Sunday, October 28

BATTLE OF THE ITALIAN VEES



By MICHAEL ESDAILE

Australia’s Phillip Island circuit is an interesting race track.  Although it has the highest average speed of any circuit on the MotoGP calendar, faster even than Mugello or Silverstone, it is not always the bikes that are fastest in a straight line that end up lapping fastest.

Practice and qualifying for this year’s Air Asia Australian MotoGP was a case in point.  Czech rider Karel Abraham was often fastest through the speed trap on his Cardion AB Motoracing 1000cc V4 Ducati, with a best just a whisker under 340 km/h (339.6) while Valentino Rossi was clocked at 337 km/h on the 1000cc V4 factory Ducati.

But the fastest man around the track was Casey Stoner, with a bike that was fifth fastest through the speed trap.

A more extreme variation was the comparison between the two factory Ducati V4s of Nicky Hayden and Rossi, and the Aprilia V4-powered CRT bike of Randy de Puniet.  Although the Frenchman was 13.7 km/h down on Rossi’s speed and 10.7 km/h slower through the speed trap than Hayden in qualifying, at the end of the session he split the two factory Ducatis on the grid.  Rossi was just sixth one thousandths of a second faster around the track than the Frenchman while Hayden was 14 thousandths of a second slower.

As De Puniet was riding an Aprilia V4-powered CRT machine, the obvious question is, how did his top speed and lap time compare with that of Max Biaggi on the factory Aprilia RSV4 Superbike at the same race track?

Well, back in February, Biaggi regularly ran through the Phillip Island speed trap at 323-324 km/h – so de Puniet’s speed was on par with the factory Aprilia Superbike.

However, in qualifying for the Phillip Island Superbike race in February, Biaggi clocked a best lap of 1m 31.477s, which was 0.190 of a second faster than De Puniet’s MotoGP time.

This also means that in qualifying trim at Phillip Island, Biaggi’s Aprilia was faster around the track than Valentino Rossi’s factory Ducati V4, so Aprilia wins the battle of the Italian 1000cc V4s on that count.

However, the track temperature at Phillip Island for the Superbike qualifying in February was 51 degrees Celcius, whereas for this year’s MotoGP qualifying it was 25 degrees cooler, at just 26 degrees Celcius.

A year earlier, the MotoGP bikes enjoyed a slightly warmer 33°C and back then, Hayden was 0.889 of a second faster in qualifying on the 800cc Ducati V4 than he was on this year’s 1000cc version.

Conversely, Rossi was faster this year by 0.299 seconds than he was on the 800 Ducati last year, but he was still unable to match Carlos Checa’s Superbike pole record of 1m 30.882s set on the 1200cc Althea Ducati V-twin in 2011.

While this may look as if the Ducati Superbikes are as fast as the Ducati MotoGP bikes around Phillip Island, we are overlooking the fact that when he raced for Ducati, Australian Casey Stoner was faster than any other factory Ducati rider around the circuit.

In 2007, his first year on an 800cc factory Ducati, Stoner qualified in pole position with a 1m 29.623s lap.  That was even faster than the best ever lap from a 990cc Ducati V4, recorded by Spaniard Carlos Checa in 2005:  1m 29.775s.  That was only good enough to give Checa fourth place on the grid that year…

In 2008, the last year of open tyre competition in MotoGP, Stoner qualified with a 1m 28.665s lap, which is still the pole record.

Stoner’s pole record is 2.996 seconds than Rossi’s best qualifying effort on a Ducati at Phillip Island, 2.217 seconds faster than Checa’s Superbike pole record and 2.812 seconds under the best lap Max Biaggi has recorded on an V4 Aprilia Superbike.