Rome (Italy), 1 May 2012 – With Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) at the top of the points table, the eni FIM Superbike World Championship returns to Italy for the second of three events, this time at Monza, the fastest round of the calendar. The production-based racing series will be celebrating its 25th anniversary at the fourth of its 14 rounds, with a glittering array of riders and bikes present throughout the four days. The legends of then and now will be present on Saturday and Sunday in the SBK Paddock Show and for Italian fans it will be a unique opportunity to get close and personal with the men and machines who have contributed to the success of the championship over the past quarter-century.
Monza is the venue for a championship round for the 21st time: the first edition was held in 1990 and it saw a double win for Fabrizio Pirovano on a Yamaha. This will also be the 301st World Superbike round, which will reach the 600-race mark next time out at Donington the following weekend.
2010 champion Biaggi is back at the top of the points once again despite struggling to get on the podium at a rain-disturbed Assen. Last year’s champion Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) lies just one point behind, but the top of the table is a tightly-fought affair with eight riders (Biaggi, Checa, Sykes, Guintoli, Melandri, Rea, Haslam and Laverty) on five different manufacturer machines separated by just 36 points. Each one of the remaining 22 races will assign 25 points for the winner.
Aprilia are present with their latest-spec engine that may help Biaggi to increase his points lead and improve on last year’s record top speed of 334.8 km/h and average lap speed of 204.405 km/h he set during Superpole. The Italian rider has started from pole in the last two Monza rounds and also scored a double win in 2010. Twelve months ago he finished second and eighth on what became Eugene Laverty’s incredible day of success for Yamaha. The 25 year-old Irishman, who is now his team-mate, is another Monza specialist, having also won the Supersport race the previous year.
Ducati have a great tradition at Monza (18 wins, 40 podiums), but their twin-cylinder bike has not won there since 2009. Checa’s best result is eighth place in 2008, when he was with Ten Kate Honda, while another competitive Ducati machine will be in the hands of Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Effenbert Liberty Racing), who is on a roll following his maiden win in the Netherlands. Honda World Superbike Team’s Jonathan Rea also broke the ice at Assen and will be aiming to continue his move up the points table after his first win of the year.
Monza’s long straights should help to boost the chances of the other four-cylinder machines present in this year’s championship, starting with Kawasaki. The phenomenon of the season so far, at least in the Tissot-Superpole challenge where he has a perfect 100% record, has been Britain’s Tom Sykes, and it will be interesting to see how well the ZX-10R goes this time around. At the time of press, no replacement has yet been slated in for the injured Joan Lascorz.
After twice throwing away a first win at Assen, BMW are extremely confident things will go well this time around; Marco Melandri scored two seconds in 2011 when racing for Yamaha, while Leon Haslam is always up amongst the front runners. BMW scored the first of its eight podiums here in 2010 and the time is right for a first historic triumph. In the Italian-run BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet squad, both Ayrton Badovini (who crashed at Assen while in the lead) and former Monza winner Michel Fabrizio will again be entrusted with the task of improving on their difficult start to the season. While over at Suzuki, Crescent FIXI men Leon Camier and John Hopkins also showed a true competitive nature following a disappointing opening couple of rounds.
Points (after 3 of 14 rounds): 1. Biaggi 92; 2. Checa 91; 3. Sykes 79; 4. Guintoli 66; 5. Melandri 66; 6. Rea 65; 7. Haslam 58; 8. Laverty 56; 9. Smrz 39; 10. Giugliano 37; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 136; 2. Aprilia 100; 3. BMW 86; 4. Kawasaki 85; 5. Honda 69; 6. Suzuki 20.
The World Supersport battle for supremacy is looking to be pretty evenly-balanced as Kawasaki and Honda have taken the wins in the first three races. At the top of the table two former title holders are equal on 45 points: Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) and Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step), but Sam Lowes (PTR Bogdanka Honda) is just 14 points behind, despite his crash at Assen, where the 22 year-old Brit started from pole. A Honda did manage to win in the wet at Assen, the Prorace version of Lorenzo Lanzi, but this exploit by the former WSB winner for the moment probably remains a one-off appearance. One of the title favourites Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) has yet to take a win this year, while Vladimir Leonov (Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha) became the first Russian to score a world championship podium at Assen, moving into a very impressive fifth place in the overall championship standings. Raffaele De Rosa, who started off the season amidst the World Superbike ranks, makes a one-event debut for Lorini Honda.
Points (after 3 of 13 rounds): 1. Sofuoglu 45; 2. Foret 45; 3. Lowes 31; 4. Parkes 29; 5. Leonov 26; 6. Lanzi 25; 7. Quarmby 25; 8. Baldolini 24; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 70; 2. Honda 61; 3. Yamaha 31; 4. Triumph 30; 5. Suzuki 6.
BMW Motorrad Italia’s ultra-successful run continues in the Superstock 1000 category reserved for under-26s. In 2010 the Italian squad wiped the floor with Ayrton Badovini, and last year they had Lorenzo Zanetti in their ranks; both now race in the top class. Now it’s the turn of the 23 year-old Frenchman Sylvain Barrier, who prepared for Sunday’s race in the best possible way by notching up another win last Sunday in the Italian series on the same track. Barrier has 50 points after two wins in two races, and is followed on 32 by Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Italia), with the Ducati 1199 Panigale that came very close to the win both at Imola and Assen.
Points (after 2 of 10 rounds): 1. Barrier 50; 2. La Marra 32; 3. Baz 30; 4. Savadori 28; 5. Reiterberger 26; 6. Coghlan 14; 7. Baroni 12; 8. Staring 11; etc. Manufacturers: 1. BMW 50; 2. Ducati 36; 3. Kawasaki 30; 4. Honda 10; 5. Aprilia 5.
The weekend programme also sees the third round of the European Superstock 600 Championship for under-22 year-olds. By winning at his home track, Dutchman Michael van der Mark (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda) took over at the top of the table, and he now leads from Spain’s Nacho Calero Perez (Team Trasimeno Yamaha) with Riccardo Russo (Team Italia Yamaha) in third. Monza is sure to offer more high-speed action as any number of riders, including the seven-strong Italian one-event and wild-card contingent aim to mix it with the best European Championship regulars.
Points (after 2 of 10 rounds): 1. Van Der Mark 41; 2. Calero Perez 40; 3. Russo 36; 4. Egea 24; 5. Duwelz 22; 6. Morrentino 13; etc.
KTM European Junior Cup
The second round at Monza will see appearances from two Italian wildcards. Giovanni De Pera is the lucky rider to be chosen for the Moto Vudu / Bikeracing.it competition which bases selection on the achievements and promise of a young local rider, while Kevin Chili is the son of World Superbike legend Pierfrancesco Chili and looks to have inherited his father’s great talent. Both youngsters will be seeking to challenge the EJC regulars on Italian home turf, but it won’t be easy as Poles Adrian Pasek and Artur Wielebski are sure to be strong and there are any number of other riders with the speed to be challenging for the lead.
Points (after 1 of 8 rounds): 1. Pasek 25; 2. Hartog 20; 3. Wielebski 16; 4. Demoulin 13; 5. Patterson 11; 6. Lewis 10; etc.