Can Anyone Beat Max Biaggi at Monza?

May 3, 2011
Peter Thomas
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Our World Superbike man on the scene, Thomas is like a ghost, slipping quietly in and out of the media center, digging for dirt, getting the facts and providing us the inside scoop on the World Superbike series

For the second time during the 2010 World Superbike Championship Max Biaggi took home a double win.
Max Biaggi and the RSV4 were unstoppable at Monza in 2010, claiming the double on the Italian circuit.

Twelve months ago, Max Biaggi hit 205.1 mph on the front straight at Monza and the bad news for his rivals is that the team are expecting to be even faster this year. Despite rule changes for 2011 which banned high pressure fuel systems in World Superbike, and outlawed Aprilia’s controversial gear driven cam motor, the Italian manufacturer claimed to have got back any horsepower it might have lost before the 2011 season even began.

And now in preparation for the fourth round of the series at Monza this week, Aprilia is set to unveil a new even higher specification engine producing an additional 4 hp.

Aprilia’s Technical Director Gigi Dall’Igna said: “Monza is obviously a very fast track and power is one of the key points for the race and for that reason we have built something special for the weekend. I expect something more from our bike this weekend, I would like to reach more than 330kph (205 mph) – this is my target.”

In addition to the powerful engine, a major contributing factor in Aprilia setting the highest ever top speed in WSB is the impressive aerodynamics of the RSV4. Not only is the bike physically small it is incredibly narrow, especially compared to the powerful but wide Yamaha R1.

“For sure the aerodynamics on our bike is good, our bike is narrow and this is one of the reasons why we chose the V4 engine configuration. Due to the rules we nave not been able to do any more work on the aerodynamics, so it is not possible to really improve in this area.”

The Monza circuit is a massive challenge for both riders and engineers. Not only does it have one of the fastest straight on the WSB calendar, it probably has the second fastest too. The average speed over a lap of the 3.58-mile circuit is 124 mph, which means that the bikes are running at maximum load on 100% throttle for in the region of 52 seconds every lap. And it’s these statistics that mean engines need to deliver maximum power whilst being able to endure huge stresses for long periods of time as any failures will be both costly and potentially dangerous.

After a crash earlier in the day  Aprilias Max Biaggi scored sixth on the grid during Superpole. - Assen 2011
Biaggi has struggled in 2011, running the number 1 plate and defending his 2010 crown. Thus far the Roman has been held winless and trails the points-leading Checa by 43.

“For sure Monza is the hardest track in the world for the engine, but in the past we haven’t had any problems with reliability. We have tested these new parts on our track simulation dyno and we hope to avoid any problems in the race.”

In preparation for the race Aprilia riders Biaggi and Leon Camier also completed a two-day private test at Mugello last week. The two riders evaluated the new specification engine which they hope will bring them success at the weekend.

So far in 2011 reigning world champion Biaggi is yet to win a race. He currently holds second in the championship standings with four podiums to his credit but is a massive 43 points behind Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa.

Given Biaggi’s double race win at Monza last year and the fact that they look set to have an even faster bike this year makes Monza a prime opportunity for the 39-year-old Italian to stand on the top step of the podium and claw back big points on Checa in the title race.

Dall’Igna said: “Monza is one of ‘our’ tracks so we expect the bike to work well there. At Donington Max was too nervous, but at Assen he was more comfortable on the bike and he got two second places at a track where in the past we’ve had problems. Now I think Max is back to the rider we know. I believe we can start to win again now.”

Aprilia Rivals Close Behind

Max Biaggi: The results today were truly beautiful  especially if we think about how we were last year and the year before. It has been no secret that this track has always put us in a difficult place  but this time we worked hard to prepare as best as possible and I can truly say that we succeeded  also considering the fast lap that we earned in both races. - Phillip Island
Given Aprilia’s claims of bringing even more horsepower to the high-speed Monza circuit – can anyone match Biaggi on Sunday?

Although Max Biaggi and his Alitalia Aprilia RSV4 stole all the headlines in last year’s race with the double win and highest ever top speed recorded in WSB – their rivals weren’t far behind.

While they weren’t quite able to match Biaggi on top speed in every session throughout the weekend, in the opening race where slipstreaming played a massive part, four riders on three different bikes all set an equal top speed of 204.4mph – Max Biaggi, Leon Camier (Aprilia), Jonathan Rea (Honda) and Leon Haslam (Suzuki).

The Yamaha of James Toseland wasn’t far behind either on 203.8mph. Yamaha insiders claim to have the most powerful bike on the WSB grid. While their outright top speed may be ultimately compromised by the aerodynamics of the R1, it’s the team’s home track and a home race for hard charger Marco Melandri, who has a point to prove after his Race 2 crash at Assen.

Monza in Numbers

205.17mph – Fastest ever top speed set by Max Biaggi Aprilia
199.08mph – Carlos Checa’s highest top speed in 2010 onboard the Althea Ducati
126.54mph – Average speed of Max Biaggi’s pole position lap
124.66mph – Average speed over 18-lap 31minute 7 second race
52 seconds – Amount of time each lap riders spend on 100% throttle

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