Preview World Superbike-Supersport, Monza, Italy2012-05-01 16:36
Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) approaches the fourth round of the Superbike World Championship this coming weekend, to be held at the classic venue of Monza in Italy, buoyed up by the fact that he won the most recent race at Assen on his CBR1000RR.
Rea is currently sixth in the rankings, but as he is only 14 points from third place in the overall points, two good results at Monza could put him well into contention for a top three place going into his first home round at Donington, one weekend after Monza. With 14 rounds on the calendar in 2012 and the usual two races per weekend format in this category of racing in place, Rea has virtually a full season of competition in front of him.
Monza is a circuit that often rewards sheer horsepower and slipstreaming so Rea will be hoping that he has an engine package that will allow him to stay in the leading group, which will eventually enable him to use his experience to make a move in the later stages of the 18-lap races.
For Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) Monza will be another new test in his rookie season in SBK racing. The former 250 Grand Prix champion has now scored four times in six races, no mean feat for even the most experienced riders in a stupendously competitive championship this year, particularly in the midfield. Aoyama has 22 points so far but has yet to qualify for Superpole, so that will be his first aim in Italy, so that he can try to make a good start from further up the field.
The 5.77km Monza circuit is one of the most iconic motorsport venues in the world and, in the modern idiom at least, utterly unique. Its long straights, unrivalled heavy braking areas and largely flat layout make it a virtual speed bowl compared to most modern circuits. The absolute top speed record in this class is expected to be broken once again this weekend, one that takes place against the backdrop of celebrations to mark 25-years of the Superbike World Championship. Honda has provided race-winning machinery to 16 different riders so far, who have collected a total of 112 individual race wins between them. Honda is the only manufacturer to have won the Riders� Championship using three different engine configurations � a vee-four, a vee-twin and an inline four. Fred Merkel (twice), John Kocinski, Colin Edwards (twice) and James Toseland (one of his two SBK crowns) have all won the championship on Honda machinery, making a grand total of six Riders� Championship in 24 seasons to date. Honda has won the Manufacturers� Championship four times.
POTENTIAL WINNERS ABOUND FOR HONDA AT MONZA
In the 2012 FIM Supersport World Championship unpredictability has been king so far and at the superfast Monza in round four there look to be few certainties to write down before qualifying and practice starts on Friday 4 May..
In the previous round at Assen replacement rider Lorenzo Lanzi stunned the paddock with a wet-weather win for the PRORACE Honda team. It was the first Honda race win of the season and now a first race victory is overdue for Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda), a British rider who is now third in the overall championship rankings. All top three riders, Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret for Kawasaki plus Lowes for Honda, have had one no score, which contributes to the fact that Sam is only 14 points from the joint leaders. At time of press, it is not known if Lanzi will continue to ride for PRORACE at Monza.
Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) splashed his way to fourth at Assen last time out and also took over fourth place in the rankings, only two points back from Lowes. The Australian rider has settled back into his old WSS team and is back in the hunt for not just more podium success but the championship he is so keen to win after so many years of being a top competitor in this class.
A first podium at Imola for Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) has helped put him seventh in the rankings. All of the top seven riders in the championship have taken at least one podium finish of only nine available so far, showing just how open things are in a class which pitches experience against youth throughout the field of over 30 regular riders.
The speed of new WSS rider Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) has been evident since his arrival in the class and he will be out to improve on his personal best finish of fourth at Monza. The French rider is now ninth in the points, just one place ahead of Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda). Along with his team-mate Andrea Antonelli, Tamburini has made a bright start to his 2012 campaign in his new team. Antonelli is 13th currently, having scored good points in the past two races.
Balazs Nemeth (Racing Team Toth Honda) has taken points only once but as he rode to a seventh place at Imola he is still inside the current top 15. His team-mate Imre Toth (Racing Team Toth Honda) is yet to score despite showing some real flashes of speed.
Thomas Caiani (KUJA Racing Honda) recorded his first 2012 points at Assen, and is now 23rd in the overall standings, one point ahead of Patrick �PJ� Jacobsen (Bogdanka Racing Honda) and two ahead of South African rider Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda). Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda) is yet to got off the points scoring mark, while injured Pawel Szkopek may well be out until Misano now. French rider Valentine Debise (SMS Racing Honda) will be back in the mix at Monza.
Immediately after the Monza weekend, the paddock will pack up and head across the English Channel to Donington Park, for the fifth round of the championship on May 13.
