If John Hopkins didn’t have his bad luck, the Anglo-American would have no luck at all. Crashing in the questionable conditions at Monza, the Crescent Fixi Suzuki rider injured himself at the Italian World Superbike round. Highsiding during the race, Hopper has broken his right foot and torn muscles in his left hip. Though the team hoped he would be able to ride at the British WSBK round at Donington Park, further tests and scans have shown his injuries to be far worse than originally thought.
With World Superbike’s stop at Monza being massively disrupted by the combination of the track’s demanding layout and Pirelli’s melting rain tires, the Italian tire company has taken the brunt of criticism from fans, teams, and riders for its handling of the two races at the historic circuit. With the long straights and high speeds of Monza proving to be a challenge in even normal conditions, the issue of tires became increasingly important as it was discovered that the compound used in Pirelli’s rain tires could not handle the center-line heat caused by the Italian track, even in full-wet conditions.
WSBK fans watched as riders blew through rain tires in just a matter of two or three laps during the wet Superpole qualifying session on Saturday, and when the rain showed up again on Sunday, the riders had said they had enough of the nonsense. Though not encountering fully-wet conditions, Pirelli’s intermediate tire was ruled out of the equation, as it uses the same compound as the rain tire, albeit with fewer groves. So, Pirelli’s solution to the problem was to take racing slicks of different compound, presumably one that could handle the heat of the track, and cut them to into makeshift intermediate tires. Expecting riders to go two races on a pair, the WSBK paddock was less-than-enthusiastic with this remedy.
With the riders essentially causing a mutiny on the starting grid, Race 1 at Monza was cancelled, while Race 2 was delayed for dryer conditions. Once the rain returned halfway through the race though, riders again raised their arms to signal the stoppage of the competition. Since they completed half of the race, only half points were awarded, but that left for some interesting comments in the paddock. Responding to the criticism of how it handled the Monza weekend, Pirelli has released a press statement that shifts the blame back to the World Superbike teams. Read the company’s statement in its entirety after the jump.
After seeing Race 1 cancelled for safety concerns, i.e. not having a rain tire that could run in the wet conditions at Monza, World Superbike tried again to put on a show for the Italian fans. Giving riders two warm-up laps to sight the fabled Italian circuit, the race distance was also reduced by a lap to 17 laps total.
With the riders coming in from their two sighting laps, the hands from a majority of the racers went up on the grid, signaling that they did not want to start the race. Race Direction obliged, and delayed the start because of the conditions. Regrouping and going out on another warm-up lap, Monza continued to be problematic and claimed two victims, as BMW Italia rider Michel Fabrizio and pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli both suffered from malfunctions on the lap, and had to scratch their starts.
Race 1 for World Superbike at Monza proved to be an interesting affair this Sunday, as the race was ultimately cancelled for safety reasons. Starting normally under dry conditions, riders took to the track on slicks, only to have the race red-flagged two laps after its start.
While the WSBK paddock scrambled for a restart under wet conditions, riders lead by Carlos Checa had a meeting on the starting grid after the sighting lap. Realizing that parts of the track were damp, while others were dry, concerns returned whether the Pirelli rain tires would be able to go the race distance, as they had lasted for only several laps during Saturday’s Superpole.
Hitting over 210 mph down the front straight at Monza, Tom Sykes became the fast two-wheeled man in World Superbike history. Setting the speed on his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, Sykes got a bit of help from Aprilia-man Max Biaggi, as the Brit slip-streamed behind the Italian part of the way down the track. Making the effort on rain tires, Sykes will have to start tomorrow’s races from the second grid position, unable to take advantage of the drying track on slicks, as pole-setter Sylvain Guintoli did.
“When I hit the new record top speed I could feel that the rpm was higher and I knew from the note of the engine that it was more than on previous laps,” said Sykes. “I could not have timed my run to get into Biaggi’s slipstream any better. I had a fantastic run out of Parabolica and I used Max’s draft all the way down the straight. If we had more time we could have come back in and gone with a slick rear or intermediate rear and made the difference, but it wasn’t to be.”
“We did a great last lap on wet tyres and starting from second on the grid is not too bad. It is a front row start and that is the main thing,” the Brit continued. “The competitive side of me for sure is disappointed not to keep the run of Superpole wins going but tomorrow is the one that counts. It’s great for Kawasaki and myself to be on the front row and it is a lot better starting slot for tomorrow. We have good pace in the dry and I do not think the wet will be an issue either. A dry race would be better for everybody.”
World Superbike is in Italy this weekend, getting ready to race one of the fastest circuits on the WSBK calendar. Already hitting 205+ mph down the main straight at the first practice session (208.03 mph for Mr. Fabrizio), the Pirelli racing slicks also have to contend with sweeping fast corners at Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
Highlighting the heat, speeds, and stresses that its tires have to go through while racing at this beloved Italian circuit, Pirelli has put together a short video that outlines what the Italian tire company has to contend with at this special World Superbike round. Interesting stuff.
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!
In an effort to get out ahead of rumors suggesting Marco Simoncelli would be participating in World Superbike racing in 2011, his Gresini Honda MotoGP team has definitively stated that he will not be doing so. Though he appeared at the WSBK Monza round just this past weekend, Simoncelli will not be repeating his 2009 wild card performance at Imola or any other rounds this season. There, he placed third in the second race on an Aprilia, after not finishing the first race.
Simply put, there will be no extra racing for Simoncelli in a MotoGP field already marred by riders suffering health problems from extracurricular racing. However, Gresini Honda will be providing their star rider with a Honda CBR1000RR that he may test at his and the FIM’s discretion.
Despite public outcry, World Superbike Director Paolo Ciabatti is standing firm on the decision to penalize Max Biaggi out of the lead of Race 2 at Monza on Sunday. With fast entry speeds and collisions likely through the first chicane, new rules were put into place for this weekend’s round. In essence, a straight chute was made available as a run-off for riders who had nowhere to go or had missed their braking point, with a special set of lines painted on the surface that riders were required to use for re-entry to the racing line. It was these rules that forced Biaggi out of a five second lead and a likely sure win Sunday.
Ciabatti explained, “We had to disqualify 320 lap times in Friday practice alone because of riders breaking this rule. We also told the riders they could only cut through the runoff area three times during each race, otherwise they would be penalized with a ride through.” Riders were informed about the new rules at a riders’ briefing held Thursday, which Biaggi did not attend. Within the sporting regulations, those meetings are mandatory for either the rider or team to attend, and so a representative from the Aprilia team attended in Biaggi’s stead.
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.