October 2, 2005 Troy Corser is the 2005 Superbike World Champion following the penultimate round of the series held at Imola, Italy here today. Corser finished a very close second to his nearest rival Chris Vermeulen (Honda) in the first race of the day, which took part on a drying track after earlier rain. But, just before the start of the second race, the heavens opened and deluged the 4.933 kilometre circuit. The riders and officials waited and inspected the aging circuit which still has the original racing surface in some places and decided it was too dangerous to hold the event under the conditions and decreed the race cancelled. The cancellation meant Corser’s points lead was unbeatable in the remaining races, giving him and Suzuki’s GSX1000R this year’s championship!
For Corser, it was an unfortunate way to win the title – ten years after his first World Superbike Championship, he has proven over the years that he is a fierce competitor and he wanted to win the championship on the racetrack.
“It’s great to be World Champion”, he said, “but it hasn’t happened the way I wanted. “
“The organisers definitely made the right decision by cancelling the second race because the conditions were diabolical. It was unbelievably dangerous out there as there was so much standing water on the track and, if we had raced, I’m sure there would’ve been a lot of crashes for sure.
“It was the best decision for the safety of the riders without a doubt.
“The groundwork for our success started in our very first test back at the end of last year. Since then the whole team have worked hard and given me a wonderful package of a bike and the results have come. In the past few years, I never lost faith in my own ability and Francis and Batta realised that and gave me a chance to prove that I could be Champion again. I want to thank them, the whole team and also all the hospitality staff who have looked after me during the year.
“I want to dedicate this victory also to our good friend Kirk McCarthy. I’m sure today he was watching over me, cheering me on and probably drinking a Corona at the same time,” said Corser, paying tribute to an Australian racer who lost his life to the sport.
Runner-up in the series and one of the rising stars of world motorcycle racing Chris Vermeulen (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) scored a magnificent race win in pressurised circumstances in the first race. Needing to win to keep his title chances alive, he fought a one-on-one battle with Corser throughout the first race before securing the win but when the rain came, he lost his slender chance of taking the championship battle to the final round at Magny Cours one week hence.
Torrential and incessant rain arrived before the start of the delayed Superbike race two, and after several track inspections, the race organisers decided to cancel the second race. Despite Vermeulen’s win, in what transpired to be the only Superbike race of the day, new World Champion Troy Corser (Suzuki) finished a close second, gaining Vermeulen only five points, leaving an impossible deficit of 55 for Vermeulen to make up.
After a tense two-rider battle for the lead in race one Vermeulen scored his fifth win of the year but only after a nerve-jangling decision on tyres from all riders. With a serious fall of rain mid-morning most of the front runners opted for slicks on a rapidly drying track, with the exception of Vermeulen and one or two others, who opted for an intermediate front, slick rear. He used his front to the full in the final laps, holding off Corser by 0.32 seconds. Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR) had to retire from race one with a clutch problem, while Max Neukirchner (Klaffi Honda CBR1000RR) scored seventh, also on an intermediate front.
Ben Bostrom (Renegade Honda CBR1000RR) finished an agonised 13th, fighting back pain from a previous crash, and Pierfrancesco Chili (Klaffi Honda CBR1000RR) crashed out of the race on the second lap.
Vermeulen was philosophical about the finality of losing the title in such a fashion, but was praised by all for his stance in declaring that the track was too risky to race on without an improvement in the weather.
“To be honest, I’m not too disappointed about the championship. It was always a long shot and, even if we’d managed to get some more points off Troy in race two, he would still go to Magny-Cours with a big lead,” said Vermeulen. “All I could do was win races and that’s been happening recently – I think that shows just how much we’ve developed the bike during the course of the season. I didn’t really want to stop the race but safety always has to be the most important thing. “
“Some parts of the track were especially dangerous, like coming out of the Variante Alta chicane where the track slopes away and it was underwater. Behind that - is a concrete wall, so it was the right decision. We’ll just go to Magny-Cours next weekend and try for two more wins. In race one, it was pretty tough and perhaps the intermediate front was not the wisest choice. But it helped me get past a few guys at the start and I was able to push relatively hard early on. But by mid race distance the track was dry and I really started to struggle. The last few laps got a bit hairy in places.”
Noriyuki Haga extended his run of podium finishes to eight in the day’s only race, and goes to the final venue of the season with a 27 point lead over last year’s champion James Toseland for third place in the title.
What proved to be the day’s only superbike race was an exciting affair as the field raced under wet weather rules but with an almost completely dry line around the track. Haga was involved in a thrilling battle for third place with team-mate Andrew Pitt, James Toseland (Ducati), Chris Walker (Kawasaki) and Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki), with Norick Abe just behind in seventh.
