Laconi and Toseland (Ducati Fila) Battle Down To The Wire With Vermeulen (Honda) at Magny-Cours Magny-Cours (France), 30 September 2004: Ten rounds down, one to go; two races remain before the title is awarded to the seventeenth...
Laconi and Toseland (Ducati Fila) Battle Down To The Wire With Vermeulen (Honda) at Magny-Cours
Magny-Cours (France), 30 September 2004: Ten rounds down, one to go; two races remain before the title is awarded to the seventeenth World Superbike champion, the successor to, amongst others, Neil Hodgson, Troy Bayliss and Carl Fogarty; on the eve of the final round just thirteen points separate the top three riders - Regis Laconi and James Toseland (Ducati Fila), who are split by four, and Chris Vermeulen (Honda) a further nine behind.
The Circuit Nevers Magny-Cours in central France is the scene therefore for the final act of the 2004 World Superbike championship season. A race to the finish, a battle royale, Anglo-French rivalry at its peak, but with Australia thrown in for good measure ....
Regis Laconi did his chances no harm whatsoever with an impressive double victory at Imola last Sunday. The 29-year-old Frenchman wants to become the first from his country to win the WSBK title since Raymond Roche in 1990. Seven wins this year, his home circuit to come, Laconi is all fired up and ready to go.
"Now I feel OK after the races in Imola because it was important to get a couple of good results in the penultimate round" commented Regis. "I don't feel under too much pressure here, I think Imola was worse because I could have been ten points behind and instead I am four points ahead. The fight is with James but for sure we have to keep an eye on Chris, it's not going to be easy.
"It depends on qualifying over the weekend but the most important thing is what happens on Sunday at 12 o'clock at the start and after two or three laps. If you have everything right, you go in the front and go away but if you don't then you have to battle with everyone, you cannot prepare the race before. The first race will be very important and we will see what happens, that is my philosophy for this weekend, I'm not saying anything else."
James Toseland scored a second and a third at Imola but these results were good enough to give the 23-year-old British rider a virtually equal chance of winning the title as his Ducati Fila team-mate.
"There's nothing in it" declared James. "I'm pleased with the way I dug deep at Imola and showed the spirit to fight for the championship. Everybody wants the title, there's going to be a lot of pressure on Regis in France, but the Ducati Fila team has been awesome all through the year and deserve to win this championship, whether it's me or him. They have put a major effort to win it, so it should be one-two at the end.
"We tested at Magny-Cours two weeks ago and did really well so I'm confident that Friday morning we can be strong and work well all over the weekend. I had pole there last year so I know I can go fast. If we can get it right Friday morning, which we have been doing recently, then I'm confident that we'll be on top come Sunday. The best man will win and that's what has made the championship so exciting. If I win I'll be the happiest guy on earth but if I don't then I just have to be pleased with what I've done this year, but for me second isn't an option."
Lanzi (Ducati Breil) Aims For Podium at Magny-Cours Finale
Magny-Cours (France), 30 September 2004: After an excellent performance at his home track of Imola last Sunday, Team Ducati Breil's Lorenzo Lanzi will be looking for more of the same at Magny-Cours in central France as he aims to finish the season on a high note.
22-year-old Lanzi was the first non-Honda rider to the finish at Imola when he took his Ducati 749R to fourth place for the third time this year, just over half-a-second away from third place, and he is convinced that a podium could be on the cards this weekend.
"Let's hope we can get onto the podium!" commented Lorenzo. "We've been chasing it since the start of the year. It's going to be difficult but even at Imola we didn't think we could have done such a good race; instead it was one of best of the season. We've never tested here, but we'll try and find the right direction immediately for the weekend.
"Fifth place in the world championship is possible and for us this would be an exceptional result, so we're going to try as hard as possible to get it. I really like the Magny-Cours track, last year I won here, it's quite quick and there are a few medium-slow bits so we shouldn't have any problems. However a podium would be the perfect end to the season for us."