2011 Monza WSBK Friday Round Up - Faster By Fours

From the Cathedral of Racing to the Temple of Speed; the World Superbike circus has left Assen behind and rolled up at Monza, the high-speed track in the middle of a former royal park. While horsepower is a factor everywhere, at the scorching pace that Monza generates, it moves from being important to fairly decisive at the legendary Italian track.

So no surprise that the four cylinders are dominating at Monza, nor that the horsepower kings have come out on top. The BMW of Leon Haslam posted the fastest time of the day on Friday, with Max Biaggi's Aprilia a blink of an eye slower round the circuit. If anyone were foolish enough to doubt the top speed of the Aprilias, then Biaggi's new top speed record of 332.5 km/h - that's 206.6 miles per hour - should dispel them. So fast is the Aprilia that Ducati test rider Franco Battaini told GPOne.com recently that while he was testing the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 MotoGP machine at Mugello, Biaggi - also on track testing the Aprilia RSV4 - was staying with him effortlessly down Mugello's front straight.

It is therefore a safe bet that Biaggi can claw back some of his 43 point deficit to Carlos Checa this weekend, the Althea Ducati rider clearly suffering at the blistering Monza circuit. Though the Ducati is not that far down on top speed on paper, in reality, squeezing those last few KMs out of the 1200cc twin take a little too long for the 1190R to be competitive at Monza. Not all of Checa's 1.137 second deficit to Haslam (and 1.118 to Biaggi) is down to horsepower, however: Checa himself is struggling around some parts of the track. The Spaniard should be able to find another half a second before the start of the race, but even then, Checa will have to hope to hang in the slipstream of the chasing group, and collect as many points as possible to defend his lead. For Checa, Monza is a rearguard action, but fortunately one of the very few that will be required this season.

The most serious challenge to Biaggi and Haslam at Monza will come from the Northern Irish duo of Eugene Laverty and Johnny Rea. Rea got some of his mojo back with a win and a podium at Assen, and the Castrol Honda CBR1000RR is no slouch around the Monza circuit. Laverty keeps threatening to get his first World Superbike win, following in the footsteps of his Yamaha teammate Marco Melandri - a rider who also should not be counted out. Perhaps the most surprising threat, though, could come from the reigning Superstock 1000 champion Ayrton Badovini. The Italian has been slowly improving since entering the World Superbike class, and at his home track (Badovini lives just a couple of hours west of Monza) and in front of his sponsors (BMW Italia), Badovini has found half a second to get onto the provisional front row. The test of Badovini will come tomorrow and Sunday, when his nerves will be pitted against the pressure of Superpole, and then in the race on Sunday. He is undoubtedly a talented rider, and a strong result in Monza could cement his reputation.

Further down the grid, the racing gods are not looking kindly on Chris Vermeulen's return to racing, the Australian's knee now recovering well, and Monza lacking the hard changes of direction that would trouble his knee. But a crash in morning free practice session saw the Kawasaki rider badly bang up his elbow, a three-centimeter gash in his arm requiring 5 stitches from the clinica mobile. 2011 has been a real test of Vermeulen's character, and he has come through that with flying colors. If only the same could be said of his physical condition. After all that effort, and all that physical suffering, you really start to feel Vermeulen deserves a break.

In the World Supersport class, the Yamahas continue to dominate, Chaz Davies leading local boy Luca Scassa (well, relatively local, Scassa lives much closer to Mugello than to Monza). The Yamahas have the speed, and though the Hondas are no slouches, they are as yet no match for the R6s. The race looks like being the fourth in a row to go to the ParkinGO Yamaha squad.

The injury bay is still full at Monza, though the walking wounded are still riding. Just three weeks after the horrific crash at Assen in which he broke his collarbone and suffered a concussion, Sam Lowes is back riding again, and though the British BSB Supersport champion is fast, he is still a little way off the pace. Fellow Englishman Gino Rea is the fastest of the Hondas, though even Rea is three quarters of a second behind the Yamaha of Davies. The Yamahas are going to be tough to catch.

