It should be no surprise to find BMWs Aprilia and Yamaha on the provisional front row. Monza is a track that favors fast muscular bikes like BMW and ApriliaÔÇÖs superbikes as opposed to the Ducati twins. Yamaha is no slouch either but not in the same league as the top two muscle bikes so it draws a bit from DucatiÔÇÖs bailiwick of finesse to keep up with the muscle boys. WorldSBK is road racing not drag racing so all the bikes have to turn as well as go fast.
WorldSBK provides some great number sheets for race geeks to tear apart. There are a few numbers that I focus in on. Actual Lap Time, Ideal Lap Time, the Gap Time between those two, average speed and maximum speed.
Ideal Lap and Gap Time may be new numbers for some of you. Each track is broken into sectors with timing telemetry to measure times taken to cover a specific sector. The ideal lap takes a riders best time for each sector, adds them together and the result is a hypothetical Ideal Lap. The Gap time is the difference between the Ideal and Actual best lap time for a session. In theory the smaller the gap time the more likely a rider will be able to string repeated best laps together and achieve a better race result.
It is far from a perfect science as I practice it but letÔÇÖs have a look at the numbers.
Fastest lap Free Practice: 1:44.303 min (P10)/Fastest lap Qualifying Practice 1: 1:42.934 min
ÔÇ£It was a very good day, and, of course, you are always happy when you are on top. I feel we
have made a big step forward from Assen. Obviously we were always looking forward to
Monza as Troy had a good result here last year. The biggest thing I am happy with is that I feel
overall we have made a step forward with the bike with the way it is working. Now I am looking
forward to tomorrow. We have a few areas where we need to progress, but we are a lot more
consistent and I am really happy.ÔÇØ
In race weekend terms Haslam is not an early riser. First practice is not a predictor but it does set a baseline. After this session he was in P10 with a gap of 0.343 seconds between his actual and ideal lap. The changes made between practice and first qualifying lowered the gap to 0.051 seconds. His average/max speed, in round numbers, went from 199/322 kph to 202/324 kph. With a combination of engine and chassis tuning the 2 additional kph were converted into 3 more average kph. Smooth equals fast.(in most cases, wait for Mad Max)
Additional changes may be made to the bike based on tyres and HaslamÔÇÖs imput.. Saturday free practice and Qualifying session will help tune the bike. The numbers will give an indication if these changes are working.
Fastest lap Free Practice: 1:43.765 min (P2)/Fastest lap Qualifying Practice: 1:43.640 min (P8)
ÔÇ£I am not completely satisfied with todayÔÇÖs result. Although I am provisionally on the second
row of the grid, I have the feeling the bike does not a hundred percent do what I want it to.
Engine braking is still a little bit of an issue. This morningÔÇÖs Free Practice session was pretty
good, but the track temperature was a lot higher in the afternoon session. This affected the
tyre and the way the bike works. We now have to analyse the data. Still, I am optimistic for
tomorrowÔÇÖs second Qualifying Session and Superpole Qualifying.ÔÇØ
Corser must have read and believed the old line ÔÇÿfast on Friday is fast on SundayÔÇÖ. He will improve on the benchmark of first practice numbers but it is more a case of what you see is what you get.
Corser registered a P2 in the first session with a gap of 0.176 and speed numbers of 200/324 khp. In the qualifying session he narrowed the gap to 0.136 but his speed numbers didnÔÇÖt really change coming in at 200/325. This sounds good for being good on Sunday but dropped him down to P8 in Friday qualifying. In simple terms he improved but others improved more.
The 2010 World Superstock 1000 Champion may be getting his SBK wheels under him.
Ayrton Badovini set the fourth fastest time just 342/1000ths from pole man Leon Haslam with the BMW Motorrad Motorsport S 1000 RR.
Ayrton says: "I am very satisfied. It was the best performance on a track since the start of the adventure for our Superbike team. We have received the updates that have helped us a lot and the team gave us a new set-up for Monza which gave excellent results. We still have to fine-tune some things but I must say that having set the time without using anyone for slip-streaming gives me great confidence. "
BadoviniÔÇÖs third fastest in the qualifying session turned into a P4 Friday Qualifying result. He and the Italian team were able to narrow his gap from 0.262 to 0.064. It appears most of the work went into finding engine muscle instead of chassis finesse. The first speed results were 200/321 kph and 201/326. Straight line speed does not always mean faster laps; remember even at Monza you have to turn in road racing. The gap indicates he may be able to keep it up over the length of a race.
If BMW is to move upward in the manufacturer standings he needs to turn in this type of performance on Sunday.
James Toseland was back on track and covered 14 laps in qualifying, setting the nineteenth fastest time.
James said: "The most important thing is Ayrton's result. He has the same bike and his achievements are fantastic for the team and for me too. Unlike Assen, where the bike was behind on development, we now have updates and we can see the difference. As far as I'm concerned I'm quite happy to be back on the bike and I want to ride, obviously not pushing for results. I do not want to force things. I need to prevent damaging the wrist which is still recovering. I must think about the next race where I will definitely be fit".
Toseland is correct in taking a long view. Monza will not make or break his season. Due to his wrist injury he is down on the race count in which to make it; so how did he do?
He qualified P19 up from P21 in practice. His gap numbers look good. He had the smallest gap time for the Enigma Cavalry off the transporter with a 0.196. This narrowed to 0.096 in qualifying. That is better than Corser. The problem is he lacks pace. With 195/317 in practice and 198/325 his maximum speeds are there but he is taking it easy elsewhere.
If Toseland can find a bit of pace and energy he could make it into Superpole. Xaus is in P 16 and only 0.757 seconds ahead of him. To catch and pass a rider with that much of a lead is a huge race day task. In qualifying it is a matter of staging and letting it rip on an open track for a single lap. You catch and pass on the clock not the track. It is a long shot but not impossible. The values of grid position v taking a long look for the season can and will be debated. I think and hope he goes for it.
The rest of the field is a jumble of numbers.
Checa and his Ducati have dominated the SBK news to this point. Currently he leads the riders championship but is back in P13 after Friday Qualifying. The first Ducati is BergerÔÇÖs in P9 the next is GuintoleÔÇÖs in P12. Monza is dominated by muscular fours not stealthy Ducs.
Qualifying P2 is filled by Max Biaggi and his Aprilia. Speed is his game. In practice he clocked in at 199/330 kph adding in qualifying to turn in a 202/333. He has 8 kph on Haslam but that advantage turns into an average deficit to the Brit of 0.037 kph and P2. He is the max speed king but you have to turn to get a lap time. Aprilia appears to be counting on speed but the gap times went from 0.277 to 0.295.
Laverty and his Yamaha are currently in P3. His mix of 201/327 and gap of 0.131 is closer to HaslamÔÇÖs benchmark but not the right balance. Not yet that is.
This is FridayÔÇÖs analysis, FWIW. Mechanics riders and managers are tinkering as I type. Saturday is another day to improve. The Enigma Riders will need to find more speed while hopefully dialing the bike even further. At Phillip Island Haslam had three perfect qualifying sessions and scored a podium on Sunday. Friday looks good for some good results on Sunday.
I will make a normal post, or what passes as normal for me, Saturday morning. I have to work while SBK and F1 run qualifying. Work on Saturday calls for an after work ride to get the head cleared. After that I will put together a qualifying review for both. I am off Sunday and will be glued to live timing.