Mertens Wins with Photo Finish in Italy Having crashed out of the lead of the last race in France, Belgium's Stephane Mertens sped to a fantastic first win of the BMW Motorrad BoxerCup 2004 season with a typically cool ride in what was yet ...
Mertens Wins with Photo Finish in Italy
Having crashed out of the lead of the last race in France, Belgium's Stephane Mertens sped to a fantastic first win of the BMW Motorrad BoxerCup 2004 season with a typically cool ride in what was yet another thrillingly close race with the top five riders crossing the finish line in just 0.48 seconds.2003 Mugello winner Roberto nd Panichi (I) was 2 just 0.077 secs behind the Belgian's BMW R 1100 S with BoxerCup leader after four races, Thomas Hinterreiter (A) a mere 0.38secs behind in third. The race was held in typically hot Tuscan conditions, and in front of the typically fanatical Italian fans who have come to enjoy a festival of motorcycling that is focussed around the MotoGP championships.
The 14 lap BMW BoxerCup race was always going to be a slip streaming affair right from the word go, and the favourites soon made a break for it at the front with Panichi making the early running, trying to go-it-alone where he excels in clean air. But pole sitter Hinterreiter and Daytona winner Brian Parriott (USA) had other ideas about Panichi escaping, whilst Mertens never even entered the top three places at all. Four where then five as Sebastien Legrelle joined the fray and only being 0.7 secs back of the leader at the half way point. This leading group were working well and soon some eight seconds ahead of Markus Barth (D), Dirk Buylinckxs (B), Richard Cooper (UK) and VIP rider from RTL TV in Germany, Jurgen Füchs, who were having a tremendous battle themselves, similar to the leaders.
Only four laps before the end did Mertens put his cards on the table when he led, but only for a few corners as Hinterreiter surged ahead. He then planted his BMW at the front again by leading with a lap and a half to go. He knew that the dilemma would be not to lead out of the final corner and this is how he positioned himself when right behind Panichi. They swerved and weaved all the way down the front straight with a photo finish the only way to split them on the line.
It was a breathtaking race all the way, but what was all the more stunning was Mertens' pace on lap four of a fourteen lap race when he set a lap time just 0.001secs slower than pole position. The class of the 2002 BMW BoxerCup champion was really on show for all his rivals to see this weekend...and that's before he's racing in the Nürburgring 24 hour car race next weekend!
The Bikeworld Nürburgring Klipfel Racing rider said after the podium champagne, "I am so very happy to win this race after Le Mans. I needed a good result and this is exactly what I got for the season ahead."
Panichi was none too disappointed with second. "I was thinking all race about the final corner so I decided to make a break for it on the last lap, and when I looked behind at the last chicane I thought I could win it, but Stephane just got past on the line."
Hinterreiter said, "At the start of the last lap I was third, and I thought it was going to be good for me at the finish, but then Parriott passed me and it meant the other two just got away. It's OK though as I'm in the lead of the championship to Barcelona where I won last year."
BMW Motorrad's Bertie Hauser was underneath the podium and said, "I'm very happy for Stephane to win here in Mugello. They all did a good race, but only one could win it. It was exciting for us all watching as you could never tell who was going to win until the last moment...the speciality of the BMW BoxerCup!"
The BMW Motorrad BoxerCup 2004 will be back in action in three weeks' time at the Assen track in Holland where 125,000 people will be treated to the BMW's racing as the opening race of the day on Saturday June th 26.