2011 Portimao WSBK Test Day 1 Results: Haslam Leads BMW Clean Sweep

Fresh off the back of three days testing at Jerez, the factory BMW team topped the timesheets of the first day of the combined Aprilia, BMW and Suzuki test at the Portimao test. Leon Haslam led his teammate Marco Melandri, the Englishman posting a time of 1'43.6, a tenth quicker than Melandri, but a long way off Max Biaggi's lap record, the track conditions far from ideal despite warm and sunny weather. The factory BMW team continued the work on the new generation of electronics to be used for the coming season - though the provenance of the electronics remains mysterious, with rumors of the team running both Magneti Marelli and Pi systems, while BMW insists that the systems are BMW electronics. The mechanics were also given plenty of work to do, Marco Melandri writing off his S1000RR in a massive crash at the end of the day.

BMW Italia rider Ayrton Badovini was another tenth behind the factory bikes, the Italian continuing to make solid progress, while Eugene Laverty impressed on just his second outing on the factory Aprilia, matching the time of his veteran teammate and 2010 World Champion Max Biaggi, and just three tenths slower than Haslam. Chaz Davies, also on his second outing on the Aprilia, and only his second ever outing aboard a World Superbike, was as impressive as Laverty, just a tenth off the Irishman and four tenths off Haslam, despite a harmless crash towards the end of the session.

The Suzuki riders had a much tougher day of it. Leon Camier, in his debut on the Suzuki, now being run by the former BSB team Crescent, with some assistance from the Suzuki's ex-MotoGP squad now that the Japanese factory has pulled out of the series, spent a frustrating day dealing with brake issues and unable to put in the laps he had wanted, ending the day with the 8th fastest time, 1.2 seconds behind Haslam. BSB Suzuki rider Alastair Seeley also spent time learning the Portimao circuit, taking the place of John Hopkins, who is still recovering from surgery to fix the finger injury which flared up again at Sepang.

Unofficial times at the end of day 1, courtesy of WorldSBK.com:

Pos No Rider Bike Time Diff Previous
1 91 Leon Haslam BMW 1:43.6    
2 33 Marco Melandri BMW 1:43.7 0.1 0.1
3 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW 1:43.8 0.2 0.1
4 3 Max Biaggi Aprilia 1:43.9 0.3 0.1
5 58 Eugene Laverty Aprilia 1:43.9 0.3 0.0
6   Chaz Davies Aprilia 1:44.0 0.4 0.1
7 84 Michel Fabrizio BMW 1:44.5 0.9 0.5
8 2 Leon Camier Suzuki 1:44.8 1.2 0.3
9   Alastair Seeley Suzuki 1:46.2 2.6 1.4





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Those times look insanely competitive. Too bad WSBK can't get the rule for 1200cc twins correct. WSBK would be one barnburner after another.

The regs have never been tighter on the twins. Only a 20% capacity advantage (not the 33% of days of yore). Which of course translates to a real world 20hp deficit. No weight advantage (previously up to 15% - 25kg lighter), in fact for 2012 a 6kg penalty has been added to the twins all on the back of the results of one rider (all the other Dukes being nowhere to be seen on the 2011 points table). And Ducati have to run intake restrictor plates reducing the breathing aperture from 60mm to 50mm.

Or don't you like variety?

The Ducati 999R was competitive against 4-cylinder bikes, and Ducati's 1000cc twins would have remained competitive against 4-cylinder bikes at 1000cc.

Ducati realized that their race bikes stacked up on the racetrack, but their production bikes didn't stack up against 4-cylinder SBKs produced by other manufacturers. In order to reduce the horsepower gap in the production market, they begged the SBK Commission for an additional 200cc. The extra cc also reduced the cost of the race bikes b/c the rev ceiling was reduced by roughly 20%.

The change was good for Ducati. It wasn't good for the sport. It had nothing to do with the race track and almost everything to do with the production stat sheets. Now the organizers fumble around with ballast and air restrictors to make sure Ducati doesn't have an unfair advantage.

