2012 WSBK Monza Weekend Round Up: Pirelli Wets
Pirelli brought their tyres to Monza, knowing rain was a possibility. The tyres they brought were the best they could make with the science the racing economy can fund. Wet weather tyres need to displace water and allow bikes to grip in the wet and get their power down while allowing them to brake. What they are not designed to do is sustained stretches of immense speed on abrasive dry tarmac. If you watch their video, you get some idea of the punishment Monza gives rubber.
Monza is a unique track and one that punishes tyres in unique ways, as was seen when multiple wet tyres on different bikes were delaminated during Superpole. This wasn't the characteristics of one bike, or an overzealous rider that couldn't handle the tyres, this was a feature of the track and the weather clashing. Three 300kmh sections of track require one sort of tyre and standing water requires another. When riders were telling us that wet tyres would only last three laps on a Superbike, it was clear that if the rain came down, it would be impossible to race.
And the rain came. Four laps into the first Superbike race, the red flags were out. As the teams were arguing and the riders worrying, preparing for the restart, the sky opened on the back straight, drenching the rider-filled Alfa Romeo safety cars as they drove the distance from Ascari to the Parabolica. Pirelli said the tyre couldn't be raced on, the riders said the tyre couldn't be raced on and as the race was cancelled, the rain punished the track, demonstrating that the right decision was made.
The centre section delamination can clearly be seen in this photo by Pippa Morson of Eugene Laverty's qualifying tyre.
Early warnings were given that the Supersport race would be cancelled, even to the point that British Eurosport announced that there was going to be no World Supersport race, confusing a lot of viewers in the UK. Instead, we were treated to a typical Monza race, with a wonderfully typical last corner battle at the Parabolica. We saw hints of what we could look forward to in the Superbike race.
Instead, we got confusion and delays. The race was initially shortened to 17 laps, with two warm-up laps, but at the end of the warm-up, lots of the riders were waving to the organisers, trying to tell them to stop the race. The restart was delayed because of this, reducing the race to 16 laps and adding another warm-up lap. As the grid waited to see if the huge grey cloud would miss them, the crowd grew anxious. Luckily, the race was eventually started and the fans were treated to a show of force from Tom Sykes, but not without seeing Sylvain Guintoli and Michel Fabrizio unable to complete the warm up laps. To make matters worse, the race was cut short at half-distance due to, predictably, the rain returning. While some riders were disappointed, most seemed relieved to be able to walk away without having to risk injury.
After all this drama, Effenbert launched a tirade against the World Superbike organisers, suggesting that they listen more to the likes of Carlos Checa and Max Biaggi than they do other riders, and they appear to have placed the blame at the doorstep of the race organisers instead of, where it should have been, the weather.
And that's what ruined today's racing. Not the tyres, not the organisers and most definitely not the racers concerned about their safety. It was the weather at a track whose unique characteristics make it possibly the most exciting track on the Superbike calendar and equally damn it to be unable to hold wet races at the highest level.
Update: According to Pirelli, my assertion that it was delamination was not correct. It was, in their words, "a meltdown of the compound in the centre." This does not change the conclusions reached here, however.