1 October 2004
Preview - Magny Cours.
After the penultimate round at Imola, three riders now enter the final hurdle of the championship race - at Magny Cours in central France - with more than realistic chance of lifting the 2004 world title.
For Fila Ducati's Regis Laconi, team-mate James Toseland and Ten Kate Honda's Chris Vermeulen the ultimate spoils are very much up for grabs, and even fourth placed rider Renegade Ducati's Noriyuki Haga has a purely mathematical chance of lifting the title.
One thing is certain this year, on Sunday evening there will be a new name on the World Superbike roll of honour, as none of the top contenders has ever won the SBK series outright before.
Leading the championship table is Regis Laconi, who took the title lead last weekend after the latest of his seven race wins. On 295 points Laconi is also on home turf at Magny Cours.
In second place, Toseland has found additional pace and mountains of Yorkshire grit in the last few races, and is only four points behind, with a possible 50 for any rider who wins both races.
In third place, after a spectacularly dramatic last race, in which he scored second and sixth after a huge crash in warm up, Chris Vermeulen is still well capable of catching his opponents, aided by his fast four-cylinder machine. His total of 282 is only 13 from the lead.
Taking the title seems impossible for Haga now, the Japanese rider being some 41 points behind Laconi. Of the championship contenders, all four are under 30 years old, with Vermeulen aged 22 and Toseland 23 – a good sign for the future direction of the class.
PSG-1 Ducati's Pierfrancesco Chili is currently a strong fifth in the title hunt, having dropped out of an early season lead due to the occasional fall and technical problems. The 40-year-old fighter would like nothing more than to sign off this season with his second win.
Xerox DUcati's Garry McCoy has been a winner in 2004, and was back to more expected form at Imola, posting a pair of fifth places. He currently enjoys a 15-point advantage over another top Aussie privateer, DFX Ducati's Steve Martin.
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