Came, soy and conquered
Yet despite all the things in his favour, there was still a sense of surprise that he could use his tyre so hard yet so well to score a win, even after completing his pre-season homework in race one.Not every one of the top names in SBK enjoyed the advantages of Kagayama, in possession of a well fettled factory Suzuki. From plainly not ready bikes to severe illness, from lack of Losail experience to a lack of testing, many of Kagayama and co's new peers were blunted at the first time of asking in race conditions. But then again, not many have proved to be as adept on any bike as Kagayama is on the GSX-R family.
We in the UK knew he would be a challenger, and - hurrah for us - the British domestic scene helped him develop to the level of top flight contender after a career spent in Japan. Which begs one small but obvious question: if our racing can propel all manner of short-term Brit residents to the top echelons, from Wayne Gardner, through Troy Bayliss to Kagayama, why do so few of our own get the chance/use the chance fully/get repeated chances when they hop to a world series? Come back GSE (dive in the rest of you, the water's lovely), and please don't forget to bring some quick Brits with ya.
With all the evidence of a much-improved World Superbike, there appears to have been one casualty. Or certainly a form of decimation in the Light Cavalry Legion of the Almost Wholly Roman Racing Empire.
With so many top Supersport riders moving up to SBK this year (Pitt, Lanzi, Muggeridge) or just moving out (Kellner), and a subsequent reduction in factory support for the class (Alstare Suzuki and Yamaha Italia have gone up to Superbike, there's no 749R factory Ducati team, one lone factory Klaffi Honda 600, no factory Kawasaki effort again), the number of riders looking like potential winners has reduced. The class has sharpened to a diamond-tipped point, but the bulk of the rest have been a squeezed a bit flat and pruned in terms of outright numbers of top drawer draws.
What's left is a mix of quality talent (Curtain and Parkes, Charpentier and Fujiwara, Foret and Fabrizio, VDG and old boy Chambon), but compared to previous years? All a bit thin. Simple fact of the matter is that World Superbike has proved just as enticing to new and returned competitors alike. But in becoming a big deal again its gravitational pull has lessened the strength in depth of its little brother Supersport.
Don't underestimate Ducati Corse. With so many fast fours it looked like the twins were about to get sand kicked in their faces at Qatar.After testing, when the 'terrible' twins' twins Laconi and Toseland looked in trouble, both scored good points when it mattered - Laconi second overall, Toseland sixth after a nightmare start.
So if this was a big trouble weekend, with a much revamped bike still to improve, things ain't yet quite as bad as many predicted.I'll float the opening argument again: Don't underestimate Ducati Corse.
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