April showers. . . and then some

SBK Monza, Italy, 6th may 2012

Words: Laura Bradley, Pics as credited

Tom Sykes rides a lonely first place from Biaggi, laverty and Haslam in the background. (Pic: InFront)The Monza racetrack, otherwise known as The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is located in the town of Monza, north of Milan in Italy.

The track itself if situated amongst the Royal Villa of Monza, in a beautiful woodland setting. The site has three tracks consisting of the Grand Prix track which is 5.793 kilometres (3.6 miles), the Junior track at 2.405 kilometres (1.494 miles) and lastly the historic high speed track with steep and decaying bankings at a length of 4.250 kilometres (2.641 miles).

This track has a lot of history to it and is famous for being both historic and modern. Originally built in 1922 in Italy, it has had many safety upgrades and renovations following the result of many fatal accidents, especially in the early years of the Formula One world championship, and has claimed the lives of 52 drivers and 35 spectators. Track modifications have continuously occurred, to improve spectators safety and reduce curve speeds,  but it is still criticised by the current riders for its lack of run-off areas, most notoriously at the chicane that cuts the Variante della Roggia.

By the 1990s, Monza added a new pit complex and other amenities making it one of the most modern circuits in the world. Monza has enough seating for over 50,000 spectators.

Qualifying started dry and saw Hopkins having two technical problems but re-joining the group to finish the session both times. Gadea also had a technical problem which ended the session for him. Mercado crashed at turn three, he was absolutely fine but the bike was not in any state to return to the track, with Smrz doing the same at turn four. Badovini then associated himself with the gravel but rejoined at turn eight.
Fabrizio put in the fastest time of the session with Melandri second, Haslam third and Laverty fourth, making up the provisional front row. Badovini, Sykes, Biaggi, Davies, Checa, Giugliano, Rea, Hopkins, Camier, Salom, Guintoli and Smrz followed behind to make the provisional entry list.
In the wet second session Laverty went fastest with Sykes, Biaggi, Rea, Badovini, Haslam, Smrz, Davies, Melandri, Zanetti, Checa, Fabrizio, Salom, Canepa, Camier and Guintoli following behind. Aoymama had a technical problem at turn one with ten minutes to go, but other than that there were no disasters.
Due to the first qualifying being in the dry, just like at Assen, the first qualifying results were the results of who went into superpole. Fabrizio, Melandri, Haslam, Laverty, Badovini, Sykes, Biaggi, Favies, Checa, Giugliano, Rea, Hopkins, Camier, Salom, Guintoli and Smrz. Zanetti, Canepa, Berger, Aoyama, Mercado, Aitchison and Gadea didn’t make the cut.

Leon Camier picks his way through a treachorous Prima variante in Race 2. (Pic: Suzuki)Superpole was, once again, declared as a wet session which meant there would be a repeat of the two twenty-minute runs, with only the top eight going through to the second session. In the free practice before hand, Laverty, Biaggi, Hopkins and Davies all crashed at Parabolica, a corner which showed many problems throughout the weekend in both Superbikes and the support series’.
Rea took the fastest time with Smrz in second and Sykes third at the start of the first session. Badovini, Melandri, Giugliano, Guintoli and Camier followed. With fourteen minutes to go, the sun suddenly appeared and the track started to slowly dry, Smrz took the fastest time from Rea with Guintoli third due to the patchy conditions which the Effenbert ducati takes so well to. Melandri was in fourth and Camier fifth, but Sykes then went from eighth to first – soon to be overtaken by Guintoli who took provisional pole right until the last two minutes, where Melandri snatched it from him and Sykes came in second. This left the top eight going into the next session as Melandri, Sykes, Guintoli, Smrz, Checa, Rea, Biaggi and Guiguliano. Hopkins, Laverty, Fabrizio, Camier, Badovini, Haslam, Salom and Davies all were knocked out and made up the third and fourth rows of the grid.

The second session started with Rea getting the fastest time just for Melandri to go faster again and Checa to take second, pushing the Honda rider down to third. The rain started to come down again with thirteen minutes to go, with all the riders pitting in. Sykes did another fast lap and took second place with six minutes to go, leaving Melandri on pole until Guintoli, with only one minute and thirty seconds left of the session, sets the fastest time and then went on to beat his own time again, with Sykes doing another fast lap to take second. This left the two front rows at the end of the second session as Guintoli on pole position followed by Sykes, Melandri and Checa. Rea then started the second row of the grid with Biaggi, Smrz and Giugliano behind him.