The Japanese factories were not directly involved in WSBK around the time of the much mailgned (Why? A winner and a looker in my books) 999R. The Twins were also allowed a more serious state of tune than the fours too.

Was the argument for the capacity increase race or production driven? I always though it was the former. I doubt many buyers of big twins go in for the "mine's bigger than yours" nonsense.

What motive do I have for making specious arguments? What motive does Ducati have?

You've already bought the specious argument. The 999R and its successful race campaign did not push Ducati into bankruptcy. The 999 production bikes did push Ducati into bankruptcy. The bike didn't match up with Japanese bikes on power or price. It wasn't nearly as attractive as the 748/916/996/998 lineup either, and people stopped buying. It doesn't matter what consumers think, it matters how executives perceive consumers as behaving and the marketing message executives want to send to buyers.

1200cc helped reduce the cost of racing for Ducati, but it was the production superbike market they were worried about.

it matters how executives perceive consumers as behaving
I think that they perceived that the customers didn't buy the 999. Pity, but pretty sells.
Or maybe they just ran out of numbers? The Ducati 1001?, Nah, might as well bore it out and call it 1098.

Thing is, fairness is a myth. The racing is not about finding the best bike, it's about negotiating conditions under which a sufficient number of teams are willing to turn up and put on a show that Flammini can sell to TV.

Well said Nostrodamus. Carlos had a great season on the twin and thats all.
The twin as a racing machine did not. Phoenix1, I for one always use Monza 2011 as a current guideline regarding the twin vs fours rules.
For me the 4:3 ratio within this argument remains the bottom line. Equal capacity and technology used on the day,the four outguns the twin by 4BHP to 3BHP per cc DOHC 4-stroke,4 valve head as a general rule of thumb. It's been that way since dynamometers in the 70's.
No easy fix,but ruling against the twins because Ducati had a great year with Carlos is clearly flawed.
Restrictor plates plus 6kg. Nuts.

Honda beat Ducati at their own game back then with their twin. Suzuki had a go. Yamaha never got out of the starting blocks with their copy of a basic 900SS. Kawasaki never tried and Aprilia's Mille was light years behind.
Conclusion. Those manufacturers could not justify manufacturing SuperTwins for public consumption as the returns were few.
So we go full circle.
Fact current. Only Ducati can compete against the 4's in SBK.
Reason. Niche market that sustains sales. No hope for the rest as an economically viable option.
Honda/Yamaha/Suzuki/Kawasaki and Aprilia know full well that head to head they can't compete against Ducati on the world stage with a twin under current rules and remain economically viable within that facet of the sport. Add KTM to that list

But I will say you are the conspiracy king on this site!

Sorry I couldn't make much sense of that last post except something about Ducati and bankruptcy. Ducati were teetering on the edge prior to the Texas Pacific takeover, but that was mid nineties and pre 999.

The 999 to my mind was ahead of its time in the looks department. I believe that this point hindered its acceptance by the bike buying public, and not any performance related factors. I'm pretty sure it was very well received by the motorcycle press from a riding standpoint. Certainly its on track success ( 3 x WSBK rider titles) would indicate what a fine motorcycle it was. Any half decent rider knows you don't need quantum amounts of horsepower on the road.

The capacity ceiling of 1200cc was argued for vociferously by Ducati to continue competing with the Japanese at WSBK level as the factory involvement of the fours pushed hp numbers beyond Ducati's reach with equal capacity.

All Ducati's commercial success since Ing. Bordi took over the engine design reins from Ing. Taglioni has been race track driven. Why should the 999 / 1098 transition be any different?

You can believe whatever makes you happy. I followed the reorganization as it progressed between 2005-2008, and I was one of the few people to get my hands on Ducati's strategic report when they accidentally posted it on their website as shareholder information. How many people even know that happened?

I know what they were thinking. Regardless, it should be obvious to anyone that the manufacturers change the rules based upon what they want to sell. Ducati had a long list of product objectives that required 1200cc if they were going to continue building twins.

Ducati are capable of building a competitive 1000cc twin, but they no longer want to sell it.

