The FIM Superbike World Championship returns to Monza from May 7-9. On this high-speed track production based Superbike machines lap at an average speed of close to 200 km/h, and this year expectations are high that the races will produce sparks from lights to flag.
For World SBK road racing fans Monza will offer numerous talking points this weekend: table-toppers Suzuki with Britain’s Leon Haslam, the all-Italian combination of Aprilia, Alitalia and Biaggi, the factory Ducati riders trying to shrug off their below-par season start, Honda back at the top once again following Johnny Rea’s domination at Assen, reigning champions Yamaha with two talented British stars, BMW on the up and up and Kawasaki who are aiming to finally join the front-running party.
WSBK Rider Pre-Race Monza Quotes
Jonathan Rea says: "It’s been a really busy time since I got back from Assen – I moved into a new apartment last weekend and then went to watch my motocross team and afterwards saw my brother in the British Superstock championship. I’m really looking forward to Monza, though, and the results last year were not so bad. We know the bike works there because Kiyo (Ryuichi Kiyonari) got on the podium twice, but I can’t wait to see how the new base setting transfers to Monza. It could have been easy to get carried away after the double win at Assen, but we’re not naïve enough to think that our rivals haven’t been working very hard since then. We certainly have, because we know how tough it is to get to the front and stay there. I’ll aim for another steady start this weekend; building momentum on Friday and Saturday. You need a bit of fight and determination at Monza, as well as a fast bike, and I’m planning on bringing both this weekend."
Max Neukirchner says:" I’m feeling very positive as we go to Monza because I really feel that we made a big step forward in the second race at Assen. We’ve changed the bike quite a bit and made it stiffer for race two, but the biggest change I&rsq uo;ve made is in my riding style. I need to brake differently into the corners to help me get out faster and, although Monza is known as a very fast circuit, I think we can still make some steps forward there on braking into the chicanes. It’s a very special place, but obviously I have some bad memories from last year. I will just be concentrating on improving the bike and my style and this, I think, will help me to close the book on last season’s problems."
Leon Haslam says: "Monza is steeped in history and it is always a pleasure going there and seeing the remnants of its past. The old banking is amazing and it’s hard to believe how people got round it so fast! Fortunately, we don’t have to try and do that, but the track we race on is pretty fast also. It’s a track where tactics are very important and you have to be able to get your slipstreaming just right. It’s easy to be leading a pack of riders going into the Parabolica just before the start finish straight and end up second, third or fourth! Although there are some very fast bits, there are also some slowish corners where hard braking is called for, so it’s important to get a good set-up on the bike. Last year I was on a different bike. I qualified 17th, scored no points in race one and got seventh in race two, so I will certainly be looking for a big improvement this time."
Sylvain Guintoli says: "I have never been to Monza before, so this is going to be a new experience for me. I know that it is a high-speed track and that slipstreaming can play a crucial part. Obviously, my first job will be to learn the circuit and then try and qualify well. That has been a bit of a problem for me recently, but I aim to turn up with my race head on and find a good rhythm right from the start. Anything less will be a problem, so I have to get down to it as soon as I can. Although it is a new track for me, I am looking forward to a good weekend and an upturn on my recent results.
Noriyuki Haga says: "It was unfortunate that I was sick after Assen and so couldn’t make the most of last week’s Misano testing session. The work I did do there went well and now we have to see what happens at Monza. This weekend will be tough; I like the Monza track but at the same time I know that my 1198 does not have the top speed of some of the other bikes and with Monza’s long straights, it will be hard for us I think. Nevertheless, I’ll be opening the gas and giving 200%."
Michel Fabrizio says: "I had a good weekend here last year and am very happy that my first ever Superbike race win came in front of my home crowd, at Monza. We’ve not had an easy run of things recently but testing went well at Misano last week and I’ll be doing everything to put on a great performance this weekend. We need to start to make up lost ground."
Troy Corser says: "At Monza two things are key: good acceleration and good brakes. The circuit is, in effect, a succession of long straights and tight corners. At Assen we were really quick on the straights. If we can build speed quickly out of the corners and look after our tyres over the full race distance, I’m very confident we can have a good race weekend."
Ruben Xaus says: "I have good memories of Monza last year, as I finished in the top ten twice. I like the atmosphere in the Royal Park. You can feel the long tradition of motor sport wherever you go around the circuit.
James Toseland says: "The test last week was encouraging, I think I ended up second and third. I am particularly looking forward to Monza; I’ve always loved riding there, as we didn’t in Moto GP I’m happy to be going back. It’s got an ambience in the park, to hear the engines resonating through the trees is really special and you can feel the history. The high speed circuit is also pretty special; to hold it flat out in top gear for 7 or 8 seconds is something you don’t do anywhere else. I’m really pleased with the way things are progressing with package and the team and as it’s the home race for them it also adds something extra to the weekend."