Race One started off slightly damp, with Aitchison crashing on the warm up lap due to the slippery conditions. Sykes took the lead from the first corner with Guintoli second and Melandri third, Hopkins having a brilliant start and up in fourth. Rea and Checa started to battle for fifth as Melandri came off at turn eleven of the first lap, walking away but wrecking his bike. Sykes and Guintoli had a gap on the rest of the group by the second lap, with Laverty and Biaggi having got in front of Rea, Checa and Hopkins. Hopkins had now fallen back down to ninth with Fabrizio and Haslam ahead of him. Haslam soon overtook Rea and Checa and started to chase Biaggi into fourth place. By the start of lap three the rain had begun to pour and the red flag came out. Hopkins, Gadea and Salom all crashed at Parabolica as the red flag came out. Biaggi had a problem with his bike when bringing it back round to the pits, putting his arm out to wave for help. Checa stopped to help him, pulling his arm and keeping him secure and bringing him back round the pits. It was at this point the race was announced as wet.

Now, at this point the rules should be pointed out, as the race was announced as wet and had only been two and a half laps, the original starting grid stayed in place and the last start was erased. This meant that anybody who had crashed could re-start and have another try, so long as their bikes were out by the time the pit lane closed.

The riders lined up on the grid minus Hopkins and Biaggi, and they all came off their bikes to have a meeting at the side of the track. The start was delayed and the riders all seemed uneasy about racing in these conditions. A couple of the riders went round the track in the safety cars to have a closer look at what they’d be riding in, and when they returned the race was cancelled for safety reasons.

Laverty leads Haslam leads Biaggi, shortly before conditions made it too dangerous to continue... (Pic: Aprilia)Race Two saw the rain keep coming down, it was announced to be two warm up laps and only seventeen laps of racing instead of the original eighteen. The riders did the warm up laps and came back to the start being delayed. Four of the riders had said that they weren’t comfortable in these conditions, it was stated that riding around Monza on a dry day is bravery, but in those conditions would be stupidity. They were then given another warm up lap, in which Guintoli’s and Fabrizio’s bikes both had technical problems and stopped.

The race went ahead and Sykes took the lead from the first corner, Checa slotted into second place and Biaggi into third. Melandri overtook Biaggi into third place and Laverty started to battle him for fourth, Biaggi then overtook Melandri again. Haslam worked his way up to seventh by the end of the first lap, having got ahead of Giugliano.

Rea overtook Laverty into fifth place at the start of the second lap, with Laverty taking him back and starting to chase Melandri. Checa was now behind Haslam in seventh place, and fell further back after running wide at Parabolica. Laverty soon worked his way past Biaggi and Melandri to be in second place, but whilst they battled Sykes had pulled further away and now had a six second lead. Haslam started to chase Biaggi, with Rea close behind. Haslam overtook Biaggi and Melandri and started to chase Laverty for second place, overtaking him towards the end of lap five. Laverty had another look at passing Leon on lap seven, but was blocked off. Biaggi started to try and chase the top three after overtaking Melandri, but Melandri decided that wasn’t an option and soon took fourth place back. Laverty almost had a lucky moment when Haslam wobbled, but the Pocket Rocket saved it and carried on in second place, blocking Laverty’s further attempts of overtaking.

The rain then started again at the end of lap eight and the riders started to wave their arms to inform the officials that the conditions weren’t safe. The race was red flagged and the decision made to not re-run and award half points. This left the top ten as Sykes, Haslam, Laverty, Melandri, Biaggi, Rea, Checa, Giugliano, Smrz and Badovini.

So, not as much excitement as we had hoped, but there was no complaint from us about an all British podium. This weekend is Donington Park, and we’re hoping to have a dry weekend – we think we’re owed one!

See you there.

Race OneAh, that's something we like to see... (Pic: InFront)


Race Two

1 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
2 Leon Haslam (BMW)
3 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
4 Marco Melandri (BMW)
5 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
6 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
7 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
8 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
9 Jakub Smrz(Ducati)
10 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)

Championship Standing after four rounds:

1 Max Biaggi 97.5
2 Carlos Checa 95.5
3 Tom Sykes 91.5
4Marco Melandri 72.5
5 Jonathan Rea 70
6 Leon Haslam 68
7 Sylvain Guintoli 66
8 Eugene Laverty 64
9 Jakub Smrz 42.5
10 Davide Giugliano 41


Thanks to Dunk Lamont (www.7050.co.uk) for photos.


Copyright © Motorbikestoday.com 2012. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Motorbikestoday.