Motorcycling: Toseland takes World Superbike crown

James Toseland secured the World Superbike Championship yesterday with a superb display on title rival Régis Laconi's home ground at Magny-Cours.

James Toseland secured the World Superbike Championship yesterday with a superb display on title rival Régis Laconi's home ground at Magny-Cours.

With thousands of partisan home fans cheering on his Ducati Fila team-mate, Toseland put in a gutsy ride to win race one and seize the initiative. That left him needing only to finish ahead of Laconi in race two to become the youngest ever World Superbike champion.

He pushed hard in the second race but was eventually beaten to top place by Renegade Ducati's Noriyuki Haga. But second place was enough to take the title by nine points from Laconi after a titanic season-long battle.

Despite the pressure of a title fight on his shoulders, Toseland made a good start to race two, although Foggy Petronas rider Troy Corser led into turn one.

The Australian former champion could not hold on though and Toseland was in front by the end of the first lap, with Haga in hot pursuit. On lap five Haga took over at the front, a lead which lasted until nine laps from the end when Toseland's relentless pressure finally told.

The Japanese rider was not finished though and stole victory by outbraking Toseland into the hairpin on lap 18 as Laconi's challenge faded.

Haga won with ease in the end as Toseland safely brought his Ducati home in second, knowing Laconi was some way back in third. Local rider Sébastien Gimbert took fourth for Yamaha France while PSG Ducati's Pierfrancesco Chili was fifth and Renegade Ducati's Leon Haslam sixth.

The Foggy Petronas pair of Corser and Chris Walker were seventh and eighth respectively.

Toseland was visibly moved after crossing the line to seal the title, barely able to bring his bike back to the pits. Afterwards he said: "It's been a long road but I want to say a massive thank you to all my friends, especially my family and my team.

"I am world champion and I think I deserved it at the end. The world championship is going back to where it belongs - Great Britain.

"There was no option of making a mistake. I can't imagine the disappointment I would feel if I finished second. It was a great fight with Régis all year."

* Sete Gibernau boosted his MotoGP world title hopes with victory in the inaugural Qatar GP on Saturday. The Spaniard cut Valentino Rossi's championship lead to just 14 points.

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