In an effort to reduce costs and focus resources, BMW Motorrad announced today that it would be consolidating its World Superbike racing program for the 2013 Championship. Folding the factory BMW Motorrad team into the current BMW Italia squad, the Italain arm of the German company will run the WSBK program, developing the chassis, finding sponsors, and handling all race-related items, while Munich will develop the WSBK-spec BMW S1000RR’s powertrain and electronics package.
As often happens when a major manufacturer decides to take a major leap by participating in a World Championship series the media goes crazy, which is exactly what happened when BMW Motorrad decided to descend on the tracks of the WSBK Championship. At the time, there were those who said that the BMW bike would have never been able to win a race, but the majority of the voices in and out of the paddock were pretty united in the concept that “if BMW decides it wants to win, sooner or later it will reach its objective,” something that as we have seen that happened in relatively little time.
After three seasons of “apprenticeship” that were necessary to get all the cogs working smoothly and to acquire the necessary experience on the track, BMW has finally reached the necessary competitive edge to reach the front of the pack, and from the beginning of the 2012 season the S1000RR has established itself as a contender at the top of the leaderboards. BMW Motorrad for the third year in a row, has given its most accredited journalists the possibility to try its racebikes mid-season, and we were clearly not going to let this opportunity slip by us.
The first time we were given this opportunity, it was BMW Motorrad Italy who gave us the handlebars of the S1000RR Superstock bike with which Andrea Badovini dominated the FIM Superstock Cup, and the success of this journalist test was so great that BMW Motorrad proper (the Germans) decided to open up the test to the official team bikes. In the meantime the Italian BMW team had debuted in WSBK, and so in 2011 we had the incredible opportunity to try all three types of racebikes.
So here we are in 2012, with the S1000RR which won its first victories in the WSBK Championship. More competitive and intriguing than ever and as has become a tradition, we are again ready to try the newest racing bikes with the famous BMW propeller on their tanks. The location may be different, as we now find ourselves in Misano Adriatico (which should make the Monza track haters among us quite happy), but everything else remains basically the same.
For the format, there are now four bikes to try. The warm-up laps to learn the track will be done on a stock S1000RR street bike, followed by a ride on the Superstock bike belonging to Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni. Following these we get some laps aboard the BMW Motorrad factory bikes of Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, and the day on the BMW Motorrad Italia machines that are campaigned by Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio.
With the weather being fair, though cooler and windier at Aragon than some would prefer, World Superbike racing was underway in Spain as Tom Sykes sat on pole…yet again. Fast on Saturday’s, the Englishman has been unable to convert his Superpole dominance into real race results, though the Kawasaki Racing racer was the only rider during qualifying to break into the 1’36 timezone.
Showing more promise with their race pace were the factory Aprilias of Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty, who will start second and third on the grid, respectively. Rounding out the front row was Leon Haslam, who bested his teammate Marco Melandri.
With the rain pouring right before World Superbike’s Superpole event at Misano, Race Direction at the Italian track called the session “wet” — thus reducing the knock-out style qualifying session from three rounds to only two. With the track drying rapidly though, the wet session looked a lot like a dry one, sans for some early-on damp patches along the racing line.
Tipping the balance just enough, the two-round dry qualifying found some top riders biding their time too long in the pits, which proved to have disastrous effects on their grid positions for Sunday’s double-header race.
In what can only be described as an ambitious move, BMW Italia is trying to poach newly crowned reigning-World Champion Carlos Checa from the Althea Duacti racing team. Rumored to have a €800,000 offer on the table, Checa has until Saturday (tomorrow) to respond to the offer. With the 2011 World Superbike season set to end this Sunday, Checa finds himself in the precarious position of having just clinched the 2011 WSBK Championship, yet having not concrete contract for next season at this season’s conclusion.
Our good friends over at OmniMoto.it have shared with us today their experience riding BMW’s World Supersport and World Superbike S1000RR machinery. Getting a chance to flog the bikes of Sylvain Barrier, Lorenza Zanetti, Ayrton Badovini, James Toseland, Leon Haslam, and Troy Corser around the famous Monza circuit in Italy, OmniMoto’s Lorenzo Gargiulo certainly had a tough day in the office. Even translated into English, this Italian bike tester is well…very Italian in his assessments, but we think the subtle differences between the Superstock, satellite Superbike, and factory Superbike shine through in his writing. Enjoy. — Ed.
