Shell Advances to SBK World Rider's Title
Magny Cours, France, 3rd October 2004: The final acts of the 2004 World Superbike Championship were played out in front of 61,000 people at the Magny Cours Formula One facility near Nevers in France. With three riders (two of them Shell Advance supported Ducati riders) in with a chance for the silverware it was always going to be a weekend to watch, and neither race disappointed.
Race weekend greeted the teams with a slightly overcast and chilly outlook, which changed to sunshine by the end of the second race. The tension easy to see; Regis Laconi, the French Shell Advance supported Ducati Fila rider, hoped to extend his points lead in race one and clinch the World Rider's Championship in race two in front of his home fans, while his team mate, Britain's James Toseland, intended to give his all in an effort to drown the outside pressures and concentrate on stealing two race wins and taking the Championship trophy back to Britain.
A thrilling 'Superpole' session saw the main SBK World Championship protagonists at the top of the timesheets for Sunday's grid, but there was a twist in the tale. By the end of the session Troy Corser headed the session to put his FP1 machine on pole for the first time this season while the Shell Advance supported Ducati Fila bikes were set to start on the first and second rows; James Toseland in third place behind Honda's Chris Vermeulen, and Regis Laconi in fifth behind local hero Sebastien Gimbert.
Race One - A Race Win for Toseland and Shell Advance
Toseland converted his front row start into first position before the first lap was completed. Laconi made a charge from fifth on the grid up to second in front of Vermeulen in the early stages, before Vermeulen retired with mechanical problems on his Honda, and Noriyuki Haga made his intentions clear. The race long duel with Toseland saw the lead change almost every lap before finally Toseland stamped his authority on the race and the Renegade Ducati of Noriyuki Haga to take the win. While the Shell Advance lubricant had to withstand the immense pressure imposed on the bike, protecting the engine from damage and allowing Toseland to use 100% of its power.
With Vemeulen not finishing race one the only Championship contenders were the two Shell Advance supported riders on their factory Ducati 999R F04's, meaning the French crowd would have to see if Laconi could challenge is team mate for the title.
Race Two - 2nd Place brings Toseland and Shell Advance the SBK World Rider's Title
Although not quite the nip and tuck affair of race one, the last race of the World Superbike season had the French crowd on the edge of their seats. Toseland got the start he needed, while Laconi fought it out in the chasing pack. Haga again put pressure on the British rider and got past a few laps into the race, only for Toseland to bide his time and retake the lead. It wasn't to last though, as Haga became the eventual race winner with James Toseland taking second place to secure the coveted SBK World Championship title and his team mate, Regis Laconi, crossed the line in 3rd place to take the last step on the podium and second in the World Championship in front of his home fans.
After the race the newly crowned Champion was visible ecstatic: "I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has helped me become world champion here today, the list is too long to mention everyone but it includes all my family and friends, GSE, Fila, Shell Advance, Ducati Corse, all of my team and all the team's sponsors" declared an emotional James Toseland after the podium. "I think I deserved to become world champion at the end, these last three rounds have gone really well and that's down to the team who have given me the best opportunity to win with the best bike. There was no option of making a mistake today or doing anything wrong, it was that close, it was a great season with Regis, there were some great races and it could easily have been him up here".
2004 brings Ducati Corse their 13th Manufacturer's World Championship in World Superbikes and now British rider James Toseland gives them the 11th Rider's Title, their fifth in eight years with Shell Advance's technical support - quite an achievement!