I geniunely feel the 999 gets a bum rap and I do not really understand why beyond inherent conservatism from the bike buying public. The 1098 (pretty as it is) was in many ways a retro grade step to appease the 916 genre aficionados. Fair enough, the directional change worked commercially. However I'm glad to see Ducati pushing design frontiers once more though with the Panigale.

The Mille was far from light years behind - in 2000 Corser finished 3rd overall and in the following two years they were 3rd in the constructors champs, only beaten by Ducati and Honda. Had not much of their money gone into their nascent MotoGP campaign (on the beautiful but much maligned Cube) then I think Aprilia may have challenged Ducati and HRC in the following years for the SBK title. It was, and still is, a cracking bike the RSV1000...

The report leaked five years ago. I didn't have the foresight to realize the report could be useful for verifying the obvious.

Long story short, the Superbike section didn't list WSBK competitiveness as the onus for an entirely new line of SBK products. The SBK section did have a list of objectives for the production bikes including increased displacement, increased horsepower, styling, lighter trellis, SSS, reliability, reduced price, and a few others I don't recall. WSBK competitiveness was barely an afterthought. The 1098 was basically already finished at the time of the report (Fall 2006 IIRC), and the evolution to 1198 was already underway.

For all intents and purposes, Ducati had already built the new 1100cc and 1200cc SBKs without knowing whether or not they could be raced. Same with the 848. The WSBK rules were not finalized until the middle of 2007. The 1200cc twins were granted homologation, but the 848 was left out in the cold. The 848 was still released and it still sold.

WSBK success with the 999 was not bringing sales, and Ducati's management had to face the harsh reality that WSBK was not the reason the company sold bikes. Since the 916, Ducati customers had been accustomed more displacement, more power, more torque, an SSS, and better styling than comparable Japanese bikes. Ducati couldn't earn money without those elements.

re: "Long story short, the Superbike section didn't list WSBK competitiveness as the onus for an entirely new line of SBK products."

i wouldn't be so quick to interpret the "lack" of a line item listing to be the same as "topic not under consideration". does a company with a storied history like ferrari REALLY need to spell out on an internal document, "oh by the way we're italian and like racing"...? no, it's an understood part of corporate culture. as it goes for maranello, it also goes for borgo panigale.

If you wish to make your own addendum you may.

Regardless, Ducati management realized that WSBK titles didn't bring sales for the first time since they went WSBK racing. Tamburini was actually more important than Tardozzi, and Ducati were forced to reevaluate all of their production-superbike strategies.

Ducati won more races in 2007 than any other manufacturer in WSBK. The 1000cc engine was still relevant to the race track. It wasn't relevant to the production market.

You do speak some truth in there. It would be naive though to suggest Ducati would build new higher capacity flag ship retail product without being fairly confident they could argue their rules case to Flammini and race it. Racing is afterall in Ducati's DNA, despite their recent commercial success with niche market products. Why else the hullabaloo about the new CF chassis of the Pangiale?

>>The Ducati 999R was competitive against 4-cylinder bikes, and Ducati's 1000cc twins would have remained competitive against 4-cylinder bikes at 1000cc.<<

Nonsense, it wasn't. And they couldn't remain competitive.

To make the 999F0x (factory bikes) and 999R Corse (privateer bikes) any competitive, the Testrastretta engine got so stressed with such a high state of necessary tuning that it absolutely needed a full rebuild every 600 km (six hundred kilometers!), just to be reliable enough to finish races.
Just for a term of comparison, the teams using jap 1000cc fours were rebuilding theirs twice or trice a year (reviews by A.Cathcart, at that time, of Ten-Kate, Alstare and Belgarda bikes, if memory serves me right).
That's insane when compared. The difference in costs for tuning, plus the maintenance, between twins VS fours was crazy during those years (2004-2007).

Privateers were (still are) a major factor in WSBK, and you also have to count with various National SBK champs following same rules then, having same problems.
People complained of a "Ducati Cup" years before, but it was quickly turning into an all out "Ricerocket Trophy".
The introduction of 1200cc capacity for twins was not to ease up things (or to favor, like some prefer to put it) just for Ducati, but for any other team and manufacturer interested in racing production based racebikes with twin-cilinder engines, for bigger variety.

