Monza: Michelin preview

Troy Bayliss, Ducati and Michelin lead the championship. The next round of the World Superbike Championship takes place at Monza, only 200 km from the Ducati factory. After starting the season on record pace with an incredible run of six...

Troy Bayliss, Ducati and Michelin lead the championship.

The next round of the World Superbike Championship takes place at Monza, only 200 km from the Ducati factory. After starting the season on record pace with an incredible run of six straight wins, World champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) lea ds the championship with 174 points. There are 18 races left and Bayliss has a 24 points lead on the second placed rider Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin). Both men are so talented that so far this season, Edwards has been on the podium 7 times out of 8 races and Bayliss 6 times. Of all the riders racing this year's World Superbike Championship, Edwards has won the most races (21) and taken the most podiums (57).

Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) is 6th in the provisional standings with 86 points. He's close to Neil Hodgson (HM Plant Ducati), in 3rd place with 98 points, and Ben Bostrom (Ducati), in 4th place with 95 points. Xaus is only 1 point behind Noriyu ki Haga (Playstation 2 Aprilia), 5th with 87 points.

Michelin's results in the World Superbike Championship are impressive indeed. Michelin riders have won all the races since Oschersleben last year apart from the second legs at Imola 2001 and Sugo 2002. That's 12 wins out of 14 races! Since the start of the championship, Michelin has won an awesome 232 races out of a total of 345. That's about two races out of three.

Since the last round, in Japan, the two championship leaders have been busy. Edwards tested for two days at Suzuka, doing development work on the VTR 1000 SP-2 for the upcoming Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance event. There was also time to try out new parts for Ed wards' World Superbike racer and the Texan even bettered his personal Suzuka track record by 0.75 seconds with a 2'06.54 best lap. (2001 Suzuka 8 Hours pole time: 2'08.093 by Ryo (Suzuki 750 GSX-R). 2002 MotoGP pole time: 2'04.2 by Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team-Michelin)).

Meanwhile Bayliss worked on his physical condition. On May 1st, he swapped his 187 hp Ducati 998 F02 for a bicycle to ride the "5 Colli Bolognesi" (5 Bologna hills). The race is 90 kms of hills with maximum gradients of up to 17%. The Australian used the D ucati Lightspeed he'd previously bought at an auction in Las Vegas while his back-up crew rode in style on a Ducati ST2 which came straight from Borgo Panigale.

Record-setting Monza

Monza's long straights have given the Italian circuit three outright World Superbike speed records:

Lap record average speed: 196.947 kph, Pierfrancesco Chili (Suzuki Alstare / Monza 2000)

Practice average speed record: 195.955 kph, Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin / Monza 2000)

Race average speed record: 194.838 kph, Pierfrancesco Chili (Suzuki Alstare / Monza 2000).

This year's Monza round sees the return of Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati NCR). The Italian hard-man has been out of the championship since he broke his collarbone at Kyalami.

Monza also has the F1 speed record. American Peter Gethin driving a BRM V12 for the Italian F1 GP in 1971 recorded a 242.61 kph average race speed.

Monza and tyres

"Monza is different," says Nicolas Goubert, chief of Michelin's motorcycling competition department. "Straight line speeds are very high and there is a limited number of left-handers. For us, that means specific products which we only use at Monza. On the straights, the riders can do as much as 320 kph. So Monza is very tough on the center part of the tyre, quite tough on the right side of the tyre and hardly wears the left side at all. So you need tyres that heat up very quickly on the left, that can stand that kind of abuse on the center and that give sufficient grip and endurance for good right side performance in the parabolica. Monza is different because the bike is upright for so much of the lap and that's when the tyres have to work, during accelerati on, top speed and braking phases. Monza is unique in that the bikes are running more often in a straight line than in a corner. It's the other way around at the other circuits on the World Superbike calendar. You could say that a Monza tyre is closer to a road tyre than a normal race tyre!"

Troy Bayliss: "Monza is great, because it's in Europe and I love being in Europe. It's great for me to come here because people go crazy for Ducati. I have a good following here and it's a great place to win. It's perfect for me to have a good result in M onza."

