The world's fastest road bike derivatives went to Italy last weekend for the latest round of the World Superbike Championships at Monza, AKA “the Cathedral of Speed.” Monza favors very fast motorcycles and the results echo what we'd already suspected after several rounds of the championship - there appears to be a changing of the guard underway and the addition of BMW and Aprilia to Europe's previously sole superbike contender, Ducati, appears to have tipped the balance of power away from the Japanese marques. A double-win to Aprilia and BMW's first podium in the superbikes were one indicator as was BMW's continuing superstock dominance. In a class that's an excellent guide to the sportiness of showroom road bikes, BMW's S1000 RR blew the competition into the weeds.
While Superbike racing has been the glamor class of roadbike-based motorsport for the last three decades, it's our opinion that the best indication of the sporting pretensions of a motorcycle is the Superstock class where bikes are very close to those on the showroom floor.
So far this year there have been four rounds, and all four races have been dominated throughout practice and the event by BMW S1000 RR machinery in general and Ayrton Badovini in particular. Badovini has four wins from four starts and a lead a BMW contingent which scored first, third and fourth in the race, and was clearly much faster in a straight line than any other marque in every session apart from a few instances where other riders drafted down the straight.
Badovini's “stock” BMW was clocked at 313.2 kmh – that's 194.6 mph. Most impressively, most of the other S1000 RR BMWs were also obscenely fast down the straight and it must be pointed out that those speeds are measured just before the braking area, and not at the end of a few miles of salt flat. In the race, most of the BMWs approached or bettered 310 kmh while the only time any of the non-BMWs (perfectly prepared examples of the Ducati 1098R, Honda CBR1000RR, Yamaha YZF R1, Suzuki GSX-R 1000, KTM 1190 RC8 R, Aprilia RSV4 1000 and Kawasaki ZX 10R) got above 300 kmh was when they were in the slipstream of a BMW. It is fast becoming clear that the BMW S1000 RR is the fastest roadgoing motorcycle available. In the Superbikes, it was a huge day for both Aprilia and BMW where the German marque scored its first Superbike podium in front of 115,000 spectators after what has been an impossibly long time coming. Two-time champ Troy Corser put his factory BMW into third in the second race and immediately promised that there’ll be more of the same on the way, including maybe adding to his 38 world superbike wins. The steady progress of the BMW at the front of the field has been evident this year with the machine leading several races and being prominently positioned in several others before the usual suspects fought through. In the second race several of the usual suspects crashed, finally giving BMW and Corser the podium they have waited for for such a long time.
“The bike is becoming better and better,” said Corser. “Between the races we made some set-up changes and the bike stopped much easier, and we had the speed to compete with the top guys. Thanks to all the boys at BMW. It has been a long time coming, and it won't be the last time.”
The majority of the Monza crowd would have been delighted to see Aprilia-mounted hometown hero Max Biaggi steal the show with yet another towering performance. The Italian bike and rider combination romped to its second clean sweep of the year on the lightning fast Aprilia, and is now only three points (181 to 178) behind Suzuki-mounted title leader Haslam before the circus heads to round six in South Africa next weekend.
“This track is very long and it’s very easy to make a little mistake plus when you have your rhythm you stay with it, and it’s difficult to go faster and easier to go slower,” said Biaggi. “Anyway I’m happy with the result, it was a close race.”
“I’m happy for me and my team. It’s an unbelievable result; it looks like we are achieving our goal. Here there is also the president of our group and it’s been a great weekend for everyone.”
Aprilia is of course doing what BMW would have liked to have done, and that's continue to progress its machinery to what may yet become a dominant level. Two clean sweeps (each round has two races and twice Biaggi has won both races) so far this year in only five rounds indicates how well the machine is being set up. On numerous occasions we have seen the outright speed of the RSV4 easily take it past its competitors down the straight – the easiest way to pass. The RSV4s of Biaggi and Camier were clearly the fastest bikes in a straight line, with Biaggi topping 330 kmh down the chute in both races – his highest speed was measured at 330.4 kmh (205.3 mph).
Be sure to check out Gizmag's evaluation of the RSV4 to get an idea of what it's like on the road. Sadly, BMW has a very short corporate memory and won't give us a bike to test, despite the fact we've been testing bikes from BMW for a third of a century, have visited the factory many times and have never so much as put a scratch on one. Apparently it's one of a range of new austerity measures being dictated by the financial department at BMW as things are obviously tough down on the showroom floor.
Fastest lap and new record: Crutchlow – 1:42.937
Next round: Kyalami, South Africa, May 14-16
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