World Superbike 2004 saw its fourth different winner in four races today at Phillip Island, as 'Slide King' Garry McCoy guided his NCR Ducati to a popular first ever WSBK victory, in a drama filled race that saw both factory Ducatis crash out.
Race one winner Regis Laconi
led from pole position, with McCoy, Vermeulen, Toseland, Martin, Corser, Haslam, Walker and Haga in close formation. Toseland, third in race one, was to be the first high profile casualty when he spun out of third at Siberia, shortly after overtaking Vermeulen.
By contrast, Laconi's race was going perfectly to plan - the Frenchman edging ever further away from McCoy, while Garry found himself under pressure from countryman Martin, who – having passed Vermeulen – was locked onto the former MotoGP star's rear wheel by mid race distance.
But on lap 14 of 22 Ducati Fila's day went from bad to worse as Laconi - by then enjoying a 4secs lead - lost the front of his factory 999 at MG corner, sending the Frenchman sliding into retirement after his third DNF from four starts.
Laconi's exit meant that the bar-to-bar battling between home heroes Martin and McCoy was now for the lead, and with neither rider or their respective teams having ever won a World SBK race the tension in both the DFX and NCR pits was on a knife edge, while Vermeulen sat some 9secs further back for a safe podium.
Martin would gain the upper ground on McCoy with less than five laps to go, and had built a slim, but significant, 0.9secs lead as he began his 19th lap. But as the former Australian SBK champ headed towards the Honda hairpin his 999's engine exploded in a cloud of smoke, leaving Steve punching the fuel tank with frustration.
McCoy duly inherited the lead, and with a 7secs lead over Vermeulen could afford to back off for the final two laps – in which he was cheered all around the seaside circuit by the home fans before taking the chequered flag with his fist in the air for his first victory since 2000, while on a Red Bull Yamaha in 500cc GP.
6secs further back Vermeulen took his second runner-up position of the day, while - riding last year's 998 - claimed the final place on the race two podium, 2.9secs behind the yellow Ten Kate Fireblade.
Fourth place was taken by Martin's team-mate Marco Borciani, while Troy Corser
grabbed an excellent fifth, after a disappointing race one, to put his Foggy Petronas FP1 ahead of Valencia winner Noriyuki Haga. Sanchini, Walker, Clementi and Haslam completed the top ten.
After today's two races, Toseland now leads Chili by five points in the championship, with McCoy and Vermeulen tied for third just one point further back. Meanwhile, Laconi's early season woes have left him just tenth – 36 points behind Toseland. Results - Phillip Island race two: