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GP Week : Issue 2
Made in Spain BRITISH racing fans were astounded by serial national success at the opening rounds of the 2008 season, in Qatar, a week ago. Qatar saw four of five Britons give career-best performances of real world class. Then came news from Daytona – that Welsh rider Chaz Davies had won the classic Daytona 200-Mile race at the Florida speed bowl. This last was not all it seemed. Davies actually finished a worthy second, after a troubled start (his rear sprocket came loose) and a fine come-back on the Attack Kawasaki. He was declared winner only later, in a decision still under appeal, after the real victor Josh Hayes was disqualified. It was ruled that his Erion Honda’s crankshaft had been illegally polished and lightened. “It doesn’t feel like a victory,” said Davies, whose name will now be etched alongside those of racing greats like including Agostini, Roberts, Rainey and Lawson. The Daytona 200 is not what it was either; the premier international season-opener now reduced to safety- conscious production-based 600 Supersport bikes. Good work anyway by the Welsh rider, whose career was initially fostered in 125 and (when he got too tall) in 250 GP classes, but who ran out of options and moved successfully to US racing last year. The grand prix success story represents a new generation. Double Superbike World Champion James Toseland’s grand prix debut was extraordinary – not only for the result of sixth, but because he locked horns with Rossi in the race, and followed him home by inches. Toseland earned instant respect from his rivals with a hard-as-nails overtaking move on Lorenzo in the early laps, when the pair exchanged paint. “He has a … Superbike style,” said Rossi; while Stoner and Lorenzo both praised his riding. For Toseland, it was “surreal”. He explained hvis near terminal collision with Lorenzo as “just a lack of experience.” He knew all his Superbike rivals intimately, but Lorenzo had taken him by surprise. “Jorge put his bike over my nose just as I was committed. I’ve just got to get used to these guys,” he said. Even he had hung back from similar tactics at the finish, when Dovizioso and Rossi were disputing fourth inches ahead. “I wasn’t prepared to take two of them out in my first MotoGP, with sixth place in the bag,” he explained. Toseland, at 27, needs to make his mark quickly, and could hardly have started better. The real new generation, in years as well as GP green- ness, is at the opposite end of the scale. The fresh-faced teens of the 125 class promise sustained excitement for British fans, and prompt new interest in a class mainly dominated by Spanish and Italian riders. Bradley Smith is in his third year, and fulfilled his early promise by leading the race convincingly from pole … until his steering damper came loose on lap two. Second-year Danny Webb 40