Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Aussie rules…

Author: site admin
Category: MotoGP, WSBK

The second World Superbike event of the season went off this past weekend with a few notable highlights.

Troy Corser flies the flag at Phillip Island

First, the continued dominance of the Suzuki GSXRs in the hands of Troy Corser and Yukio Kagayama. In both races, the two Suzuki’s held a commanding lead over all the other bikes. For a short time in the second race it appeared that factory Ducati rider Regis Laconi had a shot at second place finish but the rain stoppage and mixed conditions restart sent him into the kitty litter rather than onto the podium. Meanwhile Corser was untouchable and Kagayama was again spectacular. In the first race, it was the Corser of old: A blazing start followed by fast laps early on while the other guys were waiting for their tires to warm up and their fuel load to go down then controlling his pace till the end. While other guys were sliding around and spinning up their tires, Corser was smooth and perfect lap after lap.

In the second race, things got more interesting. Not only did the torrential downpour reshuffle the deck taking riders like Laconi, Pitt, Neukirchner, Vermeulen and Abe out of podium contention it also gave some folks on underpowered bikes a chance to shine. The best example of this was Chris Walker who actually led on the track (though not on corrected time when combined with the times from the first leg) on the ZX-10R before overdoing it and tossing the bike down the track. Likewise, Ben Bostrom was able to move his privateer Honda into the top ten for a short time before falling back to 11th by the finish. Nieto, who didn’t finish the first race, was suddenly able to get into the top 5 in the wet race two and Corradi came from nowhere to get sixth. These are not guys we’ve seen this high up the running order so far this season.

The most fascinating detail in the second half of the second race was watching the psychological battle between Corser and teammate Kagayama. (As an aside, WSBK race announcer and racer James Haydon jumped all over this which was much better journalism that past TV announcers have offered during races. Good show, James!) Anyway, for three laps Corser and Kagayama pushed the pace faster and faster, despite the damp track, passing and re-passing each other. At one point the TV camera panned to team owner Francis Batta and he looked downright nauseous. These two know they are the class of the field right now and both were trying to get that mental edge over the other by showing they were willing to push just a little more in these tricky conditions. In the end, Kagayama went fastest but Corser still won the race based on aggregate times…this time it was another draw. Fascinating stuff to watch.

The second interesting thing highlighted by this second WSBK weekend is that they were again racing at a track which is visited by the MotoGP series. In fact, the GP boys had used Phillip Island as one of their pre-season test tracks in mid-February so there were relatively recent times available for comparison. As with Qatar, there is a contributing circumstance which means a direct overlay of times isn’t revealing the whole truth…that factor was the weather. For the WSBK weekend it was raining on and off which means that even when the track was dry, it was green without any rubber to increase traction. Nonetheless, the fastest times from both series show that there is still a big difference between the two classes of bikes.

At the February MotoGP test session, the fastest lap was a 1:29.68 thrown down by Rossi. This lap probably used a Michelin qualifying tire though its hard to know since those details aren’t always released. The fastest qualifying time for the WSBK guys on their Pirelli tires was a 1:33.24 from Kagayama. Obviously, Rossi could be a special case so looking further down the time sheets from the MotoGP session you will see that every rider ran a fastest lap under a 1:33. In fact, the slowest fastest lap time from the MotoGP test, turned in by Tony Elias on the Yamaha, was a 1:32.9 and he was supposedly slowed by physical exhaustion from the recent tests.

Just like Qatar, the lead MotoGP riders appear to be three or four seconds faster than the fastest of the WSBK riders. I’d hope that this would sink into the heads of the folks who continually question whether Troy Corser or Mat Mladin would do better on the MotoGP bikes than Roberts or Hopkins who currently hold those seats. The fact is that a production based GSXR Superbike can turn a fastest lap, with qualifying tires, of 1:33.2. The Suzuki MotoGP bike, on the other hand, turned a 1:30.8 at the hands of John Hopkins. Even Nobuatsu Aoki, the Suzuki test rider, turned a 1:32.4 on the GSV-R while testing parts (and presumably not using a qualifying tire)making him the slowest of the Suzuki MotoGP riders at the test. Also for comparison, the fastest race time from this past WSBK weekend was a 1:34.92 from Corser in the first race. Lets face it, the multi-million dollar GP bikes have a definite advantage over the production bikes, no matter how much money is thrown at the GSXRs and no matter who is sitting in the seat.

But within the context of the World Superbike series, this weekend shows that the GSXR is the most amazing bike on the track and that Corser rules the top seat of the points table. Combine this with Mat Mladin’s dominance at Daytona in the AMA series and their dominant win in the first event of the World Endurance championship and it seems like Suzuki will be selling a lot of bikes on Monday based on how well they have been performing on Sunday. Perhaps I should have called this entry “Suzuki rules…”

[image from the Suzuki web site.]