Colin Edwards: "Monza is one of my favourites. It's not really that tricky as far as the actual circuit. The Hondas seem to work really good here. My " European roots "started five minutes from the track. When I was with Yamaha, we were based five minute s from the Monza race track and I spend a lot of time around here for three years. I got to know the people and made friends. It's one of my favourite places to go. Racing in Italy everywhere is good."

Ruben Xaus: "It's a great circuit because it's so fast. As a Ducati rider, I really feel at home there. There are some great turns and some really good braking sections coming up to the chicanes."

Monza was built in 1922 (in only 100 days!) by the Milan Automobile Club. The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is only 15 kms from Milan. It is the oldest permanent racing circuit still used in Europe and the third such circuit to have been built after Brookla nds (GB) and Indianapolis (USA). The track is 5.772 kms long and features a 2.405 kms long oval which is not used anymore. Maximum spectator capacity is 113,860, including 44,843 grandstand seats.

Speed king

Monza is the fastest circuit on the World Superbike calendar. The track features two very slow chicanes, the "Prima variante" and the "Variante della Roggia". It also has a long right-hander called the "Curva Parabolica". Monza only has one real left-hande r, the "Curva del Serraglio" after the Lesmo double right-hander. Riders have to be careful in this left-hand turn and sometimes crash there on the first lap of practice when they forget to give the left side of their tyres time to warm up.

Chicanes

Both the chicanes are very important because that's where a lot of overtaking is done under braking. The front tyre has to be good to give riders maximum braking performance. The braking sections going into both chicanes are bumpy but Michelin's 12 / 60-42 0 front has been designed to absorb as much of these bumps as possible and gives excellent results.

The parabolica

"This is so often the place where races are won or lost," says Michelin Superbike manager Jean Herisse. "The rider that gets the best drive on the exit to the parabolica on the last lap is generally the one that wins the race, even if he was only third or fourth on the way in."

Not much grip

Monza provides Michelin's engineers with an interesting challenge because the surface does not have much grip. When it rains, grip levels fall even further, especially in those turns that are overshadowed by trees.

Interview: Claudio Domenicali, Ducati Corse managing director

Michelin's partnership with Ducati goes back to the very start of Michelinthe World Superbike Championship at the first ever race, in MichelinDonington, on April 3rd 1988. The Michelin/Ducati combination Michelinproved devastating straight away with Marco Lucchinelli (Ducati Michelin851- ) winning that first race. Since then, success has remained Michelinon the agenda with 7 world titles:

1990: Raymond Roche (Ducati 888 / Ducati Corse-Michelin)
1994: Carl Fogarty (Ducati 916 / Ducati Corse-Michelin)
1995: Carl Fogarty (Ducati 916 / Ducati Corse-Michelin)
1996: Troy Corser (Ducati 955 / Promotor-Michelin)
1998: Carl Fogarty (Ducati 996 / Ducati Performance-Michelin)
1999: Carl Fogarty (Ducati 996 / Ducati Performance-Michelin)
2001: Troy Bayliss (Ducati 996R / Ducati Infostrada-Michelin)

Ducati story: In 1926, the Ducati family and other investors from Bologna get together to create the " Società Radio Brevetti Ducati " to make radio parts.

At the 1946 Milan fair, the " Cucciolo " is shown for the first time. This small auxiliary motor for use on bicycles proves very popular. Initially sold in kit form, it is then mounted in a frame specially designed by the famous airplane manufacter Gianni Caproni (a MC 72 seaplane flew with a Fiat engine at a speed of 711 kph on October 23rd 1934).

In 1954, a teacher at the Imola "Tecniche" school joins Ducati. During his 40 years spent at Ducati, Fabio Taglioni, becomes a legend. He created the firm's trademark desmodromic valve timing system.

Brothers Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni buy Ducati in 1983. The Borgo Panigale concern is incorporated into the Cagiva Group. Ducati's World Superbike program begins in 1988 with Marco Lucchinelli riding the beautiful Massimo Bordi designed 851.

American Texas Pacific Group buys Ducati in 1996 and floats Ducati Motor Holding on the New York Stock Exchange and the Milan bourse on March 24th 1999. Today, Ducati employs 1000 people and annual production stands at 40,000 machines.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus , Troy Corser , Carl Fogarty , Peter Gethin , Ben Bostrom
Teams Repsol Honda Team