2011 Monza WSBK Saturday Roundup - Of Broken Records, And Chicanes

Three hundred and thirty-four point eight kilometers per hour. Two hundred and eight miles per hour. By any conceivable measure, that's fast, and the fact that Max Biaggi's lap time of 1'41.745 is nearly two-thirds of a second faster than the man in second place, Eugene Laverty, and four-tenths faster than anyone else has ever gone at Monza merely underlines the Roman Emperor's dominance at the Italian circuit, which sits in the suburbs of Milan.

A large part of the credit for that lap must go to the Aprilia RSV4; the combination of big HP numbers, a tiny frontal area and a small rider mean that the Aprilia has a serious advantage at the high-speed Monza circuit. But that does not do justice to Max Biaggi's role in the lap, the Italian putting in a clean, precise lap to take pole. Given the fact that Biaggi took the double here on the Aprilia last year, you would be forgiven for pronouncing Biaggi the winner before the race has even been run.

While it would take a very foolish gambler indeed to lay odds against Biaggi taking at least one win at Monza, there is reason enough to think it will not be as simple as the timesheets might suggest. The main reason, perhaps, is the first obstacle that everyone faces at Monza, and the one that always ends up playing a significant role in the proceedings: the first chicane, or Prima Variante. Despite many modifications over the years, it always manages to catch someone out, the problem being trying to squeeze 21 riders through tight and narrow esses directly after the start. The chicane even managed to play a role during Superpole, Carlos Checa having his lap time deleted during Superpole 2 when he cut across the chicane, a bewilderingly common occurrence throughout practice and qualifying.

Once through the chicane, top speed will definitely play a role in the proceedings. The Aprilias and the BMWs have all been fast throughout the weekend, and with Troy Corser on the front row of the grid and Leon Haslam just behind him, the BMWs should give Biaggi a run for his money. Eugene Laverty, too, could be a factor on Sunday, the Yamaha rider having been close to the front all weekend, his teammate Marco Melandri also quick, but still with a few tricks to learn at Monza. Completing the list of likely front runners is Castrol Honda's Johnny Rea, the Ulsterman having an up-and-down weekend at Monza, topping the first session of free practice, but also slipping down as low as 9th during the second session of qualifying.

The Ducatis have a clear disadvantage at Monza, unable to benefit from the extra drive out of corners that the larger capacity V-twin provides leaves the 1198Rs well down the order. Championship leader Carlos Checa starts from 11th, the first of the Ducatis, with Effenbert Liberty's Sylvain Guintoli behind him on the 3rd row of the grid. Checa's strategy must be to grab onto the chasing group, and use the slipstream of the faster bikes to score whatever points he can at Monza. Checa's advantage may yet come with the tires, the Ducati seemingly gentler on the softer - faster - tire than the four cylinders appear to be. The Althea Ducati rider will be aiming to grab onto whoever's coattails he can - Leon Camier is the most likely candidate, but a little bit of luck may allow Checa to latch on to Corser or Melandri - and take whatever points are available. Losing anything less than 30 points at Monza will count as a win for the Spaniard.

If Biaggi is a shoe-in for the World Superbike races - if there is such a thing as a shoe-in in something with so many potentially disruptive factors as motorcycle racing - then Chaz Davies is at least as hot a favorite for the World Supersport races. The ParkinGO Yamaha rider has gone virtually unchallenged since he arrived at Monza, and the win at Assen seems to have helped remove the mental block that so many racers who have not won for a long time appear to develop. The Yamaha is fast - it always was - and the switch to Bitubo suspension has done the Italian team no harm at all.

While Davies has looked untouchable, his teammate has had a much less happy time of it throughout the weekend. Luca Scassa lost much of the second qualifying session to an early collision with Marko Jerman, the one-bike rule introduced this year meaning it took some time for the Italian to get back out onto the track. Scassa still leads the championship, but he may not be doing so when the WSS circus leaves the Monza circuit.

Of the men likely to push Davies for the win, Sam Lowes is still too badly hurt to last the entire race against healthy opposition, the Parkalgar Honda rider plenty fast, but his endurance questionable just three weeks after breaking his collarbone. Broc Parkes is the dark horse at Monza, the Kawasaki fast, and Parkes not far off Davies' pace all weekend. Of the Ten Kate squad, Fabien Foret is probably the biggest threat, the veteran Frenchman a wily competitor at Monza.