The news off the track - ignoring the controversy surrounding the Paul Bird Motorsports trucks being found at UK customs carrying large amounts of illegal drugs, though the team claims that the drugs had been stowed on board the trucks without their knowledge - is that Infront, the WSBK series' commercial rights holders, are expected to make a statement on the situation surrounding the Claiming Rule Teams in MotoGP. Infront have long felt that the CRT rules - which allow teams to use engines derived from production bikes if they wish - are an encroachment on their monopoly of production racing, and have in the past threatened the FIM with legal action to try to get the rules changed. With the financial might of the organization holding the rights to the soccer World Cup behind them, there is no doubt that they can afford the fight. But as discussed here before, there is every reason to believe that this is a battle that Infront would lose. We shall wait to see what tomorrow brings, but a legal battle between the two series would only serve to weaken both. Perhaps the Flammini brothers will make do with a little sabre-rattling to underline their position. That would be the best outcome in the current situation.

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I personally hope the Flamminis are true to their word and run Dorna every inch of the way on this CRT deal..

The cost to claim, 20k Euro or 15k without the gearbox, is way too low and with only MSMA members allowed to claim ensures the factories have control once more. Honestly..what are you going to build for that money? I can walk into my local tuning shop and spend that in a blink of an eye. It is a joke, most folk were thinking 100k Euro, which is still nothing compared to the cost of a factory motor..if you could buy one. How much did they want to lease a unit?

Too much electronics and not enough fuel is the problem. Until they put a lid on race specific, corner by corner programming, which will never trickle down to the street and is NOT a safety inspired benefit, everything will remain as it is..an R&D playground protected by a set of rules, governed by those competing and with a vested interest, to ensure nobody else can get a sniff.

IT stinks and I'm getting fed-up with all the bull..go get 'em Infront. Put Dorna out of business, take over the series yourselves, run GP at SBK meetings and ban the Manufacturers from rule-making.

The MSMA factories don't want the motors, They can do the same and go down the local dealer and buy one. What they want is to make sure that the motors are not prototype motors. The likelihood of them even claiming one is remote... unless the motors resemble something that isn't kosher. The 20k euro price is to discourage the CRT teams from breaching the production derivation of their bikes and turning up with factory spec machines undercover. The MSMA have no reason to claim these engines otherwise, and it certainly doesn't give them any control.
I don't disagree that more fuel across the board would be a good thing.... until they get to the point they are now and are spending money on diminishing returns.. Then they may want more fuel?
The guys at Infront have virtually no leg to stand on..

Agree 100%. Wosideg is right about the value, you can't even buy a factory WSB spec engine kit for that money.

You know I agree regarding the MSMA and their absurd management of grand prix racing; however, WSBK parts are not integral for horsepower. The titanium internals and the aftermarket cylinder treatments are nice additions that decrease reciprocating weight and probably improve reliability, but horsepower can be achieved simply by planing the cylinder head for static compression, installing cams to alter dynamic compression, and then reprogramming the fuel injection to maximize cylinder pressure.

Assuming CRT teams run engines to (basically) Supersport levels of tuning, it will be interesting to see how long the engines last, and what kind of rev ceiling they can sustain.

The BMW S1000 as a stock bike has a static compression ratio of 14:1, you can go higher but this is already reasonably high, depending upon fuel used. On most modern sportbikes, one can only deck the cylinder head a small amount, and some not at all due to the shape of the combustion chamber and how close the valve pockets are to the edge of the combustion chamber.

Titanium internals allow for higher rev ceilings, another easy route to horsepower but decreases reliability in turn. With 12 engines available to them, I expect CRT teams' route to horsepower for low cost will be based on higher revs and compression if they can get it.

Stock compression is 13:1. Unless BMW are poor metallurgists, titanium internals don't raise the stock rev ceiling and they shouldn't decrease reliability. Applying state of the art friction coating to the cylinders and swapping out the piston rings raises the rev ceiling. Reliability is reduced by higher operating temperatures, more revs, and higher cylinder pressure; but most importantly, the biggest cause of maintenance is probably altering valve duration and lift which tightens the tolerances and increases stress on the valves.

When an engine goes pop due to overtuning (like Haslam's Suzuki last year) it is usually b/c they got too aggressive with the cams and the tolerances. This is why Aprilia want gear driven cams. They don't add more horsepower by themselves, but they eliminate chain flex which allows for tighter tolerances and more power. Gear cams may reduce maintenance as well by extending the amount of time an engine can stay within proper valve clearance.

You are right about the cylinder head design, though. WSS bikes are made to have the cylinder head planed b/c that's what the rules allow. The S1000RR engine may not be designed for cylinder head modifications. However, AMA SBK competition is basically WSS rules and there are a few BMWs running this year which seems to suggest the cylinder head can be modified.

