Imola: Saturday qualifying report

Laconi on pole, Vermeulen and McCoy providing close company French maestro Regis Laconi (Ducati Fila 999F04) will start from pole position for round 10 of the Superbike World Championship at Imola (Italy) on September 26. The 29-year-old edged...

Laconi on pole, Vermeulen and McCoy providing close company

French maestro Regis Laconi (Ducati Fila 999F04) will start from pole position for round 10 of the Superbike World Championship at Imola (Italy) on September 26.

The 29-year-old edged out Australians Chris Vermeulen (Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) and Garry McCoy (XEROX -- Ducati Nortel Networks 999RS) in today's Superpole one-lap shootout, setting the scene for what should be two hotly contested 21-lap races.

Laconi, after completing the two 60-minute qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday with the best time, was last away in Superpole, just minutes after Vermeulen had gone under the 50-second barrier for the first time all weekend -- a 1:49.939 the Aussie's take on proceedings.

However, Laconi's retort to Vermeulen's belligerence was all class, as the former 500 GP winner unleashed a rocket of his own -- a nerveless 1:49.818.

"For me it's important to be here on pole position because I am half-Italian and Ducati is very close to here, so I'm sure there will be lots of fans trying to help me win the races tomorrow," Laconi, who is a previous Superbike winner at Imola, said. "Imola seems a very good track for me and the Ducati is working very well also."

Laconi also finished on the podium twice at last year's Imola hitout, with both races won by Spaniard Ruben Xaus on a factory Ducati.

Despite losing out in the thrust-and-parry of Superpole, Vermeulen, who is set to test Honda's MotoGP bike in China later this year, was content with his day's toil.

"The bike felt good this morning, and I was quite comfortable -- but the lap time was slow, just like everyone else," he said. "So we made some changes for the afternoon session, but they didn't turn out the way we wanted.

"However, on the plus side we made a big step forward with the tyres and suspension, and the bike felt good on the race tyre."

Laconi's Superpole triumph was his fifth in 10 rounds, with Steve Martin (three), Troy Corser (one) and exuberant Italian Pierfrancesco Chili (one) the other riders to start from pole position in 2004.

Rounding out the front row around the classic 4.933km layout, which is situated 30km from Bologna, will be Japan's Noriyuki Haga (Renegade Ducati Koji 999RS, 1:50.452), who has won five of the last 10 races to take his total SBK haul to 16 -- equal seventh on the all-time list.

With the various incarnations of Ducati -- 999F04, 998RS and 999RS - filling eight of the top 10 grid positions, championship leader James Toseland (Fila Ducati 999F04, 1:50.691) will start from fifth after improving two spots on his qualifying effort in Superpole. Alongside Toseland will be Giovanni Bussei (DeCecco Racing 998RS, 1:50.895) and Team Pedercini colleagues Lucio Pedercini (998RS, 1:51.063) and Gianluca Nannelli (998RS, 1:51.470).

Toseland currently leads the championship on 255pts, after finishing on the podium in 10 of the 18 races thus far. The young Briton displaced Vermeulen from the lead at the last round in Assen, although the Aussie still remains in the mix to clinch his second world championship in as many years.

Vermeulen is on 252pts, with Laconi (245) and Haga (241) also still in the championship hunt.

The remaining three Australians in action this weekend, Martin (DFX Ducati 999RS, 1:51.476), Corser (Foggy Petronas FP1, 1:51.685) and Nowland (Zongshen Suzuki GSX-R1000), will start from grid positions nine, 10 and 22.

-motorcycling australia-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Garry McCoy , Noriyuki Haga , Ruben Xaus , Lucio Pedercini , Troy Corser , Giovanni Bussei , Chris Vermeulen , Laconi Régis