World Supersport Championship 2003 Round 10
Imola, Italian Round
26 – 28 September 2003
Weather: dry, overcast 21°C
VERMEULEN SECURES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WITH STYLE
Chris Vermeulen (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) had to give best to his team-mate Karl Muggeridge in the 21-lap World Supersport Race at Imola but he nonetheless romped home in World Supersport Championship itself, winning the title with one race to go. It was Vermeulen’s first World Championship win, the second successive Rider’s title for Honda, to add to the Manufacturers’ crown this year.
For the entire race Muggeridge and Vermeulen set the pace, with Vermeulen making a play for the lead in the middle of the contest, and Muggeridge was content to let him go for a time. With Muggeridge passing Vermeulen once more with four laps to go, the last lap saw the 21-year-old Aussie re-take his compatriot Muggeridge on the descent to the first Rivazza, but braked too deep, allowing Muggeridge enough space to pass on the inside and hold his advantage to the flag.
It was Muggeridge’s second win in succession, and Honda’s sixth of the 2003 season so far. Dutchman Jurgen van den Goorbergh (Yamaha) scored third place, and Vermeulen’s previous closest challenger Katsuaki Fujiwara (Suzuki) fell out of contention at the final chicane on lap 19.
For Vermeulen the loss of the race win was sufferable compared to his season result. “Being world champion hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said in the post race press conference. “I was just enjoying the race, I made a mistake at the end and Karl got the better of me.” He continued; “We knew right from the first test session that we had something special with the 2003 CBR600RR. Even just sitting on the machine felt good and we knew straight away that it had been built to win races.”
Muggeridge underlined his and his machine’s potential once more at one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar. The pole position rider paid tribute to Vermeulen’s success and knew he was in a fight, despite obliterating the previous circuit best in qualifying with a 1:51.592. “We had no team orders,” affirmed Muggeridge. “Our team boss, Ronald Ten Kate trusts Chris and I enough, and we respect each other’s riding enough, not to do anything too crazy. Ronald just told us to go out there and put on a good show so that’s what we did.”
Sebastien Charpentier (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) could have been part of a Honda 1-2-3 on the podium but a couple of big rear wheel slides dropped him down the order, although he fought back to a furious fifth. “It’s the first time at Imola for me. I tried very hard for the podium but when Fujiwara San crashed I nearly hit him and I lost a lot of time to the leading group. It is OK though and I am happy with a top five.”
British rider Ian Macpherson (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) swept to a fine eighth place after a poor qualifying. “I’ve really struggled this weekend so to get a top ten is really good. It doesn’t sound so good given my past results but the team worked hard and I gave 100% and pulled the result out of the bag.”
Robert Ulm toiled to 13th, having survived some dramas in the pre race build up. “This weekend I have had two crashes so I was not very relaxed for the race. At the start I had a good feeling but as it progressed I had a small problem with the front end, which made it difficult.
Werner Daemen (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) had a repeat of some earlier technical problems and retired. “The engine management seemed to chime in at the top end again, limiting out top speed and revs. One rider passed me, then another, then another and I knew I should just come in.”
Vermeulen now sits on 181 points, with Stephane Chambon (Suzuki) on 126, van den Goorbergh on 120 and Fujiwara on 119. Muggeridge has risen to fifth, and is a slender ten points from fourth place, with the last race of the year coming at Magny Cours on October 19.
In Round 11 of the World Superbike Championship the first race was taken by Ruben Xaus (Ducati), after an often tactile fight with his team mate and new World Champion Neil Hodgson (Ducati). The intervention of backmarkers played its part on the last two corners, but third place Regis Laconi (Ducati) was powerless to intervene in the battle for the win, settling for a clear third place.
The second 21-lap competition was again a fight at the front for the factory Ducati squad until Hodgson made an error on lap 18, ran off track, dropping to fifth and finishing an eventual fourth. Xaus was left a free run to the flag and scored a double race win. A good contest for second in the early stages finally gave Laconi a clear 20 point score, with Gregorio Lavilla (Suzuki) third.
In the World Championship newly crowned champ Hodgson has 464 points, Xaus 341, while Laconi moves up to third overall with 257.
Supersport and Superbike classes return for the season denouements at Magny Cours, on October 19th.
