FEATURE: crowning Champions to new stars, Magny-Cours’ history is illustrious

Wednesday, 7 September 2022 06:16 GMT

Tense showdown twists and majestic moments of magic, ‘magnifique’ Magny-Cours has pride, standing and a history that it and the WorldSBK Championship can be proud of

The second half of the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is upon us, and the drama and excitement of the title race promises to be no different. However, steeped in history is the circuit that kickstarts the final run to home in what has been a titanic season: the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. A first appearance in 1991 before a 12-year break, one of the most historic venues on our calendar has been a constant feature since 2003, making 2022 the 20th consecutive season of action. We look back at the glorious, illustrious history, where Champions have been crowned, major sporting achievements have been achieved and where future stars have been unearthed.

THE FIRST TASTE AND A RETURN: drama from the start at Magny-Cours

Coming onto the calendar in 1991 as the third different French circuit in four seasons – after Le Mans and Paul Ricard – Magny-Cours back then had a slightly different configuration to it. A chicane on the exit of the dead-stop Turn 5 at Adelaide, as well as a wider sweep through the Chateau d’eau and a chicane before Lycee, which was the final corner back then, the track was 4.2km in length, compared to the 4.4km it hosts today. Breaking French hearts on his way to a first world title, Doug Polen took a dominant double ahead of Raymond Roche, the reigning World Champion; in Race 2, Polen beat home-hero Roche by 27 seconds, wrapping up the title with ease.

Magny-Cours didn’t return for the rest of the 90s and no other French circuit replaced it, however it was back in 2003 as WorldSBK had a French star in Regis Laconi, not to mention the likes of Fabien Foret and Stephane Chambon in World Supersport flying the ‘Tricolore’ high. In 2003, with Neil Hodgson having already been crowned Champion, he would take his final World Championship victory in Race 1, whilst teammate Ruben Xaus would take the last win of the season in Race 2.

However, 2004 would be pivotal and Magny-Cours got the first of what would turn out to be eighth title deciders to-date since its return. Home-hero Regis Laconi led the standings by four points into the round ahead of teammate James Toseland, who had hit form in the second half of the season. However, Race 1 didn’t go Laconi’s way as he could only manage third whilst Toseland won, with ‘JT’ now the Championship leader – against the odds, with Ducati having banked on Laconi to win the title all year long. Race 2 saw Noriyuki Haga take victory ahead of Toseland, giving the British star the title, remaining the youngest ever WorldSBK Champion; Laconi only won three more races.

TITLE DECIDERS KEEP COMING: Toseland, Bayliss, Checa and Biaggi reign supreme

If James Toseland was the underdog Champion in 2004 for Ducati, he was a deserving Champion in 2007 with the Independent Ten Kate Racing Honda team; having been fourth in 2005 and second in 2006 in his first year with Honda, Toseland went into the weekend as the clear favourite, sporting a 29-point lead over Noriyuki Haga coming into the round. However, on Lap 1 of Race 1, Toseland ran off track at Turn 1, sending him all the way to the back of the field from pole. A seventh in Race 1 and a sixth in Race 2 were enough to give him the title despite Haga’s double, with just two points in it at the end. In 2008, it was a much more straightforward affair as Race 1 saw Troy Bayliss take third, enough for his third and final WorldSBK crown.

It wouldn’t be until 2011 where Magny-Cours got its next World Championship decided, with the dominant Carlos Checa this time sealing the deal, becoming the last Independent World Champion to-date. Easing clear of the battle for second between Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, 39-year-old Checa wrapped up the title, which is the most recent for Ducati to-date. 2012 was far more dramatic however, as it gave the closest-ever finish to a World Championship in terms of points. Max Biaggi had 30.5 points over Tom Sykes; in Race 1, Biaggi crashed with Sykes third, before the British rider did the business in Race 2 and took victory. However, Biaggi was fifth; the ‘Roman Emperor’ took his second WorldSBK title before retiring. Two years later and on his way to a first success in the paddock, Toprak Razgatlioglu burst onto the scene with a stunning final lap STK600 win.

REA ERA AND RECORDS: making history at Magny-Cours becomes the norm

It would be five years before Magny-Cours could host yet another title-deciding moment, with Jonathan Rea delivering the goods in Race 1 in 2017, becoming the first rider in WorldSBK history to win three consecutive World Championships, and just the third to win three after Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss. In 2018, it was more of the same for Rea, who made it four on the bounce in a year he equalled, surpassed and replaced Carl Fogarty at the top of the WorldSBK win rankings. The first and only rider to win four in a row, it was now becoming an annual celebration for Rea in France. 2019 saw yet more triumph, with Rea becoming the first-ever five-time WorldSBK Champion, a new record for the Championship – although 2019 will also be remembered for Toprak Razgatlioglu’s first victory in Race 1. 2020 should’ve seen Rea celebrating six but it was put on ice until Estoril, whilst 2021 saw him and arch-rival Razgatlioglu battle hard throughout the races.

A TIMELINE OF SUCCESS: standout moments from Magny-Cours

1991 – Doug Polen does the double in Magny-Cours’ first-ever WorldSBK round, taking a first title.

2003 – Neil Hodgson takes his last ever World Championship victory in Race 1.

2004 – James Toseland becomes the youngest-ever WorldSBK Champion.

2006 – Home-hero Sebastien Charpentier becomes a double WorldSSP Champion.

2007 – Toseland becomes the youngest-ever double WorldSBK Champion.

2008 – Troy Bayliss secures his third WorldSBK crown in Race 1 before taking a 50th race win in WorldSBK in Race 2, just the second rider to hit this tally after Carl Fogarty.

2011 – Carlos Checa becomes the first Spanish WorldSBK Champion, the most recent for Ducati, the last Independent World Champion and the oldest first-time WorldSBK Champion.

2012 – The smallest Championship points gap at the end of the WorldSBK season: Biaggi beats Sykes by half a point.

2014 – Toprak Razgatlioglu, as a wildcard, wins his first ever Superstock 600 race on his debut.

2014 – Leandro Mercado becomes the first South American Champion in the WorldSBK paddock, taking the STK1000 Cup.

2016 – A tyre gamble on intermediates sees Chaz Davies take a stunning Race 1 win.

2017 – Niki Tuuli becomes the first Finnish winner in WorldSSP.

2018 – Ana Carrasco becomes the first-ever female FIM Solo Road Racing World Champion, clinching the WorldSSP300 title by a single point in the last race of the year.

2019 – Jonathan Rea becomes the first-ever five-time WorldSBK Champion, having celebrated becoming the first rider to make it three and four consecutively in the years previous at the circuit.

2019 – In the 800th WorldSBK race, Toprak Razgatlioglu comes from 16th on the grid for his maiden WorldSBK win.

2019 – Manuel Gonzalez becomes the youngest-ever FIM Solo Road Racing World Champion, taking the WorldSSP300 title.

2020 – Loris Baz takes a double podium at home, the last to-date for Ten Kate Racing in WorldSBK.

2021 –Razgatlioglu takes two wins and Rea wins the Superpole Race after a final lap battle together.

Watch the 2022 battle for supremacy at Magny-Cours LIVE with the WorldSBK VideoPass!