But the biggest challenge could come not from the fast guys at the front, but he slow guys at the back: with 32 riders, the WSS field looks relatively healthy, but the talent pool is deceptively shallow. The gap from slowest to fastest is just over 8 seconds, with three riders over 7 seconds off the pace of Davies. At the end of 16 laps, the slower riders could end up forming a logjam for the leaders, and unless Davies is well clear when he hits traffic, the backmarkers could cause some pretty nasty complications. It's going to be an interesting race tomorrow, though not necessarily the barnstormer we have come to expect from the World Supersport class.

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With the performance coming from the front WSB machines how much more would be gained by a switch to carbon brakes and losing 15kg? Maybe the only real difference between a GP bike and a WSB machine is the extra 3 liters of fuel the superbikes get to do 20 less kilometers with. That does say something the GP paddock surely already know. If the WSB machines are nearly using up their fuel then CRT machines in 2012 will not be able to open its throttles as much as a WSB equivalent without a lot more electronics control on braking and cornering to lean it up and still keep it rider friendly.

Seems like in 2012 nobody is going to get away with using anything but the latest in electronics control.


Good point Chris. I dont see the arms race of electronics subsiding any time soon. It has become an industry within an industry in recent years, with the aftermarket flourishing with Bazzaz and Nemesis, becoming truly accessible to even expert and novice club racers. With national level teams using Marvel, ADL, PI, etc...this has escalated quickly indeed.

The question I wonder about is just what is left on the table in building a WSB engine? Are the 1000's as highly strung as the 750's they replaced? The WCM should again provide an example of what power can be extracted from a SBK based engine. Anyone know this?



I can't imagine Biaggi or any WSB front-runner is using the same engine as the last event, let alone last 2 events. They probably go though more than 1 engine per weekend. That alone tells me that they are pretty close to the limit but are very careful not to step over as we rarely see a blow up. Wasn't Aprilia doing some special dyno work on a 'Monza' engine just for this event? It seems to have worked so far! That's a luxury that even the CRT bikes won't have.

Will GPS-aware ECU maps trickle down to national and then club race series? Even if the hardware is available a talented rider and enough track time to develop the optimized maps is not a trivial task by any means. Then again, a system used to the precise and repeatable input from GP riders may go haywire when subject to the crude throttle machinations us mere mortals can manage.


1. We don't know how much fuel WSBK bikes use. The fuel capacity limit is 24L, but the teams never complain about fuel so they might not fill the tank to the max. Spies ran out of gas at Monza in 2009 with "fuel computer problems" fingered as the culprit, but suppose the fuel computer merely tells them how many liters (out of 24) to put into the tank.

2. The reliability problems are likely related to the top end. The stock top end is built for reliability not performance so it might actually be able to go the distance. WSBK top ends are modified for compression (heat, pressure) and the cams are designed to increase lift and duration (tighter tolerances, higher reciprocating g's). Furthermore, WSBK teams may replace the stop valves and springs with special racing parts that are not reliable.

It is really difficult to say what will happen with the CRT engines, but I'm not sure we can learn a lot from WSBK.

GPS aware maps are already in use with top national teams in the US. As always, the team that can afford this stuff are going to run at the front.
It is really amazing to watch less well funded teams and to a lesser extent front running club racers struggle to make sense of these systems. There is a good reason why there is a "data guy" with each of these teams...



Interesting to compare speeds at Estoril and Monza. Biaggi's 335km/h was 30km/h faster than most of the MotoGP bikes at Estoril (although Little Tony managed a 321 at some point).
Obviously Monza is a faster track....

But in WSS, the best top speeds were about 291. Top speeds for Moto2 at Estoril about 285. Now if you squint at those numbers, wave your hands about and discount for the phase of the moon and the coriolis force, you could be persuaded that the Moto2 bikes are faster in a straight line than the best of the WSS Yamahas (I think the Hondas were around 289 at Monza). So, whatever hp deficit the control engine has relative to WSS, it is more than made up for by smaller frontal area and better aerodynamics. Which means that their 25kg weight advantage should also more than compensate for the power difference for acceleration out of corners.

How long does the Dunlop contract run?