Ten Kate Honda's Karl Muggeridge chalked up his second successive win ahead of team-mate Chris Vermeulen, who in turn clinched the 2003 World Supersport championship following a gripping toe-to-toe battle involving the two yellow CBR600RR machines in Sunday's 10th round of action at Imola, Italy.
"I am absolutely over the moon. I must admit it's a completely different feeling to what I expected. I knew Karl was quick but I was thinking about the championship," said Vermeulen, who becomes the youngest-ever Supersport World champion at 21 years, three months and nine days.
Muggeridge continued his rich vein of form following a win at Assen, Holland to record his third World Supersport win with a margin of 0.771s. "I am really happy. All credit to the guys. The tyres were working great and everything was perfect. I'll do all I can to make it three wins in a row at Magny-Cours," said Muggeridge.
Muggeridge got the holeshot - as he did at Assen - and led the race for 11 laps before being passed by Vermeulen. The 29-year-old, on the number 31 Ten Kate Honda, retook the lead with two laps to go and held on to the chequered flag.
As the battle between the two Australians intensified, Vermeulen tried to steal a march on his team-mate in a heart-stopping final lap manoeuvre." I didn't expect Karl to pass me so early on. I just had a big run and couldn't stop," said the 21-year-old Brisbane-born racer.
Team manager Ronald ten Kate said: "I am on top of the world. Of course, our maiden win [Fabien Foret, 2001] was special but this year the sheer volume of work that was carried out by everyone was just immense."
Ten Kate clinched their second consecutive World Supersport crown with both riders on the top two steps of the podium. "Every round we try to make things better," added Ten Kate. It does not get much better than this.
World Supersport championship race result (21 laps - 103.593km):
1 Karl Muggeridge, Australia (Ten Kate Honda) 39m 48.471s, 2 Chris Vermeulen, Australia (Ten Kate Honda) +0.771s, 3 Jurgen van den Goorbergh, Holland (Yamaha) +7.380, 4 Stephane Chambon, France (Suzuki) +10.035, 5 Sebastien Charpentier, France (Honda) +10.766, 6 Gianluca Nannelli, Italy (Yamaha) +13.884, 7 Tekkyu Kayo, Japan (Yamaha) +15.870, 8 Iain MacPherson, GB (Honda) +34.341, 9 Antonio Carlacci, Italy (Yamaha) +35.085, 10 Simone Sanna, Italy (Yamaha) +35.151.
Championship points after 10 of 11 rounds:
1 Vermeulen 181, 2 Chambon 126, 3 Van den Goorbergh 120, 4 Katsuaki Fujiwara, Japan (Suzuki) 119, 5 Muggeridge 109, 6 Christian Kellner, Germany (Yamaha) 82, 7 Alessio Corradi, Italy (Yamaha) 68, 8 Fabien Foret, France (Kawasaki) 64, 9 Jörg Teuchert, Germany (Yamaha) 60, 10 Charpentier, 59.
Final round: Magny-Cours, France - October 19