Cal Crutchlow says: "I’m looking forward to putting the Assen weekend behind me and getting back to the front at Monza. We’ve been working hard as a team to keep improving the bike and it was really useful to spend the two days at Misano working on a set up for me. I’m confident both James and I can be at the front this weekend and fighting for podiums on Sunday. I love the high speed Monza circuit and enjoyed racing there on the Supersport bike last year, I can’t wait to tackle it with the R1."
Roger Lee Hayden says: "This will be my first time at the Monza circuit. I have never raced on the track before so I will have to familiarize with this new circuit starting from Friday’s free practices. I’m eager to ride and get to know this historical circuit. After the first four races of my first Superbike season I’m more confident with my bike’s set-up and in Monza I want to enter the Superpole because I would like to achieve good results for my team and for all my sponsors".
Matteo Baiocco says: "I like Monza, it’s one of my favorite circuits also thanks to the affection shown by my Italian supporters. I had one week to rest and I’m fully fit and ready for this fifth round of the World Superbike. I know that I have to work hard during practices, to be able to start in good position on Sunday races and I will try to get as many points as possible".
On the rider front the 27-year-old Brit Leon Haslam, the son of Ron ‘Rocket’ Haslam who graced the 500 GP scene for many years, is currently on the top of the pile. After four rounds Leon leads the way with two wins to his name, and is 20 points ahead of Max Biaggi. Max, for his part, appears to have all the right cards this year to become the first ever Italian to win the World Superbike title and a double win in Portugal is projecting him towards that success.
All eyes will also be on another British Lion, 23-year-old Leon Camier who stepped onto the WSB podium for the first time at Assen, while another Suzuki, a GSXR1000 Yoshimura for Yukio Kagayama, also joins the grid in the first of three races slated in for this year.
Not everything is going according to plan in Ducati and the Italian manufacturer, which has won 18 of the 36 races held at Monza, is looking to one of its congenial tracks to set things right. Both the Xerox Ducati men, Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio have struggled to regain ground since the opening round in Australia and thousands of fans will be following closely their every move.
As well as the factory squad, the Althea Ducati team has brought back Spaniard Carlos Checa to a level of competitiveness rarely seen in the last couple of years, and Checa will receive capable back-up from Shane Byrne, who is still looking for a breakthrough this year. Jakub Smrz is producing excellent form, especially in qualifying, on the Borciani-Guandalini Ducati 1098 machine, while Italian colors are also capably represented by Lorenzo Lanzi (DFX) and Luca Scassa (Supersonic).
Much attention surrounds relative newcomers BMW, who after a year of running in the new S1000RR, are now starting to appear in the top positions. BMW hope to continue this positive trend at Monza, a track where the four-cylinder German machine can lay down all of its power and maybe a podium finish is on the cards. The Tardozzi effect is beginning to be felt throughout the team and two-times champion Troy Corser, together with Ruben Xaus, is rapidly making progress.
Dutch team Hannspree Ten Kate have taken Japanese manufacturer Honda back to the top after a disappointing start to the year with a dominant double win for Rea at Assen. After the latest modifications the CBR is now a perfectly competitive bike again, and Rea is aiming for further success, while things are a bit more difficult for young German Max Neukirchner who hasn’t yet got entirely to grips with his new Honda mount. Monza will also mark the return of Vittorio Iannuzzo on the private Squadra Corse Italia Honda CBR.
Yamaha hopes of repeating last year’s fantastic American exploit, when Spies took one win at Monza and the title, lie with two British riders, James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow. For Toseland the return to Superbike, after a couple of unsuccessful seasons in MotoGP, has not been easy but his well-known perseverance has rewarded him with three podiums in the last four races, a result that has propelled him into fifth overall. Crutchlow’s impact is the result of a spectacular riding style and two Superpoles have earned the Coventry man a front-row place in the eyes of Superbike fans everywhere in his debut season.
For Kawasaki the grass continues to be ‘greener’ on the other side of the fence. Chris Vermeulen’s crash at Phillip Island together with him missing the next two rounds at Portimao and Valencia as he recovered from his knee injury has scaled down the revitalized team’s ambitions. Tom Sykes is doing everything possible to get good results but for the moment there is some way to go.
‘09 SBK Results Race 1
1. Michel Fabrizio (ITA Ducati 1098R)
Noriyuki Haga (JPN Ducati 1098R)
3. Ryuichi Kiyonari (JPN Honda
’09 SBK Results Race 2
1. Ben Spies (USA Yamaha R1)
Michel Fabrizio (ITA Ducati 1098R)
3. Ryuichi Kiyonari (JPN Honda
2010 World SBK Points (after 4 rounds of 13): 1. Haslam 148; 2. Biaggi 128; 3. Rea 110; 4. Checa 103; 5. Toseland 86; 6. Haga 85; 7. Corser 68; 8. Guintoli 55; 9. Fabrizio 53; 10. Crutchlow 49. Manufacturers: 1. Suzuki 148; 2. Aprilia 134; 3. Ducati 130; 4. Honda 111; 5. Yamaha 93; 6. BMW 69; 7. Kawasaki 19