Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0
With World Superbike coming to Miller Motorsports Park next weekend, many eyes are on reigning champ Max Biaggi. Will Max be able to recover from a rocky season’s start to keep the title in Aprilia’s trophy case? Or will a charging Carlos Checa and upstart Marco Melandri continue to show no respect for Max’s greatness? Since his early days as a fantastic 250cc two-stroke rider, Max has had his share of disrespectful rivals.
Last year he, and the dominant Aprilia, added another star to his dorsal display of world titles. But in 2009 he ran into some trouble with Ben Spies and Noriyuki Haga. You can never fault Max for not trying hard enough–in qualifying Max held onto the throttle as he dumped the RSV4 in the Attitudes, though Spies would win both races that weekend. Whether you love him or hate him, Max gives it all he’s got.
Despite a dismal weekend at Monza, Carlos Checa is again the fastest man on a World Superbike machine. The Spaniard posted the unofficial fastest lap of a two day test this week at Misano, beating all three Aprilia riders as well as the factory BMW team. Checa set the unofficial quickest time of the test (1:34.8) Wednesday morning, on his way to completing 140 laps of the Italian circuit. The participants were preparing for the next round at Miller Motorsports Park in almost three weeks’ time as well as the WSBK round held at Misano in mid-June.
Reigning Champion and current WSBK record speed holder Max Biaggi also tested at Misano, with teammate Leon Camier and privateer Aprilia rider Noriyuki Haga, as well as BMW Motorrad riders Troy Corser and Leon Haslam. It was Biaggi with the fastest unofficial time at the end of Tuesday, breaking the previous lap record with his time of 1:35.6. His progress seemed to go backwards on the second day, with neither the rider nor team happy with settings used Wednesday.
Reigning World Champion Max Biaggi started his home round of the 2011 World Superbike season at Monza on pole after publicly declaring that this was a weekend to make up points after mistakes at earlier rounds. He started his quest to do so with aplomb, breaking the WSBK speed record and spending extra time on track while doing so. Eugene Laverty, Jonathan Rea, and Tory Corser joined Biaggi on the front row for the start of the second race, leaving Carlos Checa surprisingly down in eleventh after a poor set of Superole sessions on Saturday for the points leader. Most riders had multiple, possibly crucial, laps deleted after running across the chicane.
Meanwhile, injuries continued to plague men already suffering from them. Chris Vermeulen added to his set of scars by tearing the skin on his elbow during a practice crash. That injury, only able to be partially closed, left him unable to race on Sunday. Meanwhile James Toseland also sat out Sunday’s races, despite some vigorous autograph signing, on his predicted return to the WSBK paddock after a testing crash left him with wires in his wrist. Later, Haslam returned to the top of the timesheets in the morning sunshine at Monza, with Biaggi, Laverty, Corser, and Camier the fastest five in Sunday morning’s warmup.
Though provisional pole went to Leon Haslam in Friday afternoon’s World Superbike qualifying practice at Monza, reigning World Champion Max Biaggi made headlines of his own by breaking the WSBK top speed record. Despite this feat, Haslam outqualified the Italian at home by just 0.019s in a final lap dash, with Eugene Laverty and Ayrton Badovini completing the provisional front row for Yamaha and BMW Motorrad Italia.
Though there will be another qualifying practice Saturday morning and the three sessions of Superpole yet to be held to determine the pole sitter for Sunday’s race, Biaggi is looking to gain back momentum lost in the debacle that was Donington Park. “We need to recover points and we have plenty of potential to be able to do so, even the Assen round showed that,” said Biaggi. He added, “Racing in Italy in front of my supporters will obviously give me a little more charge.” That charge led to the new record of 332.5 kph (206.62 mph) set by Biaggi on Friday.
On paper the Aprilia Tuono V4 R is a monster, boasting the most horsepower in its class, and coming armed with a sophisticated electronics package to help hook-up the 162hp on the tarmac. While all the early ride reports are positive about the new true-blooded streetfighter, and we’re sure the slightly watered-down naked RSV4 would paint a silly grin on our face, it’s the headshot of this bike that makes us cringe just a little bit — the RSV4 headlight just doesn’t work without the accompanying bodywork.
While your mileage may vary, at least one dealership in France appears to agree with us, and has taken matters into its own hands. Putting together what it calls an Aprilia Tuono V4 Street, Paris-Nord Moto has created its own special version of the Aprilia Tuono V4 R with a new headlight and half-fairing design.
Quite a stir was made on Tuesday when news hit the interwebs (including on A&R) that an illegal fuel pump was found on Max Biaggi’s Aprilia RSV4 Factory race bike at Assen. With World Superbike regulations requiring that the fuel system be completely unmodified from stock, the story was two-fold as it appeared something about the #1 plated Aprilia was awry, and seemingly no penalty was levied by Race Direction.
Subsequent to this news Gigi Dall’Igna, Technical Director of Aprilia’s World Superbike program, has categorically denied anything illegal about Biaggi’s fuel pump, simply stating that the only difference between Biaggi’s pump and those on Camier and Haga’s RSV4′s was the number stamped on the side…which was different on every unit. In addition to this news, Infront Media Sports emailed Asphalt & Rubber last night, and further explained the situation, also explaining that no irregularities had been found on Biaggi’s race bike at the Dutch round.
It’s been a tough season so far for Max Biaggi. The reigning World Superbike Champion has had a decent start to the 2011 season, and currently sits second in the point standings after three race weekends, but his progress has been nothing like the blitzkrieg campaign he accomplished last year. Facing a non-factory Ducati that seemingly rides like a factory bike, Biaggi is 43 points behind Carlos Checa, while the devilishly quick WSBK rookie and former MotoGP contender Marco Melandri is only four points behind his fellow Italian.
Likely feeling the pressure to bring honor to the #1 plate, we’ve already seen Biaggi revert back to some of his old antics of the past. With the “slap” incident from Donington Park still fresh in peoples’ minds, more accusations come from riders that the Roman Emperor has been blocking and in the way during the Superpole qualifying event, and this time those accusations come from inside the Aprilia garage.
The Piaggio Group launched the 2011 Aprilia Tuono V4 R to the press this past weekend in Valencia, letting the maximum power street-naked out of its shell for the first time. We’ve already hypothesized that electronics are the new horsepower, but Aprilia is seemingly hedging its bets, supplying the Tuono V4 R with not only its WSBK derived APRC electronics package, but also 167hp on tap.
What’s not to like about a bike distilled from the potent Aprilia RSV4, right? Well it does have a face only a mother could love, but we’ve got plenty of paper bags to fix that problem if one shows up in our garage. The mother load of pictures is after the jump (how does the yellow paint grab you?), along with a fairly painful to watch promo video (really guys, we need to stop with the 30 second “dive! dive! dive!” warning horn).
It’s been bad year so far for motorcycle industry CEO’s in the United States, as we hear the Piaggio Group is having a shake-up of their own. After six years with the Italian company, Paolo Timoni is stepping down from his position as President & CEO of the Piaggio Groups Americas office, and will be replaced by Miguel Martinez. Martinez is the former General Manager of Piaggio Spain, and will report directly to Stefano Sterpone, Executive Vice President EMEA & Americas 2-Wheeler Sales & Marketing.