The World Superbike series heads to Italy this weekend for Round 4 of the 2011 season. The high-speed Monza circuit will host the festivities, where Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa will aim at holding his 43-point advantage over an expected challenge from Aprilia’s Max Biaggi.
The defending champion might be winless thus far, but Biaggi appears the favorite this weekend. The Aprilia ace returns to a venue where he scored the double in 2010 and earlier set the highest top speed ever recorded in SBK at 205.1 mph. As reported by MotoUSA’s WSB Insider, Aprilia brings an even more powerful engine spec to the 2011 Monza round, with expectations high that the currently second-place Biaggi will chip away at least some of Checa’s points lead.
“We need to recover points and we have plenty of potential to be able to do so, even the Assen round showed that,” said Biaggi in a team press release, the Roman having scored a 2-2 result at the Dutch circuit. “We are racing with the number "one" on our fairing so our objective can be nothing less than victory.”
Checa will seemingly be hamstrung, his Ducati notably down on top speed based off 2010 data – the Spaniard’s best a full six mph down from the Aprilia (again, as first reported by our Insider). That said, the veteran Ducati rider has already show masterful racecraft in the 2011 season, snatching up four victories and a perfect podium streak. Surviving Monza without hemorrhaging too many points will be deemed a success, continuation of his podium form a coup.
Yamaha’s Marco Melandri rests third in the points at 85, only four behind his rival Biaggi. Six races into the season and the former MotoGP rider turned SBK rookie has three podiums and a single race win to his credit. Also gathered a couple face slaps from his best buddy Max, Hmm, a pair of chippy Italians dicing for points and the race win at Monza – the 100,000-plus spectators just might enjoy it.
Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea got back on track at Assen, the Irishman snatching a double podium and his first win of the season. Though already down a staggering 53 points on the leader, it’s a long season and Rea can gain ground, provided the streaky rider stays consistent. However, last year Monza proved the perfect example of how things can go awry for the Honda ace as Rea crashed out of both Italian races fresh off a double victory performance at Assen. testament to the parity of SBK, the top five in the championship are all campaigning different makes, with Leon Haslam holding the five-spot aboard the BMW S1000RR. Yet Haslam has managed a lone podium this year, and the Beemer still lacks true legitimacy as a title-winning threat. Three rounds into the 2010 season the British rider was the championship front-runner, enjoying an 18-point lead over Biaggi and snagging two wins and five out of six podiums. That was aboard the Alstare Suzuki, this year Haslam is focused on securing the first-ever SBK win for the Bavarian marque.
After the top-five contenders, there are plenty riders capable of the rostrum in a talent-packed Superbike field. Heading the list is Leon Camier, who will also enjoy the advantages proffered by the more potent RSV4. Camier scored a podium finish at Donington earlier this year, with a fourth-place Race 2 result at Assen. The Englishman reckons he can do well, provided he performs better in Superpole (read more about the factory Aprilia rider’s season thus far in MotoUSA’s exclusive Leon Camier Interview).
Other men gunning for the steps are Melandri’s factory teammate and fellow SBK rookie, Eugene Laverty, as well as Ducati’s second-string privateer Jakub Smrz (if Checa can be termed a privateer). The Czech rider is always an outside threat for the steps, nabbing a second-place finish at Donington in Race 1. Former factory Ducati man, now lone Suzuki SBK competitor, Michel Fabrizio, is building up to a consistent top-five pace this season. Vets like Aprilia PATA’s Noriyuki Haga and BMW’s Troy Corser shouldn’t be discounted either. And former two-time SBK champ James Toseland will also be turning laps at Monza as well, King James returning from a wrist injury earlier this year for BMW. The Paul Bird Motorsport team will look to make news for its performances on the track at Monza. The British-based team is at the center of controversy when PBM transport vehicles were detained in Dover upon returning from Round 3 at Assen. The Sunday Telegraph reported cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis, as well as a firearm, were allegedly found in the Kawasaki Racing Team trucks. PBM later released a statement confirming “that a quantity of banned substances had been deposited in a race transporter,” going on to say that “team staff present at the time of the search and discovery enjoy the full support and confidence of the team.” As the garage sorts out the off-track situation, team riders Chris Vermeulen, Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes shoot for solid results at the Italian circuit. Of the three, Sykes has tallied the more impressive results – while Vermeulen finally gets back in action after a long recover from knee surgery.
Source : http://www.motorcycle-usa.com/786/9911/Motorcycle-Article/World-Superbike-Monza-Preview-2011.aspx