikes Portimao - Saturday Afternoon Qualifying

It's Saturday afternoon, and the sun is starting to make way for clouds. For the moment, it's still bright, but there's no guarantee of that lasting. The second session of Supersport practice was run in pleasant, if not exactly warm conditions, and times continued to drop as ever more rubber was laid on the track.

Once again it was Kenan Sofuoglu who dominated the session, quickly dropping into the 1'45s, and setting the mark for pole at 1'45.156 before the session was even halfway done. Many would try, but the closest anyone would get would be Broc Parkes in the dying seconds of the session, getting to within 7/100ths on the Yamaha.

Holland's Barry Veneman will start from 3rd on the grid, the Hoegee Suzuki team having picked up the final couple of tenths they've been missing over the last few rounds. Veneman has Andrew Pitt on the other Ten Kate Honda beside him on the grid, the 2008 World Champion finishing out the front row.

Gianluca Nannelli heads up the second row of the grid on the Althea Honda, with Spanish rider Joan Lascorz dropping to 6th, from 3rd this morning. Josh Brookes will start from 7th, while American Josh Hayes was pushed down to 8th, and the end of the 2nd row. Hayes had started well, but dropped gradually down the order, as the other riders made good their knowledge deficit of the track.

In the afternoon's World Superbike free practice session, Troy Bayliss was out to avenge his indifferent time of this morning, and quickly topped the timesheets, setting his fastest time on his 2nd full lap out of the pits. This time, Bayliss' time was good enough to beat his team mate, Michel Fabrizio setting the 2nd fastest time, making it a Xerox Ducati 1-2. Cal Crutchlow continued his run of strong times, setting the 3rd fastest time, ahead of Noriyuki Haga and Carlos Checa.

But the session was interrupted after half-distance by the return of the rain. The dark clouds that had been building suddenly broke, light rain becoming ever heavier, leaving the field stranded in the pits. And with the rain came an end to Superpole. The final qualifying session will be a so-called wet superpole, a 50 minute session with limited pit entrances for the top 16 riders. Traditional superpole, with each of the top 16 riders having a single shot at putting in a fast lap, has been scrapped for next season, World Superbike moving to a Formula 1-style knock-out qualifying session for next year.

World Superbikes Portimao - Saturday Morning Report

We woke up this morning to a surprise: skies were blue, more or less, the sun was out, and the world looked a much more attractive place than it has for the past two days. It's still cold here, but conditions have improved vastly overnight.

Traffic on the way into the circuit was busier than yesterday, unsurprisingly, but they still haven't finished the freeway exit which is supposed to take fans straight from the A22 freeway to the circuit. With today, November 1st, being a national holiday, the chances of it being completed and opened are minimal. If you want to get here on Sunday, leave early.

With the weather now cooperating, the World Supersport session started on time, and Parkalgar Honda's Josh Hayes was quickest for the first half of practice, before Joan Lascorz, Broc Parkes and Kenan Sofuoglu got up to speed.

Once up to speed, Sofuoglu was flying. The young Turkish rider is clearly much more at home back on his Ten Kate Honda, and finished the session on top of the timesheets. Yamaha's Broc Parkes got close, but not close enough, finishing 2nd, ahead of Joan Lascorz and Andrew Pitt. Hayes eventually finished down in 5th.

The second Superbike qualifying session saw the field shook up the same way as Supersport. Where yesterday, Britannia ruled, this morning, they merely made their presence felt, with Cal Crutchlow, Leon Haslam and Johnny Rea all hitting the top 10, rather than the top 5. No surprise to see Troy Corser near the top of the timesheets, as the Australian wants to get a win on a Yamaha before he leaves the team. All the more surprise to see Ducati's Michel Fabrizio ahead of Corser, taking top spot.

And another surprise behind Corser. Fonsi Nieto is still uncertain of his ride for next year, and grabbed some attention with the 3rd fastest time, ahead of Alstare Suzuki team mate Max Neukirchner. Crutchlow, Haslam and Rea were joined on the second row by Kawasaki's Regis Laconi, while the privateer Ducati of Jakub Smrz took 9th ahead of Ruben Xaus' semi-factory Sterilgarda bike. Troy Bayliss, running a special #21 livery on the bike for his final race weekend, could manage only 13th, but looked fast all the way round the track.

The grids for both classes will be settled this afternoon.