With all riders running on slick tyres, conditions proved tricky with Kagayama, Pitt and lastly Abe crashing after running off the dry line. British riders Toseland and Walker both lost time, allowing Haga to take a well earned third position, eight seconds behind winner Chris Vermeulen (Honda), who narrowly held off Troy Corser (Suzuki).
Toseland was fighting with Haga for third place when he strayed onto the wet line at the Acque Minerali on lap 16, an error that left him in fourth. “I deserve a good kicking from Tardozzi for that mistake!” declared Toseland. “Just when I changed direction the bike snapped slightly and went just two metres wide where it was wet. The front went away and I couldn’t do anything. If I’d tried to make the corner I would have crashed, but I rode hard and was competitive and that’s the main thing for me.”
Haga said after the race, “in the first race I was quite happy because in the end we found a good race tyre.”
“My lap times were as good as the leaders but because the dry line was very narrow I could not pass Toseland easily and that let Troy and Chris get away. I was actually looking forward to the second race because I have a good feeling with the bike in the wet. In the end though I am smiling when they say no race and I do not have to ride in the very bad rain!”
With the high attrition rate, Neukirchner came through to finish seventh for the fourth time in succession, scoring valuable points in his quest to improve his current 13th position overall in the final round next week. But not enough to make him satisfied.
“I think I must own the number seven now,” joked Neukirchner, who continued on a more serious note. “I really wanted a second race to make some more points in the championship fight, but it was not to be. It was a hard race for me, I chose an intermediate front, good at the beginning but it went off towards the end, even if the drying track meant that lap times just got better for a while. I want to get an overall top ten in my first year, so it was not good to only have one race today.”
For Chili virtual home ground at Imola offered him no points, after a crash and the second race non-start. He sits ninth in the championship at present.
“I feel sorry for all the fans who came here and did not get the chance to see the second race, I hope they understand the decision,” said fans’ favourite Chili. “I crashed so early in the race because I changed my line a little bit on the final chicane. As Sanchini went in a bit long and as I put the bike in, there was a junction between two pieces of different tarmac and I went straight down.”
Muggeridge proved unlucky in race conditions, retiring early after his technical issues, but hoped for better in the second race that never was. He maintains 11th in the championship chase.
“In the end, it was the safest thing to do, cancelling the race,” said the second Ten Kate Aussie. “But I think we should have tried at least a couple of laps, instead of turning it into a battle. It’s a shame for Chris that he didn’t get to run the race and maybe take the championship to the final round, but the decision obviously suited Troy. The track is really slippery when it’s wet but there was a lot of water laying on it which had built up between the sighting lap and the warm-up lap.
The 12-Round championship, in both Supersport and Superbike classes, concludes at Magny Cours on 7-9 October.
SUPERBIKE Race 1
Pos /Rider /Nat. /Team / Time /Gap 1 / VERMEULEN / AUS / Winston Ten Kate Honda / 39'35.789 / 2 / CORSER / AUS / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 39'36.086 / 0.297 3 / HAGA / JPN / Yamaha Motor Italia WSB / 39'44.102 / 8.313 4 / TOSELAND / GBR / Ducati Xerox / 39'51.128 / 15.339 5 / MARTIN / AUS / Foggy Petronas Racing / 40'25.427 / 49.638 6 / WALKER / GBR / PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse / 40'25.861 / 50.072 7 / NEUKIRCHNER / GER / Klaffi Honda / 40'27.964 / 52.175 8 / GIMBERT / FRA / Yamaha Motor France-Ipone / 40'28.170 / 52.381 9 / LACONI / FRA / Ducati Xerox / 40'33.623 / 57.834 10 / VIZZIELLO / ITA / Italia Lorenzini by Leoni / 40'41.516 / 1'05.727 11 / BUSSEI / ITA / Kawasaki Bertocchi / 40'44.121 / 1'08.332 12 / SANCHINI / ITA / PSG-1 Kawasaki Corse / 40'46.078 / 1'10.289 13 / BOSTROM / USA / Renegade Koji / 40'46.575 / 1'10.786 14 / BORCIANI / ITA / DFXtreme Sterilgarda / 41'03.694 / 1'27.905 15 / KAGAYAMA / JPN / Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra / 41'09.229 / 1'33.440 Fastest Lap 20° Troy Corser 1'50.632 160,521 Km/h
Riders Championship Standings: 1 CORSER 409, 2 VERMEULEN 354, 3 HAGA 255, 4 TOSELAND 228, 5 LACONI 221, 6 KAGAYAMA 212, 7 WALKER 140, 8 PITT 137, 9 CHILI 125, 10 LANZI 118, 11 MUGGERIDGE 111, 12 ABE 110, 13 NEUKIRCHNER 107, 14 BUSSEI 61, 15 BOSTROM 49.