Muggeridge claims world Supersport title!

It's official - Karl Muggeridge (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) is the 2004 Supersport world champion.

The 30-year-old expatriate clinched the title with a superb start-to-finish victory in the penultimate round at Imola (Italy) today, making him the third Australian to win the title in its short six-year existence.

"My parents and brother came over from Australia, so I didn't want to wait until next weekend to secure the championship," said Muggeridge, who raised a triumphant fist as he crossed the finish line. "It's a great feeling; we've been waiting so long for this moment.

"We've had lots of ups and downs over the years in world Supersport, but I've got to give full credit to the team. It has worked so hard throughout the year making the bike as good as possible."

Muggeridge's ascension to world champion is the culmination of a six-year tenure in the production-based four-stroke class, which began in 1999 when he finished 23rd on a Honda. Since then, Muggeridge's best results in the championship have been a fourth in 2003 and fifth in 2000 on a Suzuki.

Muggeridge, originally from South Australia but now domiciled in Holland, now joins compatriots Andrew Pitt (2001) and Chris Vermeulen (2003) on the Supersport roll of honour. Additionally, he now belongs to a select group of Aussie road racing world champions since the late 1980s -- luminaries such as Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Troy Corser and Troy Bayliss.

Meanwhile, it is Honda's third successive world Supersport triumph, after Suzuki (Stephane Chambon, 1999), Jorg Teuchert (Yamaha, 2000) and Kawasaki (Pitt, 2001) dominated in the formative years.

In yet another bout of impunity from the all-conquering Ten Kate equip, polesitter Muggeridge, who will now move up to world Superbike in 2005, defeated teammate Broc Parkes in today's 21 lapper -- the third such quinella in 2004. Moreover, it was the fifth all-Australian one-two in nine races.

The Ten Kate duopoly was set in motion soon after the lights turned green, leaving multiple Australian champion Kevin Curtain (Yamaha Motor Deutschland YZF-R6) ensconced in a safe third position - before he crashed out unhurt on lap five.

Curtain's premature grounding was to the benefit of Sebastien Charpentier (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR), who moved into the final podium position and held it for the balance of the race. That left Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati Breil 749R) and Yamaha Italia teammates Fabien Foret and Andrew Pitt (Both YZF-R6s) to engage in their own rolling scrum for fourth. A solid Lanzi never wavered, leading home Foret, with Pitt, who briefly ran off the track at the end of lap two, sixth.

The fifth Australian in the field, a guest-riding Craig Coxhell (Yamaha Motor Deutschland YZF-R6), finished in 12th.

In the championship table, Muggeridge now sits on an unbeatable 182pts, ahead of Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Yamaha Italia YZF-R6, 119), who crashed out on lap 13. Parkes (115pts) is now eyeing the Dutchman's second place in the final round at Magny-Cours (France) next weekend, as will Charpentier (104pts).

Further on, Curtain lost his old on outright fifth after his DNF, and he is now joined by Lanzi on 69pts, ahead of Foret and Stephane Chambon (Alstare Suzuki GSX-R600, 64).

-ma-