Haga returns to scene of double triumph The World Superbike Championship moves from the classic circuit of Assen to an even more historic one - Monza - for the fifth round of the series this Sunday, May 11. Built in 1922, as first a speed bowl...
Haga returns to scene of double triumph
The World Superbike Championship moves from the classic circuit of Assen to an even more historic one - Monza - for the fifth round of the series this Sunday, May 11. Built in 1922, as first a speed bowl and then a fast parkland circuit, Monza is the oldest permanent race circuit in Europe still in regular use. A combination of flat out straights, similarly quick corners, a variety of chicanes and intense braking areas make Monza a unique stop-off on the WSB trail, especially as its Italian parkland cousin Imola is no longer on the calendar.
For the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB Team, Monza is their literal home base, with the Lesmo corners at the north of the track situated very close to the squad's race workshops in Gerno di Lesmo. Team riders Noriyuki Haga and Troy Corser are proven winners at Monza, both in races and in Superpole, with Haga particularly keen to see lighting strike twice again at his team's home round. Last year Haga took his YZF-R1 to a magnificent double win, reasserting himself as a serious title challenger before going on to finish two points from the title itself. After a sometimes difficult start to this year, Haga is currently sixth overall, with a win and a second place to his credit.
Top placed Yamaha rider is the vastly experienced Troy Corser, who is third in the championship after scoring three podiums so far. Corser won at Monza on a four-cylinder machine in 2005, and this weekend would be the perfect time for him to notch up his first race victory in Yamaha colours.
The team has tested at Monza in 2008, but their two day session was virtually washed out by torrential rain, and thus Monza will be something of a full re-start for them.
Haga understands that Monza is a track apart, and not only because of his double win in 2007. He stated "The Monza race is very special and important for us all. Last year was great. I set a super lap of 1.44'941 in Superpole and won both races. As you probably know by now our Yamaha Motor Italia base is very close to the Monza circuit, so many friends and fans come along to cheer me. My aim for Monza will be to repeat the same fantastic result as last year. The competition is even harder this year so my aim will be not so easy, but I will try to get as many points as possible."
Corser, the record Superpole winner of all time, said. "We have had some small problems in the past races but as far as the season goes I would say we can mark ourselves as eight out of 10. Although I haven't won a race yet I am still sort of up there in the championship standings, in third right now. My form is good and my motivation is still high and I just try as hard as I can to win races. I like Monza, there are many Yamaha supporters at Monza and it is our team's home race. The track itself is different from all the others on the calendar. We need to have the bike set-up for hard braking after the long and fast straights and there will be a lot of slipstreaming involved. Overtaking options are limited around there, mainly on braking. It was really wet for our recent test there but we did do some traction control testing."
Technically speaking - Monza according to Silvano Galbusera (Technical co-ordinator and crew chief for Noriyuki Haga)
"As we do for all the others tracks, we will prepare one bike using our 2007 race specifications and the other will be pretty close to what we ran in the previous race. So, one bike will be the Assen race bike, with harder suspension, and one will be set the same as last year's Monza machine. Unfortunately, we had no real feedback from the Monza test we had last month because of the weather. The geometry, rake, trail and other chassis settings will start out the same as last year. It's easy for us to start from the 2007 spec, because it seemed to work well for Nori last year.
"The main differences we have compared to 2007 are special engine parts, for top end power, some more options we have are rear suspension linkages and one alternative swingarm, which has different rigidity. Of course, at Monza the engine is very important, because the rider has to hold full throttle for a long time. A powerful engine is something you must have if you want to fight for the podium. During the Monza race weekend we'll test some new engine parts that should help the riders to go faster than last year.
Monza has only a few corners, but all of them are very important. After each corner there is a long, long straight. In my opinion one of the most important is the Parabolica. Going in faster and keeping the speed up through the corner allows riders to score good lap-times. It can make the difference between a good high speed and a fantastic one at the end of the pit straight. For this, I think, we should work on the suspension and the bikes' geometry in order to give our riders the possibility to be as fast as possible around this long corner."
