28 March 2004
Laconi takes Island race one – from Vermeulen.
Regis Laconi won his second ever World Superbike race at Phillip Island today, the Frenchman withstanding an early assault from team-mate James Toseland to take a commanding victory, while Steve Martin, Chris Vermeulen, Toseland and Garry McCoy battled for the runner-up spot.
Leon Haslam led the field through the fast turn one, hugging a tight inside line to keep Laconi and Toseland at bay, but the young Brit's Renegade run Ducati 999's engine would expire just half a lap later, ending his hopes agonisingly early.
Haslam's misfortune allowed Laconi to hit the front, but if Regis thought his one second advantage from Superpole would make him untouchable he would have been somewhat surprised to find Toseland throw his sister machine ahead within one lap.
Nevertheless, Laconi quickly retaliated to put the #55 up front, and would never be overtaken again – but that's not to say he wasn't pushing; plumes of blue tyre smoke from his, and especially Toseland's, rear Pirelli right from the start proved their effort.
Championship leader Toseland would keep in touch with Laconi until lap 12 of 22, at which point attention turned to the Englishman's fast approaching pursuers: Martin had been behind the factory Ducatis right from the start and was now using his local knowledge to catch the #52, while Haga, Vermeulen (quickly recovering from another poor start), Chili and McCoy disputed the lower top five positions.
DFX rider Martin would make his expected move on Toseland soon after, the former Australian SBK champion outbraking his rival into the Honda hairpin, but James fought back and while the pair exchanged positions Vermeulen – now fourth – and McCoy (a futher 2secs back) were able to close-up on the fight for second, and with five laps to go all four were nose-to-tail.
One lap later Vermeulen moved into a podium position after Toseland's increasingly unpredictable 999 kicked out under acceleration, and the young Aussie's new Fireblade was soon crawling all over an increasingly defensive Martin.
Heading into the last lap, Laconi was a clear 7secs ahead, but Martin was sure to face an attack from Vermeulen and when it came - under braking for the Honda hairpin – Martin's woes doubled as Toseland also took advantage, making slight contact as he muscled his way into third.
Toseland then held the position through the long left hand corners which complete the lap, his rear tyre still smoking spectacularly all the way, to take a hard earned podium – while ahead of him Laconi took his first race victory, and indeed finish, with the Ducati Fila team.
Performance of the race though was that of Vermeulen, who claimed a landmark in his second World Superbike race, much to the delight of his Ten Kate team and the watching Australian fans.
McCoy took fifth behind Martin, while Sanchini, Borciani, Haga, Chili and Walker completed the top ten.
Race two takes place this afternoon (local time).
Results - Phillip Island race one:
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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