After three barren seasons with Kawasaki in the World Superbike Championship, it is remarkably easy to forget how much success Regis Laconi has enjoyed in a career that has spanned almost three decades.
Still one of the few riders to have won in Grand Prix and World Superbike racing, observers may consider Laconi, now 34-years-old, to be in the twilight of his career, but 2009 marks his return to Ducati with the DFX Corse team.
It remains to be seen whether he can get close to matching the success he has had with the Italian manufacturer over the years, including his runner-up spot behind James Toseland with the factory team in 2004, but for the moment Laconi is here to stay.
Although Superbikes have made up a vast majority of his CV in recent years, it was in Grand Prix racing that Laconi really made his name, rising through the French ranks with success at both 125 and 250cc level before he joined the 250cc World Championship.
Riding a Honda in 1995 and 1996, Laconi garnered limited success in the series, finishing 27th overall on his debut before enjoying a small improvement with 15th in his second season.
Nonetheless, although he arrived clutching just a best result of seventh place at 250cc level, Laconi was destined for the 500cc World Championship, graduating with the Tecmas Elf Honda team for 1997.
Remarkably, given his patchy form on smaller machinery, Laconi took to the premier class remarkably well, finishing inside the points in the first four races of the season, including two top ten results. However, Laconi’s season would take a turn for the worse at the fifth round at Zeltweg, Austria when he crashed and injured himself.
Missing the next four races, Laconi returned for the remaining six rounds, resuming the promise he showed at the beginning of the year by qualifying eighth and finishing seventh at Brno before bringing a strong rookie season to a close with fifth in Australia. He would end the year classified 14th overall.
Acquiring backing from drinks giant Red Bull for 1998, Laconi was snapped up by Yamaha but suffered an inauspicious start when he crashed during the first round at Suzuka and missed the next round in Malaysia.
Returning for the third round at Jerez, Laconi enjoyed a consistent, if not outstanding, season, gradually improving as the year wore on to record a total of nine top ten finishes and manage a best result of sixth at the Sachsenring from a maiden front row grid slot.
Finishing tenth in the final standings, Laconi was nonetheless upstaged by team-mate Simon Crafar, who won a race at Silverstone on the way to seventh overall.
Retained for 1999, this season would mark one of Laconi’s crowning moments after he took a surprise first victory from pole position at Valencia. The first win of the season for Yamaha at that time, his triumph went on to inspire Max Biaggi and Norifumi Abe to score a win for the manufacturer too.
However, save for a third place at the following Australian round, Laconi actually endured a relatively tough 1999, with the consistency he enjoyed in his first two seasons eluding him. Finishing inside the top ten on just five more occasions, with a best result of fifth, Laconi would eventually finish the season 11th overall, a somewhat lowly position given his race winning antics.
Nonetheless, that win had earned Laconi a stay of execution with Yamaha and he rewarded them with a return to consistency. Finishing every race inside the points, Laconi was a regular top ten finisher, although he would go no higher than fifth place, at Estoril, behind race winning team-mate Garry McCoy.
However, despite being the only rider over the season to score in each race, it wasn’t enough for Laconi to finish the season any better than 12th, albeit just ten points adrift of the top ten.
Dropped by Yamaha for 2001, Laconi was frozen out of MotoGP altogether, forcing him to look for a new berth in the World Superbike Championship and finding it at Aprilia alongside Troy Corser.
The transition was initially seamless, Laconi backing up Corser’s two race wins at the opening Spanish round with a fourth place finish on his debut. From here, though, Laconi’s form dipped around circuits he didn’t know and headed into the final round clutching a best of two fifth places at Sugo and Oschersleben.
Nonetheless, Laconi would go on to give his reputation a massive boost by winning the final race of the season at Imola. He even led the first race around the San Marino circuit when colliding with Troy Bayliss before going on to make amends in race two. The win makes him one of only a few riders to win at Grand Prix and Superbike level.
His ‘reward’ was a ticket straight back to MotoGP with Aprilia, who were embarking on an ambitious project with the ‘Cube’. Although innovative in its conception and showing flashes of promise, the bike was otherwise considered a handful.
Although it was described as a developmental year, Laconi’s best result of the season came in the first round at Suzuka with an eighth place finish, a result he would later match at Mugello. However, beyond the first six races, Laconi would score just once more in the remaining ten races to end the season a lacklustre 19th overall.
Although Aprilia doubled their efforts for 2003, Laconi was not included in the team, forcing him to look back at the World Superbike Championship, an endeavour that won him a privateer Ducati run by Caracchi NCR Nortel.