Shinichi Nakatomi (Yamaha Team YZF) enters the Monza round 21st in the rankings, but Yamaha GMT94 rider Davide Checa will not be able to race after dislocating his hip at Assen. Twenty-year-old regular AMA Supersport rider, Michael Beck, from California, will replace Checa at Monza. The team hopes that Checa will return for the Salt Lake WSB round, in June 1. Yamaha GMT94 regular Sebastien Gimbert will be out to add to his points scores in Australia, at a Monza circuit he has previous experience of.
Yamaha World Supersport Team riders Broc Parkes and Fabien Foret enter the fifth round of the 2008 season in third and fourth places in the championship respectively, but now with contrasting expectations of their Monza race weekends. Foret is out to secure his first win of the season, at a track he knows well, but a recent mountain bike accident has disrupted the preparations of Parkes, the winner of the opening race at Qatar.
Parkes has cracked his left elbow and damaged his scaphoid bone after his recent fall, injuries which are now added to a broken left hand, sustained after an accident in practice at the previous Assen round. Parkes is determined to race at Monza, and is now taking all possible steps to be ready for the first practice session on Friday 9 May.
Parkes explained his situation in the run-up to race weekend. "I had an accident when training on my mountain bike but the results of the X-rays came back with better news than we thought at first. I have a couple of cracks in my left elbow. Not complete breaks, so that is quite positive. I have damaged my scaphoid but it is not broken. The damage is on my left side, so at least it won't affect my throttle and braking arm. Monza has a lot of hard braking zones so we won't know how I will be able to ride until I get on the bike on Friday. Then we will see what's possible. Normally, Monza should be a good round for us and our bike really suits it. If you get a good slipstream you can come through to the front from almost anywhere. Points are important so if I can ride I will be going for as many as possible."
In preparation for Monza Foret stated: "Monza is a good track for me because our Yamaha has good speed and it should work well there. I am not so bad in braking from high speed and that is another important point when racing at Monza. I need to score some big points at this race and I've had some good results there in the past. I will be trying to set the bike set up so that I can brake late and pass other riders that way, because there is going to be a lot of slipstreaming. Last year we saw Haga break clear in the Superbike races but that is not easy to do. Monza is a different kind of place, on and off track. The track seems simple but the slipstreaming makes it a very tactical contest and the layout is not as easy as it looks."
Massimo Roccoli raced in the Italian Supersport Championship race at Monza last weekend and took a solid second place on his Yamaha Team Italia Lorenzini by Leoni R6 as he prepared for this weekend's WSS race at the same venue.
WSS full-time rider David Salom will once more line up with Angel Rodriguez in the Team Yamaha Spain World Supersport squad because regular rider Davide De Gea continues his recovery from his double leg break. Rodriguez was in fine form at Assen until he fell and the team believe he will be a force to be reckoned with once more.
Yamaha Team Italia Lorenzini by Leoni rider Michele Pirro secured his first podium of the year at Assen and is now third overall, only four points from the championship lead. Pirro was second in the Italian National Superstock race last weekend, and is ready to face the challenge of Monza once again.
Claudio Corti (Yamaha Motor Italia Junior Team) raced in the Italian CIV Superbike Championship at Monza, not in the Superstock class he competes in at FIM Cup level level and duly won the race by an impressive 15 seconds. Sylvain Barrier (Yamaha team YZF) is the third supported Yamaha 1000 Superstock rider this season, hoping to make up for his Assen no score at Monza.
In the 600 division of Superstock, Valencia race victor Loris Baz (Yamaha Junior Team YZF) is second in the championship, only five points behind Assen race winner, and fellow YZF-R6 rider, Dan Linfoot.
Track length: 5793m
Track opened: 1922
2007 winner: Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) double win
2007 fastest lap: 1'46.040 (Noriyuki Haga - Yamaha)
WSB best lap: 1'44.941 (Noriyuki Haga - Yamaha)