RACE : (Laps 21 = 103,593 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
1/K. MUGGERIDGE/AUS/Ten Kate Honda/39’48.471
2/C. VERMEULEN/AUS/Ten Kate Honda/0.771
3/J. VD GOORBERGH/NED/Yamaha Belgarda/7.380
4/S. CHAMBON/FRA/Alstare Suzuki/10.035
5/S. CHARPENTIER/FRA/Team Klaffi Honda/10.766
6/G.NANNELLI/ITA/Lorenzini by Leoni/13.884
7/T. KAYO/JPN/Yamaha Belgarda/15.870
8/I. MACPHERSON/GBR/Van Zon Honda T.K.R./34.341
9/A. CARLACCI/ITA/Start Team/35.085
10/S. SANNA/ITA/Yamaha Belgarda/35.151
11/M.LAGRIVE/FRA/Yamaha France – Ipone/35.266
12/C. KELLNER/GER/Yamaha Motor Deutschland/40.252
13/R.ULM/AUT/Team Klaffi Honda/44.370
14/J. TEUCHERT/GER/Yamaha Motor Deutschland/53.157
15/A. POLITA/ITA/Italia Spadaro F.R./53.498
Fastest Lap 16° Kevin Curtain 1’53.122 156,988 Km/h
Riders Championship Standings:
1 VERMEULEN 181, 2 CHAMBON 126, 3 VD GOORBERGH 120, 4 FUJIWARA 119,
5 MUGGERIDGE 109, 6 KELLNER 82, 7 CORRADI 68, 8 FORET 64, 9 TEUCHERT 60,
10 CHARPENTIER 59, 11 RIBA 49, 12 PARKES 47, 13 COGAN 44, 14 MACPHERSON 31,
15 NANNELLI 28.
1 HONDA 222, 2 SUZUKI 176, 3 YAMAHA 166, 4 KAWASAKI 96.
Race 1: (Laps 21 = 103,593 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
1/R. XAUS/ESP/Ducati Fila/38’30.586
3/R. LACONI/FRA/Caracchi NCR Nortel Net./8.778
5/P. CHILI/ITA/Team PSG-1/37.382
6/S. MARTIN/AUS/D.F.X. Racing Team/39.576
7/T. CORSER/AUS/Foggy PETRONAS Racing/50.840
9/I. CLEMENTI/ITA/Kawasaki Bertocchi/1’01.306
10/M.BORCIANI/ITA/D.F.X. Racing Team/1’09.525
11/J. BORJA/ESP/D.F.X. Racing Team/1’10.844
12/D. GARCIA/ESP/Caracchi NCR Nortel Net./1’21.015
13/A. GRAMIGNI/ITA/Nuvolari 391/1’29.975
14/S. FUERTES/ESP/MIR Racing/1’33.884
15/L. PINI/ITA/Boselli Racing/1’44.014
Fastest Lap 7° Neil Hodgson 1’49.317 162,452 Km/h
Race 2 : (Laps 21 = 103,593 Km)
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team /Gap
1/R. XAUS/ESP/Ducati Fila/38’29.867
2/R. LACONI/FRA/Caracchi NCR Nortel Net./12.038
5/C.WALKER/GBR/HM Plant Ducati/25.952
6/L. PEDERCINI/ITA/Team Pedercini/51.778
7/T. CORSER/AUS/Foggy PETRONAS Racing/55.582
9/J. BORJA/ESP/D.F.X. Racing Team/1’03.424
10/D. GARCIA/ESP/Caracchi NCR Nortel Net./1’17.924
11/M.BORCIANI/ITA/D.F.X. Racing Team/1’31.807
12/A. GRAMIGNI/ITA/Nuvolari 391/1’34.712
13/S. FUERTES/ESP/MIR Racing/1’43.592
14/H. SAIGER/AUT/Remus Racing Austria/1 Lap
15/L. PINI/ITA/Boselli Racing/1 Lap
Fastest Lap 5° Ruben Xaus 1’49.181 162,655 Km/h
Riders Championship Standings:
1 HODGSON 464, 2 XAUS 341, 3 LACONI 257, 4 TOSELAND 240, 5 LAVILLA 230,
6 WALKER 202, 7 CHILI 197, 8 MARTIN 119, 9 BORCIANI 109, 10 PEDERCINI 107,
11 CORSER 99, 12 SANCHINI 96, 13 BORJA 71, 14 CLEMENTI 69, 15 BUSSEI 52.
1 DUCATI 550, 2 SUZUKI 280, 3 KAWASAKI 117, 4 PETRONAS 110, 5 YAMAHA 63,
6 HONDA 25.
Front row for Toseland at Imola
Today’s penultimate Superbike World Championship Superpole qualifying session took place at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit at Imola this afternoon. In near perfect conditions, HM Plant Ducati riders James Toseland and Chris Walker qualified in fourth and tenth respectively at the 4.93km Italian circuit.
