Monday, May 10


APPROPRIATELY given the team is sponsored by Italian airline Alitalia, Massimiliano Biaggi was flying on his Aprilia RSV4R at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza on Sunday, May 9. After taking pole with a new record qualifying time, Biaggi went on to win both races in front of a record Superbike crowd of 115,000 at one of the most famous motor sport venues in the world.

Not only that, in winning both races, Biaggi took a serious bite out of English Suzuki rider Leon Haslam's lead in the HANNspree Superbike World Championship. Haslam went to Monza for the fifth round of the championship with a 20 point lead over Biaggi. By the end of the weekend the Suzuki man was still on top - but now with just a slim three point gap to the storming Italian who enjoys the sobriquet 'Roman Emperor'.

Although Haslam had qualified fifth fastest on the Alstare Suzuki GSX-R1000, he'd had to ride hard to record his 1m 42.633s Superpole lap, the Suzuki almost 10 km/h down on top speed to the flying Aprilia V4 - which was just a little faster than the Sterilgarda Yamaha YZF-R1s of James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow.

In the first race, Haslam got out a great start, slotting into the slip-stream of Biaggi's Aprilia at the first chicane. Tucked right in behind the GSX-R1000's fairing, Haslam rode in Biaggi's wheeltracks for four laps as the pair of them eased away from the chasing pack. Then Haslam made a tactical error. He passed Biaggi on the brakes to take the lead on the fifth of 18 laps, upsetting Biaggi's rhythm and allowing the Sterilgarda Yamaha's to close up, and pounce. With his title rival then embroiled in a battle for second, Biaggi made good his escape, gapping the brawling Brits. Then Jonathan Rea joined the battling trio fighting over second, with the result that three laps after passing Biaggi for the lead, Haslam was back in sixth place. However, Rea crashed the HANNspree Honda CBR1000RR out of proceedings a lap later, leaving Haslam with the task of trying to grab Crutchlow's slip-stream. He did it, worked the draught and got in front of Crutchlow but the Yamaha man was not finished, fighting back to push Haslam back to fourth in the final laps.

Had Haslam stayed in Biaggi's slip-stream a lot longer, he may have had a shot at winning the race, or at worst, finishing second. As it was, Biaggi took 12 points off the Suzuki man in that first race and the Sterilgarda Yamaha team rejoiced in having two riders - Toseland and Crutchlow - on the podium.

Although barely one second behind the winner at the chequered flag, fourth meant no podium for Haslam. Three seconds behind him, Leon Camier, Biaggi's team-mate was fifth ahead of Ruben Xaus, having his beat result of the season on his BMW, then it was Michel Fabrizio seventh for Ducati Xerox, Troy Corser (BMW) and Tom Sykes ninth on his Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R.

Max Biaggi: "That was a special result, because it is special to win at Monza and because this is a special track with a very high top speed. We worked very hard for this race weekend so it was a perfect performance by all the team. The Yamaha guys running together means they could be quicker than me in the final lap but we held it together and took our first win here at Monza."

James Toseland: "Another second place, it's a bit frustrating, but it was a good strong race. I want to congratulate the team for getting two bikes on the podium. Congratulations to Max, he didn't put a foot wrong. On that last lap I was hoping he was going to make a slight mistake to allow me to get alongside but he didn't. They were strong round here, but we're getting better all the time, but as I said second and third all the time is a bit frustrating."

Cal Crutchlow: "I felt like I put together a solid race, but we never got the best of starts again, the bike is hard to get off the line, but all credit to Yamaha, we came to their home round and second and third for me and James is a strong result. We knew we would struggle a bit for speed, but to be honest I struggled throughout with gear shifting, I had a leaky engine oil cover. I was struggling to change gear up the box, but I feel I rode well."

Biaggi made some radical changes to his rear suspension after his race one win and eventually ran out the clear winner of race two. This was Max's second double of the year, the first coming in Portimao.

Behind him there was mayhem at the first chicane, with a multi-bike pile up claiming first race runner-up James Toseland. Another rider collided with the Sterligarda Yamaha going into the first chicane on the opening lap, causing a big crash leaving him with light concussion. He was awake following the incident but taken to hospital for a check up to assess if there was further injury.

Team-mate Crutchlow made a good start and was chasing Biaggi in second place just 0.1 seconds behind the leader but in the eleventh lap stones flicked up from Biaggi's rear wheel peppered Crutchlow's helmet, with one piercing his oil cooler. This caused him to low side going into the first chicane on lap 12. He was uninjured in the fall but unable to continue.

So Biaggi took his second win of the day in fine style, clear win, by 4.5 seconds clear of Haslam's Suzuki.

Third place for Troy Corser was an historic first podium for BMW in SWC racing, in the second season of full-on competition for the S 1000RR. Corser is now seventh in the championship.

Leon Camier was a lonely fourth for Aprilia in race two and an aggressive fifth from Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes rounded out a day of new high points for many riders and teams.

James Toseland was taken to hospital to have a CT scan after suffering concussion in a high-speed crash, with Jonathan Rea spraining his ankle and Ruben Xaus escaping the turn one collision without injury.

In contrast to Biaggi's great day some leading lights suffered in the final analysis, with Carlos Checa 14th and 11th in the races, as he ties for fourth place on 110 points with Rea, who did not score today. Toseland is fifth on 106, Haga sixth on 100.

Max Biaggi: "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. 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."

Leon Haslam: "We had a few big moments in that race and I'm nursing my wrist because one of them sent me off the back of the bike when I was with Max and Cal at the time. This weekend's been tough, we've been a little bit down on speed, which is unlike the Suzuki, but the boys have worked fantastic. To get on the podium here in Monza is always special so I'm really happy for that. The battle for the title is definitely closing in, we knew Max was going to be strong here, but hopefully we can get back to our winning ways because each race is getting tougher and tougher," he said.

"The podium in race two was very hard work, but I didn’t want to miss out on a podium today and kept battling away. I had a really big ‘moment’ in race two and was way out of the saddle twice in the space of a fraction of a second. Somehow I stayed on the bike, but it was a very close thing! After Cal crashed, Troy kept me on my toes, but Max was too far in front for me to catch so I just made sure of runner-up spot. I did something to my wrist when I had my ‘moment’ and it felt pretty sore, but I managed to carry one to the end. In race one, I lost contact with the leaders and then had a bit of a grip problem for the last four or five laps and couldn’t get out of the corners as fast as I wanted. We made some little suspension changes (just a few clicks here and there) for race two and the bike was definitely better to ride."

Troy Corser: "I'm so happy, the team has put a lot of hard work into the project not just this year but last year and sometimes it's been difficult and frustrating. But this weekend we've worked really hard and have been progressively getting better and better, just struggling a bit with braking, but we made a change for the second race and it made the bike easier to stop. We had the speed, our bike was as fast as anything out there, and it just took me a few laps to get used to the brakes in the second race. Thanks to all the boys at BMW, it's been a long time coming, let's hope it's not going to be the last one!"

For comprehensive practice, qualifying, Superpole and race results, go to: