Laconi leads into France
James Toseland lost his slender WSB title lead at Imola in Italy on Sunday. He goes to next weekend's final round in France four points behind a Frenchman.
It is Toseland's Ducati team-mate Regis Laconi who heads the championship table after a dramatic double victory in Italy while Toseland kept the pressure on with second and third place finishes.
On its own, the second race at Imola's penultimate championship round provided a year's worth of drama.
After race one, Chris Vermulen was leading the championship for the first time all season. But had a big highside during the warm-up lap and needed a lift back to the grid as a pillion with Giovanni Bussei.
As the pack started the race, the Australian was half-running, half-hobbling to his second bike waiting for him in the pitlane. Meanwhile it was Laconi, Haga and then Toseland at the front of the race, with Toseland making an early mistake and then having to push hard to make up a one second defecit.
Vermuelen pushed hard enough to overtake five riders in a single lap as he made his way up through the field, but it was the three-way battle between the other championship contenders, Laconi, Haga and Toseland, which caught the attention. The two Fila Ducati works bikes were producing huge slides.
Haga moved into the lead after a mistake by Laconi, and was followed by Toseland, but it was short lived. On lap nine, Haga appeared to launch himself as he touched the brakes, and Toseland was lucky not to run into bike or rider. Laconi took the chance to close, and for the next few laps it was simply a case of Toseland trying to lose his team-mate and championship rival while Laconi watched and waited.
In a similar fashion to race one, it was right at the end that Laconi made his move, giving Toseland just over a lap to fight back.
Toseland fought back and the bikes touched on the final turn, but Laconi took the victory by a skin-of-his-teeth 0.041 of a second. Steve Martin was third, and Vermuelen finally finished sixth, having lapped faster than all but the two leaders.
The title chase has now slimmed from four riders to three after Haga's crash out of contention.
Laconi leads from Toseland by four points, with Vermuelen recovering to third a further 13 points back. The next and final round is on October 3 at Magny Cours.
Race two finishing positiions:
1) Laconi. 2) Toseland. 3) Martin. 4) Nannelli. 5) McCoy. 6) Vermuelen. 7) Pedercini. 8) Borciani. 9) Clementi. 10) Corser.
Championship standings after Imola:
1) Laconi 295. 2) Toseland 291. 3) Vermuelen 282. 4) Haga 254.
Have Your race on the racing at Imola, here.
Regis Laconi won the first race at Imola on Sunday, despite Ten Kate Honda rider Chris Vermuelen leading for most of the race.
Vermuelen headed Laconi, Noryuki Haga and James Toseland until the penultimate lap, when Laconi was able to make his move and carry a slight advantage all the way to the chequered flag. James Toseland took thrid after passing Haga, who slowed dramatically towards the end of the race but still managed to claim fourth.
1) Laconi. 2) Vermuelen. 3) Toseland. 4) Haga. 5) McCoy. 6) Martin. 7) Chili. 8) Borciani. 9) Nannelli. 10) Haslam. 11) Clementi. 12) Corser. 13) Bontempi. 14) Pini. 15) Romboni. 16) Mazzali. 17) Nowland. 18) Zannini. 19) Mrkyvka. 20) Blora. 21) De Matteo.
DNF: Pedercini. Bussei. Duterene. Fuertes. Walker. Velini. Praia. Szkopek.
After race one: Vermuelen led the championship on 272 points. Toseland was second on 271, and Laconi was third on 270.