Twenty-two-year-old Toseland has been the fastest rider throughout practice and official qualifying, posting a best lap of 1:49.011 yesterday afternoon. The final rider to go out during Superpole, a slight mistake on the final corner of his warm-up lap put too much pressure on the Yorkshire rider to match factory rider Ruben Xaus’s excellent lap time of 1:48.636 but Toseland’s time of 1:49.228 still put him on the front row for tomorrow’s race.
“It would have been nice to have been fastest but the most important thing is to be on the front row,” said Toseland. “I made a slight mistake coming on to the start finish straight but I’m not too concerned because I’ve been putting in the fast times since arriving here and have got a great set-up for tomorrow’s races, so as long as I get a good start I should be in with a shout of a decent result.”
Toseland’s team mate, Chris Walker has worked hard throughout qualifying and was fourth quickest after both official qualifying sessions, even though it is only his second visit to this circuit. Currently sixth in the championship, the Nottingham rider made a mistake during the mid-section of his Superpole lap and his time of 1:50.413 puts him tenth on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
“Superpole is all about taking chances and not making mistakes and unfortunately for me, I made a small mistake and paid the price. Having been one of the fastest riders so far this weekend it is disappointing to be on the third row, so I’ll be doing my best to make one of my demon starts tomorrow. If I can be up with the leading riders by the first corner I know I can run at the front.”
Walker bags fifth at Imola
Race two of the penultimate round of the 2003 Superbike World Championship didn’t go according to plan for the HM Plant Ducati team with James Toseland crashing out and failing to score any points. Team mate Chris Walker’s luck improved as he managed to finish race two in fifth place after his first race ended in the gravel trap.
In overcast conditions at the Italian circuit, Chris Walker made another fantastic start off the grid, moving up from tenth to fourth place by the first corner, just in front of his team mate. However, hungry for success after his retirement from race one with a broken gear lever, Toseland soon found a way past Walker and was challenging for a podium slot as early as lap four.
Knowing that Regis Laconi’s rostrum finish in race one had brought them to within a few points of each other with just one round of the championship remaining at Magny-Cours, Toseland continued his pursuit of the Frenchman, with Walker and Lavilla joining in the fun. This four-way battle for third continued for the majority of the race with Toseland trying all possibilities to find a gap to squeeze through. The Sheffield rider eventually managed this on the tenth lap by pushing Laconi wide and forcing his way through into third place.
However, on lap 15 Toseland’s nightmare weekend continued as he crashed out with just six laps remaining, losing his third place in the Superbike World Championship standings in the process. Walker went on to eventually finish the race in fifth place, just behind Neil Hodgson, who had rejoined the track after nearly crashing while battling with Ruben Xaus, who completed a double victory at Imola.
“That was my worst weekend of the year,” said Toseland. “After having gone so well throughout qualifying, it’s hard to believe that I have come away from Imola without a single point. I’ll just have to put this weekend behind me and concentrate on the final round of the championship at Magny-Cours where it will be my ambition to regain third place in the championship. While Ruben’s double victory has safeguarded his runner-up spot, third place in the 2003 Superbike World Championship is still up for grabs and that’s what I’ll be aiming for.”
“Although I would have liked to have finished higher than fifth, I was pleased with my performance in race two,” said Walker. “I made the start that I wanted to and once James passed me I was able to stay with him fairly comfortably. However, after Lavilla came past I started struggling for grip and when I saw James crash, I backed off slightly to make sure that I finished the race and got some points for the team.”
MUGGERIDGE GIVES CBR600RR IMOLA WIN AS
VERMEULEN TAKES WORLD TITLE
Honda CBR600RR rider Karl Muggeridge won a sensational race with his team-mate Chris Vermeulen and second place was enough to clinch the world title for Vermeulen in Sunday’s 10th round of the World Supersport championship at Imola in Italy.