That titanium con rods and other internal parts with lighter reciprocating weight cannot allow a higher rev ceiling than standard materials?

BMW runs 14:1 on their Superbike, not the stock bike, my mistake.

That's what I'm saying. NASCAR engines achieve higher mean piston velocity than F1 engines even though NASCAR runs ferrous engine internals. Weight of the parts does not determine mean piston velocity or the rev ceiling.

"Weight of the parts does not determine mean piston velocity or the rev ceiling"
First off, the nascar engine has a rev limit of about 10,000rpm. The F1 engine now has a rev limit of 19,000. It would not be possible to spin a current Nascar engine to 19,000 rpm reliably.

Even though the Nascar engine has a similar Mean (Average) Piston Speed, the F1 engine has a much higher Peak Piston Acceleration value, more than 80% higher than the iron engine.

The steel alloy rods in a Nascar engine are much too heavy for the F1's PPA values, hence the F1 engineers' choice of Titanium.

In choosing materials for intake or exhaust valves for example, the weight of the parts is a huge factor in reducing/eliminating float in a sprung valvetrain. Weight of internal parts has no bearing on the rev ceiling?

All of that is true, yet none of it has anything to do with the reason NASCAR engines cannot achieve 19,000rpm. If you put titanium in a NASCAR it isn't going to hit 19,000rpm, it won't even make a single extra rev.

Supersports and Superbikes have all aluminum bottom ends that can handle racing speeds. They don't need titanium racing parts to achieve maximum revs. Titanium bottom end mods aren't even allowed in Supersport or AMA SBK, BSB Evo or Superstock. The top end of SSs and SBKs made from titanium, yet it is the source of nearly all maintenance and nearly all engine failures b/c operating an engine at high speed over long periods of time alters the valve clearance. The titanium parts are usually fine, it is the shims, seats, cam chain, and all of the other ancillary top end parts that have worn out.

Titanium, aluminum, whatever the material is for the application, the point is that the material is chosen by the design engineer for a specific set of properties that match the needs required by the intended use of that part ie tensile strength, weight, thermal properties etc.

The Nascar engine won't spin much higher than 10,000 rpm reliably because the weight of the internal reciprocating parts won't allow it, along with some other design limitations. The pistons weigh too much, the stroke is too long, the crank heavy, the pushrod valvetrain too heavy etc. Given the limitations those guys have to work with, they do a remarkable job of making horsepower efficiently with those lumps.

In terms of motorcycle engines, by "all aluminum bottom ends" do you mean crankcases or...?
"top end...made from titanium"? Your jargon is a little odd.

Titanium isn't necessary in many instances since the parts are smaller, lighter weight etc by nature on a motorcycle. That being said, BMW uses it for their S1000RR valves on the stock bike.

I can assure you that valve shims aren't wearing out, cam chains stretch but there are normal service limits for those. Titanium valves require valve seats that cushion the valve instead of beating it to death. All said and done, there are remarkably few catastrophic engine failures these days.

Do you know that all 4-stroke engines are limited by the physics of friction and air pumps? The best 4-stroke racing engines make between 25m/s and 27m/s mean piston velocity. NASCAR is not limited by the weight of the components nor is SBK. The components are designed to be strong enough to achieve maximum theoretical rpm, but the weights and strengths of those parts are not the cause of the rev ceiling. NASCAR can only do around 10,000rpm b/c that's all it can do. If you install titanium internals, it won't gain any revs or any additional peak bhp.

BMW are competent metallurgists as are the Japanese. The crank, rods, and pistons are capable of sustaining high rpm. The only bottom end (below the cylinder head) failure I've heard of in modern sportbikes was the Aprilia RSV-4. It was a huge embarrassment for the company, and after tracing the problem to a piston supplier, Aprilia recalled the bikes for repair.

The point is that titanium rods and pistons are not raise the theoretical rev ceiling nor are they required for a modern 4-cylinder SBK engine to achieve maximum rpm.

I would love to see one of the Beemers nab Superpole or better yet, take one of the race wins. Although I should be rooting for the lone Suzuki. (as I own 3 of them) Any word on the weather report for Sunday? I hope it stays dry. Also I hope to see the two Yamaha's do well, maybe Marco can get another win. Go Marco!!!