Benefiting from being on the right bike in a series rife with the Italian machines, Laconi nonetheless proved to be one of the most accomplished opponents to the Fila Ducati dominance of Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus.
Managing a total of five podiums, including two second places, Laconi was also classified inside the top five on 15 occasions, results that lifted him to fourth position in the overall standings behind Hodgson, Xaus and James Toseland.
With Hodgson and Xaus moving on to MotoGP , Ducati looked to their next best riders for 2004, snapping up Toseland and Laconi as their factory representatives.
Although the championship was again considered a Ducati showcase after locking out eight of the top ten positions in the final standings, Toseland and Laconi were still considered tough to beat.
Even so, for Laconi, 2004 will be seen as massive missed opportunity. Although he endured a slow start to the season, Laconi was on the winner’s podium by round three, adding a further four victories to his tally in the ensuing six races. However, Toseland was matching Laconi throughout the season, the Brit shadowing him with consistency before scoring a crucial season finale win at Laconi’s home event in France to seal the title.
Although many consider the last race, where Laconi went in leading Toseland by four points, as the deciding round, it is arguably Laconi’s failure to score at the Valencia season opener that cost him the title since it gave Toseland a 45 point head start.
The full-scale return of the Japanese manufacturers in 2005 forced both Ducati and Laconi onto the back foot and he was hard pressed to match the success he enjoyed the previous season. His cause wasn’t aided by injuries though, ones that forced him to miss several races. Even so, he rode long enough to manage a further three wins and snatch sixth place in the overall standings.
Still, the arrival of Troy Bayliss and Lorenzo Lanzi meant it wasn’t enough for him to be retained for a third season. Even worse, despite his proven race win ability, Laconi found it difficult to find a ride elsewhere, eventually landing at PSG-1 Corse aboard a third factory Kawasaki.
The year didn’t go to plan for Laconi, though, as he struggles to get the Kawasaki adapted to his riding style. Good results go wanting with a best of fourth place at Brands Hatch and a consistent position in the lower reaches of the points.
However, despite finishing behind team-mate Fonsi Nieto and Chris Walker, it is Walker who was surprisingly dropped from the line-up when PSG trimmed their entry from three to two. Retaining Laconi instead, 2006 proved to be a better year for the Frenchman as he proved a regular top ten finisher, even if he didn’t manage to get on the podium like Nieto.
Even so, points in all but six races would help him to finish the season a promising tenth overall, ahead of Nieto, earning him another season with the team into 2008.
The year would turn out to be Laconi’s worst, though, as he struggled on a bike that was proving a handful and devoid of the development required to help Kawasaki rival their four manufacturer rivals.
Indeed, highlights were few and far between, Laconi’s best result from the season being just an eighth place, although he often impressed in provisional qualifying when he was able to use the hour to get the bike’s set-up just right.
Although a late flurry of decent performances helped him finishing 16th in the standings, well up on team-mate Makoto Tamada, Laconi had already instructed the team of his decision to leave and was back on the rider market by the end of the year.
Although he was initially linked with Sterilgarda Ducati and Yamaha, Laconi will instead join DFX Corse. More significantly, though, the deal sees Laconi back on a Ducati after the team announced a switch from Honda. DFX’s sole full-time rider, Karl Muggeridge, finished one position ahead of Laconi in 2008.
- 2009: Returns to the Ducati fold with DFX Corse
- 2008: World Superbike Championship, PSG-1 Corse Kawasaki, 16th
- 2007: World Superbike Championship, PSG-1 Corse Kawasaki, 10th
- 2006: World Superbike Championship, PSG-1 Corse Kawasaki, 15th
- 2005: World Superbike Championship, Xerox Ducati, 6th (3 wins)
- 2004: World Superbike Championship, Fila Ducati, 2nd (7 wins)
- 2003: World Superbike Championship, Team Caracchi Ducati, 4th
- 2002: MotoGP World Championship, Aprilia, 19th
- 2001: World Superbike Championship, Aprilia, 11th (1 win)
- 2000: 500cc World Championship, Red Bull Yamaha, 12th
- 1999: 500cc World Championship, Red Bull Yamaha, 11th (1 win)
- 1998: 500cc World Championship, Red Bull Yamaha, 10th
- 1997: 500cc World Championship, Tecmas Elf Honda, 14th
- 1996: 250cc World Championship, Honda, 15th
- 1995: 250cc World Championship, Honda, 27th
- 1994: 250cc French Championship 1st
- 1993: 250cc French Championship, 6th
- 1992: 125cc French Championship, Yamaha, 1st
125cc World Championship
- 1991: 125cc French Championship