Phillip Island proved a smashingly good weekend for Aprilia, as Max Biaggi began to defend his #1 plate by qualifying and finishing second in both races, one nearly as uncontested as Carlos Checa’s wins, and one a ray of hope for close fighting all season. Though teammate Leon Camier did not fare nearly as well, his thirteenth and sixth place finishes were remarkable for someone contending with a nasty fever.

Overall, the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike season seems to belie the suspicions that all of Aprilia’s 2010 success came down to its “unfair” gear-driven camshaft, and that Ducatis could not be competitive in WSBK’s oppressive technical formula.

Aprilia brought the system to Phillip Island last season, and a general outcry prompted the FIM to clarify the rules (which did allow Aprilia’s design). Kept from using the upgrade until the round at Miller Motorsports Park at the end of May, Biaggi managed to double at both Monza and Portimao without the gear-driven camshaft. However after its use was approved, The Emperor went on to double at Miller and Misano, with single victories at Brno, and the final race at Magny-Cours (Biaggi’s Aprilia did not feature the “cheatershaft” in France).

With the uproar from the other teams in 2010, with some going so far as to suggest that Biaggi and Camier’s bikes be inspected fully after every race for other exploitation of loopholes, the FIM made the gear-driven camshaft illegal for 2011. Though this first round at Phillip Island is not a complete indication of how 2011 will progress, Biaggi’s performance seems to indicate that the uproar in the paddock and press might have been much ado about nothing.

Similar outcries forced the FIM to add weight and air restrictions to the Ducatis, in an effort to reduce their performance, and make the WSBK contest more equal. Being forced into these restrictions is one of the generally assumed reasons that Ducati withdrew its factory team for 2011. Instead, Checa is on a Althea Ducati privateer Ducati that is as near to factory as possible, and has run away with the first two races of the season, despite the restrictions.

There is a long way to go in the 2011 season: twelve more rounds and twenty-four more races, so there are plenty of opportunities for Checa to bin his Ducati one too many times, and for the other manufacturers to catch up to Aprilia’s speed. Even so, it now seems that all that rancor over a system that exploited a now-closed loophole made for useful posturing and extra column inches, rather than shining a light on an improper advantage.

  • fasterthanyou

    good to see melandri up there

  • Spytech

    Gear driven cams are NOT illegal. the rule was modified to not include kits (gear driven cam kit is sold to customers by aprilia), so now the bike would have to ship to customers with gear driven cams in order for them to use it in WSBK. RC30 and RC45 which do come with Gear driven cams and if they produced a bike like this, it would be allowed

    there are other things that were changed. the use of stock injectors fuel pumps/regulators must be used. which aprilia and most other factory high powered teams were not using the stock stuff. even without all this and no gear driven cams the aprilia team managed to make an additional 5hp.

    with all the extra juice the ape RSV4 has and 11mph more top speed than the fastest Ducati, it still could not keep the pace of checa. melandri must be fustrated knowing he was a better pilot than biaggi on the 2nd race of phillip island, but was out muscled by a beast of a bike that needed no slip stream to “checa out” on the straight.

    i hope the bologna Factory gives checa that little bit more juice (just a little more top end, just a bit) he is going to need in the european rounds of wsbk.

  • The season, as almost always happens, will go to the best rider on the best bike. While that can seem like an overly obvious observation, the point is that in almost every case, the best rider _is_ on the best bike.

    I really doesn’t matter why this happens. The best riders are usually in a position to take the best offer; the richest teams who can bid for the best rider can also fund the most potent machines; the best riders have the development skills needed to help their team improve their bike; and last but not least, teams work harder for riders who absolutely give their all.

    Any of these factors typically outweigh the advantages garnered by teams’ abilities to exploit rules loopholes. (Remember the endless debate about Mladin and Yoshimura Suzuki’s did-they-or-didn’t-they-have-it Traction Control? The whiners who complained about it would have had trouble beating Mladin even if he’d been limited to a a _stock_ GSX-R. In fact, when the AMA severely restricted Superbike technical rules, Mat got faster. For the record, I hated that pr!(&, but I’m just saying…)

    Good point about Checa though. They don’t call him ‘Careless Chucker’ for nothing!

  • Other Sean

    It’s too early to tell. Nearly everyone is on a new machine EXCEPT Checa and Biaggi, so that’s not too surprising.
    But the controversy around Aprilia’s gear driven cams won’t go away, because they weren’t available on customer bikes last year, and now they don’t have the gears this year, to come back into line with what is common sense rules. Jeesh, I’d even say Yamaha’s underseat gas tank was dubious last year, and again, that’s been changed.

    It’s all moot of course, onward and upward. Go Checa, I hope he stays consistent.

  • mxs

    This was the most favorable track to twins they will see the whole year. Don’t read too much into Checa checking out twice in two races ….

  • This made me chuckle: “Don’t read too much into Checa checking out twice in two races…”

    Spytech, you’ve got a nice circular argument going on there: there’s no rule that outlaws teams from using gear-driven cams, but teams can no longer use kits. Since none of the bikes have gear-driven cams in stock form, they can’t use them on the race bike, per this new rule. So there is a rule that makes it illegal for all teams to use gear-driven cams. Perhaps it just doesn’t explicitly state it, and that’s the point you’re going after.

  • Spytech

    well, illegal would imply not allowed at all and that is not the case. aprilia could have produced a homologation special with gear driven cams just like ducati’s 1098R. twins are not allowed to change connecting rods like the 4 cylinder bikes. how does ducati get around this, their 1098R comes with ti rods. so if ape RSV4 came with gear driven cams, they would allow it. the fact that they do not come with gear driven cams does not make it illegal, they just havent met the requirement to use them.

    they dont produce the bike that way so they can not use it, but that doesnt make it illegal. in the end we are arguing semantics.