Noriyuki Haga (41) came into Brands Hatch with a plan to keep his championship hopes alive. After sweeping both races the Renegade Ducati rider has positioned himself within striking distance in the title chase with six races remaining.
“We are back in business,” said Haga. “England has been very kind to me this year with three out of four wins for my Renegade Koji family. Now I must concentrate and stay focused to take the World Superbike title.”
In the first race, Renegade Ducati’s Nitro Nori Haga nipped Ducati Fila’s Regis Laconi at the line for his fourth win of the season. Laconi, Chili and Haga were locked in a three rider battle for the win until Chili crashed out with eight laps remaining. The crash was a spectacular high-side right in front of Haga and Laconi on the exit of Surtees a few laps after taking over the lead spot. Chili was visibly shaken but for the most part was OK.
Chili’s departure left Laconi and Haga to duke it out and from that point on they put on quite a show. Laconi led for the majority of the final laps but on the last lap, Haga turned it up a notch. The two 999 riders swapped the lead back and forth on the entrance and exit of the last five or six turns before Haga made his last pass stick on the second to last corner. Haga crossed the finish line a few bike lengths ahead of Laconi.
DFX Ducati’s Steve Martin took advantage of Chili’s mishap, moving up a position and finishing on the podium in third.
Championship leader James Toseland had a poor showing finishing in seventh behind Vermeulen, Corser and wild card rider James Ellison respectively. As bad as things were for Toseland, they were about to get even worse for him and the Ducati Fila team.
In the second race Noriyuki did it again. This time beating PSG-1s Pierfrancesco Chili and his Ducati 998RS by nearly one second on aggregate time for his fifth win of 2004. As it was in the first race, Haga was battling with Laconi but this time Regis crashed out of the fight on lap 16 of the restarted race. Chili actually crossed the finish line first and thought he had won on aggregate only to find out soon after that Haga had won.
The big news from race two was the retirement of both Ducati Fila riders. Toseland went out first in an incident involving Petronas’ Troy Corser on the third lap and Laconi followed his lead on lap 16. Laconi retains the championship lead but Toseland dropped from first to fourth.
“What can I say?” declared Laconi. “The big problem is that if I am not in front of Noriyuki, he was slow, and I tried to go faster than him and I felt I was over the limit. That’s why I crashed. I tried to go away but I entered too wide pushing hard and lost the front. I am not happy because I am unable to get away from him. I tried my best with the team and the engineers to get the best out of this bike, and we did, so if I crashed it means that I was at the limit. I really want to win this championship and I hope that we will have something new for the last three rounds.”
Ten Kate Honda’s Chris Vermeulen rounded out the podium in third which moved him into second in the championship battle. “After all the problems we had in practice and qualifying this weekend we’ve come away very well with a fourth and the third,” said Vermuelen. “I know now that the championship is pretty open. We came here with a new bike we were to develop for a year and I planned to be world champion in 2005. But if it comes along this year then I’ll take it.”
The Foggy Petronas team were hoping to provide some excitement for the home town crowd and they didn’t disappoint. Chris Walker finished a courageous fourth in the restarted race two, finishing as the top British rider and ninth in race one.
“I desperately needed that result. The first race wasn’t brilliant but the second race was! I can now go into the break thinking positive things before our next test at Magny-Cours. Our starts this weekend have done us both proud. I had a brilliant start to the second race but couldn’t keep the pace and I was panicking a little bit because nothing seemed amiss. James came by me and I could see oil coming out, so that cost me some time but fortunately the race was stopped. In the interval we had a quick look at the data and virtually went back to the morning settings, with a few minor tweaks. But I was about half a second quicker after the restart. I didn’t see who was behind me but I knew it was James Ellison as it wasn’t a noisy bike! I also knew that I just had to keep my head down and not make any mistakes to keep my position.”
Troy Corser on the other hand finished fifth in race one, right on the tail of fourth place Vermeulen. Corser followed that up with an action packed race two where he again was running a second behind the leaders until the race was stopped. On the restart he collided with then points leader James Toseland with both riders going down in the melee.