The two fought tooth and nail for victory in the 21-lap affair but it was Muggeridge who took his second successive win and the sixth win of the year for the Honda CBR600RR.
“It was a tough last lap,” admitted Muggeridge. “I didn’t expect Chris to pass me with half a lap to go and he gave me a fright. But I knew he was never going to stop in time for the corner! I’m pleased to win again and want to make it a hat-trick at Magny-Cours in three weeks.”
Vermeulen becomes the youngest ever World Supersport champion as the 21-year-old eventually settled for second place to confirm his new status.
He said: “I wasn’t that bothered about winning the race but Karl was a little slower out of the chicane and I managed to pass him. When I ran wide I knew it was time to worry about finishing the race.”
Jurgen van den Goorbergh bounced back from a heavy crash in the last round at Assen to take third with former world champion Stephane Chambon fourth.
Klaffi Honda’s Sebastien Charpentier was looking to challenge for third place in the early stages and give Honda a 1-2-3 but the Frenchman almost crashed on the fourth lap and was relegated to eighth. He fought back to an eventual fifth.
“I tried everything I knew to pass Chambon,” said Charpentier. “But he brakes really late and makes it difficult to make a move. After my highside I was determined to try and get back to Chambon but then Katsuaki Fujiwara crashed in front of me and I almost stopped just to avoid hitting him.”
Luckless Gianluca Nannelli finished sixth, dropping two places on the last lap as his machine ran short of fuel. Wild card Japanese rider Tekkyu Kayo took a lonely seventh place while Van Zon Honda’s Iain MacPherson battled into eighth place after starting from 18th on the grid.
“I can’t believe I finished eighth,” said MacPherson. “It really felt effortless but I was up against it. Jorg Teuchert put me on the grass on the first lap and I had to get my head down from that moment until the end. The machine and tyres felt as good as they have all year.”
Italian Yamaha pair Antonio Carlacci and Simone Sanna finished ninth and 10th respectively while Klaffi Honda’s Robert Ulm took 13th place. Ulm commented: “After two crashes this weekend I couldn’t relax. I’m disappointed that I haven’t found my top form, which I’ve been searching for all year.”
Werner Daemen, on the second of the Van Zon Honda’s, was a third lap retirement, the diminutive Belgian explained: “The fault was intermittent so it must be something electrical. I¹m very disappointed, especially as I was really looking forward to the race here.”
Round 11: Imola, Italy
Thursday 25 September 2003
Sights set on Italian success
Imola was first introduced to the Superbike World Championship calendar in 2001 and the last two years have seen some epic battles around the 4.93km Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. Last year the Italian venue was the setting for a breathtaking season finale during which Colin Edwards snatched the 2002 title from Ducati’s Troy Bayliss. In 2001 it was the turn of Ruben Xaus as Regis Laconi to come to the fore.
This year, the French circuit of Magny Cours will stage the final round of the season on 19 October and Fila Ducati’s Neil Hodgson has already wrapped up the 2003 championship with four races yet to run. But this certainly does not mean that there will be any shortage of fireworks at the weekend. Hodgson will no doubt be keen to remind everybody just why he was crowned 2003 Superbike World Champion and Laconi and Xaus will be hoping to recreate their previous results at Imola.
However, these three Ducati riders will have their work cut out if they are to repel the orange attack that will be heading their way courtesy of James Toseland and Chris Walker.
For the HM Plant Ducati team-mates, Imola presents both challenges and opportunities. Toseland now has his sights firmly set on second place in the championship by the end of the season and is hoping to claw back some of the 51-point advantage that Xaus currently holds over him.
“I’m really fired up for this one,” said Toseland. “Getting a DNF at Assen has really put the cat among the pigeons. It might have been a slightly different situation if I’d got two fourths and moved out of Laconi’s reach. Then I could have ridden with nothing to lose at Imola – but I’m going to anyway, because that’s just me.
“It’s going to be every man for himself out there and everyone will be trying to get past at every opportunity, so I’m sure there’ll be elbows rubbing now and again. I desperately want second in the championship but I’ve also got to watch my back.”
Many other riders will be just as eager to impress as they look to secure their championship positions and hopefully a ride for 2004. The on-track competition is guaranteed to be fierce and this is something that Chris Walker, for one, will relish.
