Laconi pips Vermeulen
After a doer struggle against Australian Chris Vermeulen, Frenchman Regis Laconi (Fila Ducati 999F04) has won the opening race in round 10 of the 2004 Superbike World Championship at Imola (Italy) on September 26.
Laconi, who started from pole position, only led the Pirelli-shod field over the line in three of the completed 21 laps on his factory Ducati, but he ultimately produced the goods when it counted to post his sixth victory of the season, and his second at Imola.
In a race where passing was at a premium on the iconic layout, Japanese ace Noriyuki Haga (Renegade Ducati Koji) scored the holeshot on his 999RS, before 22-year-old Vermeulen made his move on lap two.
The race then moved into a holding pattern for the next 10 laps, as Vermeulen led despite the close attention from Laconi, Haga, James Toseland (Fila Ducati 999F04) and Australian Garry McCoy (XEROX -- Ducati Nortel Networks 999RS) -- the top five after yesterday's Superpole shootout.
The quintet was rarely separated by more than 1.5sec during the middle part of the race, with another Australian, Steve Martin (DFX Ducati 999RS) left to circulate in a lonely sixth.
As Vermeulen continued to push hard from the front, McCoy eventually became exiled from the leading group, with the battling duo of Haga and Toseland also succumbing to the pace shortly after.
That left Vermeulen and Laconi to their own devices, with the latter's swift move past the Australian on lap 19 the next decisive moment.
With Vermeulen unable to conjure up a reply, Laconi eventually won by 1.122sec to make it 232 SBK victories for the all-conquering Ducatis, with Toseland just getting the better of Haga for third. McCoy and Martin saw out the top six, followed by local hero Pierfrancesco Chili (PSG Ducati 998RS), Marco Borciani (DFX 999RS), Gianluca Nannelli (XEROX -- Ducati Nortel Networks 999RS) and Leon Haslam (Renegade Ducati Koji 999RS).
Meanwhile, 1996 world champion Troy Corser was 12th on his Foggy Petronas FP1 after holding down sixth position in the opening two laps.
Despite his defeat at the hands of Laconi, Vermeulen returned to the lead in the championship in race one at the expense of Toseland. In a logjammed leaderboard, Vermeulen is now on 272pts, the narrowest possible margin ahead of Toseland (271), with Laconi (270) lurking in third from Haga (254).