The World Superbike
Championship paddock heads to Italy’s historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza this weekend for the fourth round of the 2012 season. It will be a momentous affair as Monza helps celebrate the 25th anniversary of World Superbike racing. In honor of the occasion, Infront Motor Sports is bringing back historic racers and machines to
Aprilia Factory rider Max Biaggi (above) and Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa (below) head to Monza with one point separating the two at the top of the 2012 World Superbike leaderboard.
the Italian venue for its “SBK 25 Years: The Top Bikes” exhibit, including the motorcycle Fred Merkel won the first world title on in 1988, the Honda
RC30. Merkel is also one of the former world champions who will be making guest appearances this weekend, as will Doug Polen, Pierfrancesco Chili, Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss and others.
A heated battle will be waged on the 3.59-mile course as 2011 WSBK Champion Carlos Checa and 2010 WSBK king Max Biaggi have taken turns at the top of the leaderboard so far this year. Only one point separates the two with Biaggi regaining the lead after a dismal 17th place showing by Checa in Race 2 during the last round at Assen. The Spanish rider gambled on wet tires in the second race, a move that backfired when the track began drying out and grip faded, sending Checa to the pits. This came after he doubled at Imola to leapfrog Biaggi for the overall lead the race before. Look for a strong outing by Biaggi this weekend though as the Italian rider posted the highest average qualifying speed and top speed in Superbike history on the course last year. His Aprilia
team is also bringing the latest spec engine for the RSV4 Factory to Monza which may help Biaggi bump up that record even more.
In the last round at Assen, wet weather made for an interesting afternoon. MotoGP vet Sylvain Guintoli scored his first World Superbike victory for the Effenbert Liberty Ducati
Racing team in a red-flagged Race 1 while Jonathan Rea stormed to his first win of 2012, much to the delight of his home Ten Kate race team. Guintoli’s reemergence as a top-tier rider has been a pleasant surprise to the World Superbike story line this season, whose podium finish in the opening round of the season served notice that he’s on form and hungry to win. Guintoli is tied with BMW rider Marco Melandri for fourth in the standings with 66 points.
Another pleasant surprise this season has been the performance of Tom Sykes and the Kawasaki
ZX-10R. Sykes has won every pole so far in the young season, going three-for-three even after the three-session knockout format was abandoned at Assen and replaced by a pair of 20-minutes sessions because of a wet course. No matter, rain or shine, whatever format they throw at him, Sykes has been the dominant pole-setter so far. Now he just needs to land a race win after coming close at Imola when he finished second, 1.935 seconds behind Checa. A victory would be a huge moral boost for the factory Kawasaki team. Hopefully the problems with the ZX-10R that caused him to retire from Race 1 in Assen after leading the first 12 laps have been resolved because Monza’s long straights should play into the strengths of the powerful Kawasaki superbike this weekend.
To demonstrate how helter skelter Assen was, not long after Sykes pulled out of the lead in Race 1, the new race leader, Melandri, binned his BMW, bringing out the red flag. Melandri’s BMW
teammate, Leon Haslam, would then lead the race for a short period after the restart, giving BMW
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes has established himself as 'Mr. Superpole' this season with a perfect three-for-three byline. Will Sykes keep the streak alive in Monza? We bet he'd trade all the Superpoles for a race win, though.
hope that it might get its first World Superbike victory. Then Haslam became the next victim of the harsh racing conditions, becoming one of six racers who would DNF after the restart. Haslam put up a strong showing the race before at Imola where he snagged two podiums with a 3-3 byline, but putting the S1000RR on the top step of the podium has eluded the team so far.
Honda factory rider Rea had a mixed bag of results at Assen, injuring his hand in a Race 1 crash before fighting off the pain to claim his first victory of the season in Race 2. Seeing as how the races took place on his Honda team’s home course made the win even more gratifying. His Honda World Superbike teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama, is still undergoing the learning curve of a World Superbike rookie, tallying points in four of six races. Now he just needs to get through the Superpole qualifying process because so far he has yet to advance to the final qualifying round.
Eugene Laverty had his best outing for his Aprilia Racing Team in the Netherlands, grabbing a podium in Race 2 at Assen. Laverty is one of the wild cards to watch this weekend as the Irish rider enjoyed great success at Monza last year, winning the double, albeit on a Yamaha.
The Crescent FIXI Suzuki team of Leon Camier and John Hopkins both suffered a DNF in Race 1 at Assen, but The Hopper saved face with an 11th place showing in the second race. In an illustrious race career, Hopkins surprisingly has never raced at Monza before, so the first task at hand for him will be familiarizing himself with the course. Camier grabbed a top ten finish at Monza riding for Aprilia but suffered a DNF in the second last year.
It has been an exciting 2012 World Superbike season thus far, with the top eight riders representing five different manufacturers separated by only 36 points and the top two riders separated by a single point.
World Supersport Monza Preview 2012
Fabien Foret snared the Imola World Supersport victory and is tied with Kenan Sofuoglu for the championship points lead.
The World Supersport battle has been equally compelling, with Kawasaki and Honda divvying up race wins in the first three affairs. Two former champions are tied atop the leaderboard, with Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini’s Kenan Sofuoglu and Kawasaki Intermoto Step’s Fabien Foret sitting at 45 points each. Honda crashed the Kawasaki podium party at Assen in Race 2 as Prorace Honda rider Lorenzo Lanzi claimed the checkers in a race on a wet track.
PTR Bogdanka Honda’s Sam Lowes crashed out of the lead at Assen after sitting on pole. Lowe still holds down third place in the World Supersport championship points though, 14 behind the leaders, and will be looking to reverse his fortunes this weekend.
Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha’s Vladimir Leonov became the first Russian rider to score a world championship podium after finishing third in Assen. The World Supersport rookie sits in an impressive fifth place in the championship standings. Just wait until the 11th round when the World Supersport paddock heads to Moscow. With Leonov competing, the atmosphere will be electric in the Russian capital that weekend.
Honda Ten Kate Racing’s Broc Parkes sits just ahead of Leonov in the standings in fourth place. Parkes led the opening lap in Assen before relinquishing the lead, ultimately crossing the finish line in fourth. The World Supersport vet has the skill set to be a title contender and would love to put his Ten Kate Honda team on the top step of the podium this weekend in Italy.