There are opportunities in the moto-journalism profession that are to be jumped on, and this is one of them. I could tell you the story about how today, in order to reach Monza to try the three motorcycles I’m about to write about, I slept only 3 hours, or how I had to work on a Saturday, and how I had to somehow fit in 1,000 other obligations and make up a lot of excuses in order to free my schedule, but the basic fact is the following: the opportunity to ride on a track, three SWBK motorcycles is so overwhelming that everything else became of secondary relevance.
So, when I received the invite from BMW to go ride around Monza with the very best of its motorcycles, my response was simply the most obvious one… I’m COMING!
Racing for some redemption, Max Biaggi (1:41.745) proved a point in winning pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Monza, returning to the track to best his own qualifying time after most riders had returned to their garages. Biaggi also bested his record top speed (334.8 kph/208.035 mph) from an earlier practice session in qualifying. He will be joined on the front row for his home race by Eugene Laverty, Jonathon Rea, and Troy Corser. Meanwhile, points leader Carlos Checa was knocked out in Superpole 2 and will start eleventh. Most riders fell afoul of the Monza chicane at least once, having their lap times ruined and deleted by cutting across the feature.
Rea (1:43.712) was the first to go fastest for the weekend, leading Corser, Badovini, and Biaggi in the first free practice on Friday morning. Haslam (1:42.934) took his turn to put the quick BMW on provisional pole in the afternoon qualifying practice, though it was Biaggi breaking the WSBK speed record that garnered more attention for the Italian in front of the home crowd. Laverty and Badovini, who was again quick Friday afternoon, completed the provisional front row. Meanwhile, James Toseland, Badovini’s returning teammate, was only twenty-first quickest in QP. Also recovering Chris Vermeulen did not ride in the afternoon session, after an off in the morning required a visit to the medical center and stitches on his elbow.
Barry Veneman will replace the injured James Toseland at BMW Motorrad Italia for the World Superbike round at Assen. Toseland had surgery to implant wires in his wrist after a testing crash at Motorland Aragon left him with displaced bones and a lack of blood flow. With the surgery requiring at least six weeks of recovery time, Toseland was forced to sit out Donington Park and the next WSBK round at Assen. BMW Motorrad Italia did not replace Toseland for Donington, but has announced Dutch rider Veneman as the Briton’s replacement for the round held April 17th.
Veneman, who competed in 500cc MotoGP racing back in 2001, was a promising rider in Supersport and Superstock racing. He won a Dutch national championship in the mid-1990s, and much more recently he won the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race with Suzuki. Not only a local to the Assen circuit, Veneman has been racing a BMW Superbike in the German national championship as well as participating in BMW Motorrad testing.
James Toseland will miss at least the next two World Superbike rounds after crashing during private testing on Friday at Motorland Aragon. The former WSBK champion crashed on Friday in a highside at Turn 10, landing heavily on his head and right wrist. Initially Spanish doctors gave Toseland the go-ahead to race this coming weekend at Donington Park, after examining hi,m and finding only a small fracture in the wrist.
“But when I got back to the hotel, the pain in my right wrist was unbelievable and, considering that I had a race coming up in a week’s time, I sent the scan on to a specialist I know in Manchester,” said Toseland. “They took a new X-ray from a different position in Manchester and found that I had badly displaced bones in my wrist. At that point, things were getting critical as there was no blood flow in the wrist, meaning that the bone could die if I wasn’t operated on immediately.”
Motorland Aragon will host a private test for the factory Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Italia World Superbike teams Thursday and Friday this week. Though Kawasaki had a good bit of winter testing both at the official WSBK test in Portugal and private testing in Sepang, the Italian BMW team suffered the effects of inclement weather and lost testing time. This private test comes just one week before the World Superbike season resumes at Donington Park in England, whose improvements have recently been approved by the FIM.
Importantly for Kawasaki, Chris Vermeulen is expected to test in Spain. After injuries and surgery kept him out of much of the 2010 season, the Australian hoped to return at his home round but was unable to pass the physical. He sat out testing and racing in Australia, remaining at home and working on his physical therapy.