HONDA RIDER COMMENTS
Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team):
�I am now looking forward to the weekend at Monza especially after the win at Assen because that boosted the confidence of everyone in the team. As we all know, Monza is a horsepower contest between the manufacturers so we will see where we stack up. I like the circuit and I enjoy going there. We should have the pace to fight. Having two races back-to-back now, Monza and then Donington, just means less time at home but to be honest it does not change anything in my approach to the races. We have been moving the bike into new area with balance and wheelbase, so the one drawback seems to be that it affects my feel on the front. For me Monza it is another racetrack to race at and I do not know all the history of the circuit. But it is unique and I get a real thrill of the speed. I love the Italian culture and in general it feels like a second home. I always go to the old banked section of the circuit and remember how people used to race around Monza. I�ve been involved in a couple of first turn crashes in the last two years � it�s always difficult funnelling everyone into that tight chicane at the end of the straight.�
Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team):
"Monza is another new track for me and I have heard a lot of history about the place. I have also heard that it is very fast with an average speed over 200kph! So, there is a lot for me to learn and, even though I have seen a little bit on Playstation, I will start to learn the way round bit by bit. We had a problem with rear grip at Assen and this will be important to get on to the fast straights at Monza. So I will sit down with my crew on Wednesday and Thursday and work out a strategy. But I am looking forward to riding the Monza racetrack for the first time on Friday morning."
Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda):
"Monza is a track I like so I'm looking forward to getting there and starting the weekend. Whatever the weather's going to be like, I'm looking forward to the race and want to make up for Assen and put in a solid performance. Monza is a bit of a strange track. The lap starts with a tight chicane followed by some fast, flowing corners, a long straight leading into the fast right hander and another long and fast straight. It's a place with a lot of history and with the long straights and slipstream it always produces some good, close racing."
Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda):
"Monza is always a unique place and it is completely different to pretty much any other track we have on the calendar. My preparation is the same for Monza as anywhere else but I just try to make sure I keep my weight down because it makes a difference to your acceleration up to top speed. Slipstreaming is a big thing at Monza, as is horsepower, but I think a lot of people forget that there are so many fast and slow chicanes that you can make up or lose time in those also. If you can get in and out of them quite quick it makes a big difference at the end of the straight. Monza has always been one of my favourites but I am not sure what will happen with the weather. When it rains at Monza it tends to say a bit wet under the trees, so it can be half and half depending on where you are on the track. But it will be the same for everybody.�
Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda):
�I believe I am going to go into this round really strong, also for Donington. I know the tracks from last year and I have been visiting a sports psychologist to help me get my head right and I think it is better than ever. My bike should be good at Monza. There are a lot of riders in the garage this year, but when we are all set-up we are basically on our own. You have all the data from all the riders and you get looked after well, because our pits are really sorted. I want to be consistent and at Monza I want to get into the top five, so I can get some good points.�
Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda):
"Another track I have never been to but it looks nice and fast. I want to learn another new track, it is always fun to discover a new one; I like that aspect of racing. I have found a fast bike and at Monza it is good to have that. The chassis is nice and I think we could have a great result in Monza. The weather does not look so good for the weekend but for everyone it will be the same, and it could not be worse than Assen! It should be warmer and the grip should be better if it rains there.�
Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda):
�I think it is possible to have a good race at Monza. I hope the weather is good and if it is I feel a good connection with the motorcycle. I am sure we will work well when we get there. Our bike is quite fast and we have worked to improve the bike all the time. There is a lot of slipstreaming at Monza because the speeds are so high."
Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda):
�Monza is a difficult race but it is a very important one for the team, our sponsors and myself, because we are an Italian team. I am not sure what is possible but our target is to finish inside the top ten."
Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda):
�This will be my first time at Monza so I don't really know what to expect but the team told me that it's a really fast track so it seems it could be a lot of fun. Let's see how things go once we're there but I'm definitely looking for a good result because we have good pace. We just need to put it all together now. The tight chicanes can be a bit tricky, because you can easily out brake yourself but I hope to get faster and faster over the weekend and challenge for a good position on Sunday. I don't mind if it's wet this weekend and I'm sure we'll have a positive weekend regardless of the weather.�
Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda)
"I am really looking forward to Monza, it is a track I have never been to or seen before but it is all about getting out of corners and slipstreaming - and that is what I am good at. I may be a bit heavier and taller than some other riders but this is the sort of track that should suit me and the Riders PTR Honda is very fast. On paper it could be really good for us. The weather may be interesting again, but Monza looks like a mega fun track to ride."
Source: Honda Pro Image
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