“This season has had its fair share of ups and downs for me,” said Walker. “A few unlucky injuries have made life difficult but on the whole I’ve had a great time with HM Plant Ducati. It’s a real shame that the team doesn’t feel that it is able to take part in the championship next year but there are still two rounds left to go this season and I want to do the best possible job for them. I’m on good form and really looking forward to the weekend. If things go my way there’s the opportunity to improve on sixth place in the championship before the end of the season and I’ve still got time to get my first World Superbike race win.”
VERMEULEN HOPES FOR TITLE AT IMOLA
Chris Vermeulen (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR) enters the Imola WSS race in need of only eight points to make certain of his first and Honda’s second World Supersport Championship Riders’ title. His form this year has often been nothing short of outstanding, and he has secured four wins in nine attempts, scored only one DNF and has taken two additional podium slots along the way.
He was forced into giving best at the previous round at Assen to his team-mate Karl Muggeridge (Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR), after a convincing ride from both Ten Kate pilots, but with the championship tantalisingly close Vermeulen will be hoping to score an entire fistful of wins before the season finishes at Magny Cours in France on 19 September. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Honda enjoys a 34-point lead over the next closest constructor, with two rounds to go.
The evocative Imola venue, which welcomes the World Supersport circus this weekend with open arms, is the third Italian track of the year, the previous Monza and Misano weekends providing excellent sport and a great contrast to Imola.
The Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in the city centre is no stranger to motorsports of all kinds but is a very different design to most others in Italy. It’s undulating straights, fast corners and elevations are reigned in somewhat by a proliferation of slower chicanes, providing some contrast to Monza’s level parkland speedbowl, Misano’s schizophrenic fast and slow flatness and Mugello’s wide corners and flowing chicanes, running either side of a Tuscan valley. Imola is thus a broad and textured canvas for the WSS artisans to produce their best work on, and the WSS weekend is a popular event in its own right, as last year’s claimed 97,000 spectators will attest to.
Last year Vermeulen scored a podium at Imola and this year he wants to improve on his third position if possible. Prudence dictates that he must adopt a flexible strategy, however, as he is so close to the championship win itself.
“I enjoyed the place last year and I finished third,” reminisced Vermeulen after his arrival in Italy, “and it might have been even better but for some technical problems. It was only my second podium ever. I really like the track and if there is the chance to win then I’ll try my best to take it. In a way I also have to be a little cautious, as it is possible to win the championship this weekend. I do not want to win the title by finishing eighth, however, so I will attack it like any other race.”
For Muggeridge, Imola could not come at a better time, after his win at Assen.
“Imola should be OK for us even if we had a problem in the race last year,” said Muggeridge, shortly before heading off to Italy. “The new bike is really good this year. And after the Assen win I will be trying to ride the wave and see where I can go from now on. I just want to get out there in all the sessions and give it all I’ve got.”
Sebastien Charpentier (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) will find Imola a novel experience, but if his recent performances are anything to go by, he will have no problems finding the fast lines right away.
“Imola will be the first time for me because last year I had a fracture after the Bol d’Or but I like the look of it. It appears to be a special track – up-down, chicanes, and faster corners. I am confident and relaxed, have a good team and a good bike behind me. It is necessary to get good points so I can improve my championship position in readiness for next season.”
Iain Macpherson (van Zon Honda CBR600RR) makes the long journey from his native Scotland to the middle of Italy once more this year, with high hopes but a relaxed attitude for the penultimate race.
“I quite like the circuit,” said Macpherson, “and I’m hopeful of getting a good result. I’m just going to ride as smooth and fast as I can and see how it’s going to go. I have no expectations about places I’ll finish in, I’ll just go and do my very best.”
Robert Ulm (Klaffi Honda CBR600RR) has not that long a journey to reach Imola from Austria and experience prevents him from making any pre-race prophecies.
“I think Imola is a nice track but I don’t have any predictions for the race,” said Ulm. “I think the Honda is good everywhere and the best bike of this season so I am certainly ready for Imola.”
Werner Daemen, Macpherson’s teamster in the Van Zon effort is another who will be making the most of his last two chances to shine in the 2003 season – and may well now have the means to extend his results into new territories.
“We got some new parts for the Assen race and they made a big difference,” said Daemen. “The bike is really good, fast and suits me well so I am hoping for a good result at Imola. The track is good there, a nice mix of corners and hills.”
The final race, at the re-visited SBK venue of Magny Cours, takes place on October 19.