“You can never be too sure but I am pretty confident I would have been on the podium if the second race hadn’t been stopped,” explained Corser. “The bike and the engine were feeling good. At the restart I was on the outside with nowhere to go when there was a domino effect at the second corner. There was nothing James or I could do about it. We were both in the corner and we came together. In the first race I was lining up Vermeulen with a couple of laps to go to see where I could take him, as I was quicker through Dingle Dell but it would have been difficult. Our bike was really not that much slower than the others and I could almost run with the leaders as I was making around half a second up through the back section. There was a slight water leak for the last couple of laps, so I had to back off slightly.”
Team owner Carl Fogarty was pleased with the effort of his riders and sounds pretty optimistic about the way things turned out this afternoon. “Those were the best rides of the season from both riders,” exclaimed Foggy. “Chris had an awesome second race and didn’t put a foot wrong as he was under pressure all the way through. For Troy to be two seconds off the lead with two laps to go in the first race shows how far we have come in such a short space of time.”
Ducati Fila rider James Toseland was pretty upset over the outcome of race two, but he understands that the season is far from over at this point. “I’ve got a stiff neck from the crash, I’ve dropped from first to fourth in the championship, I’ve disappointed myself and my home crowd, is there anything else?” said Toseland. “There’s still only eight points in it though, unlucky for Regis but I’ve had bad luck as well with Corser taking me out. I’ve had a disappointing weekend at Silverstone and a disappointing one at Brands Hatch. I can only apologize and say I’ve given 110% all weekend. Sorry to everyone who came to see a British winner, that was down to me. Let’s get it over with and move on to the next round.”
With three rounds remaining the battle for the 2004 championship has really heated up. The top four riders are separated by a mere 8 points and in case you haven’t been paying attention, anything can happen in World Supers this year.
Note: Ducati clinched their thirteenth World Superbike Manufacturers’ title after the final results Brands Hatch.
Race One Results:
1. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati)
2. Regis Laconi (Ducati)
3. Steve Martin (Ducati)
4. Chris Vermeulen (Honda)
5. Troy Corser (Petronas)
6. James Ellison (Yamaha)
7. James Toseland (Ducati)
8. Craig Coxell(Honda)
9. Chris Walker (Petronas)
10. Gianluca Nanneli (Ducati)
Race Two Results:
1. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati)
2. Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati)
3. Chris Vermeulen (Honda)
4. Chris Walker (Petronas)
5. James Ellison (Yamaha)
6. Giovanni Bussei (Ducati)
7. Garry McCoy (Ducati)
8. Craig Coxhell (Honda)
9. Sebastien Gimbert (Yamaha)
10. Mauro Sanchini (Kawasaki)
1. Regis Laconi, 218
2. Chris Vermeulen, 216
3. Noriyuki Haga, 212
4. James Toseland, 210
5. Pierfrancesco Chili, 180
6. Garry McCoy, 155
7. Steve Martin, 135
8. Leon Haslam, 120
9. Troy Corser, 112
10. Chris Walker, 102
Ten Kate Honda’s Karl Muggeridge earned his fourth win of the year and extending his championship lead to an 24 points, after winning the two-part aggregate race. Yamaha’s Sebastien Charpentier finished second and Jurgen vd Goorbergh was third.
“I didn’t think I was going to win that race. I was sort of struggling through the first leg and I just couldn’t quite get by Sebastien. It was the same in race two but I realized that I had to give it a go if I had the opportunity. I just hung it out there on the last lap and it paid off. I wasn’t quite sure if I had won because of the aggregate time and I only realized I had when I came into pitlane and my team guys were standing at the number one spot under the podium!”
1. Karl Muggeridge (Honda)
2. Sebastien Charpentier (Honda)
3. Jurgen Vd Goorbergh (Yamaha)
4. Broc Parkes (Honda)
5. Kevin Curtain (Yamaha)
6. Alessio Corradi (Honda)
7. Katsuaki Fujiwara (Suzuki)
8. Stephane Chambon (Suzuki)
9. Anthony West (Honda)
10. Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)