From memory the new rules were announced in 2006 (to start in 2008). Notice that there was no confirmation of a production RSV4 from Aprilia then (RSV twin was still their flagship and most presumed it could still be), KTM finally shown interest in participating with their -at the time- upcoming RC8 bike (delayed year after year, now to be 1190, not 990), and there were also some rumors of a MotoMorini V-twin sportsbike to be campaigned (before the big financial issues were confirmed).
The problem of equal capacity for twins and fours existed not only for Ducati, but they did serve as the clear example of the problem then.

1200cc was important for cost reduction, but it wasn't necessary for the bikes to be competitive. The Ducati Corse WSBK team also functioned like the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team--Ducati got sponsors to pay the bills.

When the new 1098R was introduced, it had a bore measurement of 106mm compared to 104mm. It was barely more powerful than the outgoing 999R, it simply had a lower rev ceiling. Competitiveness was not the problem for Ducati, and the costs were not so outrageous that the sponsors wouldn't pay.

re: "The Ducati Corse WSBK team also functioned like the Marlboro Ducati MotoGP team--Ducati got sponsors to pay the bills."

so are we to assume satellite teams (a considerable revenue stream) thinking about sourcing new RS or prior year's F kit will have luck EQUAL to the factory's at attracting/retaining sponsorship...?

iirc correctly, sterilgarda reduced their sponsorship of borciani's team part way thru the season '09 only to direct it over to spies at yamaha and even spies' post season M1 guest appearance. they (sterilgarda) are of course nowhere to be found now. the durability of xerox sponsorship was not the rule, but merely an EXCEPTION to the rule. an exception that seems can only be enjoyed by the factory or at least an already well funded effort that the factory has given their blessing (read bevilaqua/althea).

The air restrictor rules were never really clear (not to me, anyway). Some bikes had them in 2003, some didn't. The MSMA worked to create a new air-restricted formula for 2004 (for everyone), but it was rejected, along with the tire regulations for a tire war.

Here is some interesting reading: http://www.motorcycledaily.com/2003/07/10july03msmarelease/

People don't really like to get into the nitty-gritty of SBK racing, but the purpose of the formula from the outset has been to equalize the horsepower output of the motorcycles. Still works that way, hence, 5 manufacturers won this season in SBK, while only 2 won in GP.

Ducati could race a 1000cc twin and be competitive in the current WSBK formula, but they don't want to sell a 1000cc twin. They changed the rules to allow 1200cc twins, they got slapped with a sloppy air-restrictor rule, and now the competitive balance is out of whack again.

I thought the answer was a little bit of both. Davide Tardozzi spoke on the level maintenance that had to be done on the 999 quite often. Saying that it was more of a Prototype than World Superbike engine. Then at the factory, they often said they needed to do something different to compete with the Japanese bikes on the sales floor.

So it seemed to me to be a little bit of both that made the changes happen. At that time, with the 999 still racing, the Suzuki in particular started to show better pace as a bike in some areas. Troy Bayliss had said that the fours had caught up and were starting to get off the corners as good as a twin, which was the twins greatest strength. Using torque out of a corner to gain two bike lengths out of the corner. That no longer happens.

Look at Haga in 2009. Best bike, (Ducati 1098), against Spies (Yamaha R1) factory bike, but did not get the greatest reviews. Not from the test I read by Wayne Gardner. He said the R1 was not an easy bike to get through transitions or corners period. But Spies talent (arguably), was still able to break Haga's back. They were miles ahead of everyone enough times to say it was just the bikes. But it was their talent on the bikes that got those gaps.

The Ducati under Carlos Checa, (which I read is nothing but an unchanged Factory 1098R from past seasons), was able to dominate. I do not recall any other Ducati's challenging. He was the lone Ducati. I think they needed the 1200 Cap for sales AND racing. Just to stay competitive in both.

re: "I thought the answer was a little bit of both."

re: "I think they needed the 1200 Cap for sales AND racing. Just to stay competitive in both."