2003 World Superbike Tech

Ducati 999F03 + 998 Series

This thing could make the MOTOGP grid in any race while carrying around some 30 pounds more.

It's quite quick when you consider that there are only two cylinders and about four frame tubes doing the job. This thing could make the MOTOGP grid in any race while carrying around some 30 pounds more. Judging by its 187 mph top speed at Monza's straight there should close to 200 horsies hiding in there. If memory serves me right, swingarm should be as in the homologation model, the 999R, but it doesn't look so. Just don't tell anybody I told you. The extra-deep wet sump is used to prevent the oil pump from sucking air during acceleration and braking. The 999F03 has the strengthened sand-cast cases which where homologated with the 999R.

Neil Hodgson's 999 F03 bare naked.

Chris Walker and James Toseland run 998 F02's. These are supposed to be Troy Bayliss' and Ruben Xaus' machines from last year. The British pair isn't doing a bad job on them, Toseland being the first rider to break Hodgson's winning streak this year in the British round. It must be said, though, that these aren't much quicker than the private-run 998RS's of Pier-Francesco Chilli and Regis Laconi. Those private 998s were actually faster by a few mph than the ex-works Ducs. How trick are these ex-works 998? Just cast an envious look at that MOTOGP-grade Ohlins fork with external gas reservoirs, worth by themselves one or two new 999s..

The 998/916 always had a slight fairing ground clearance problem when wearing slicks, but this? Walker leans it really hard! 

Anti-lock clutch on one of the DFX team bikes alleviates rear wheel chirping when hard braking and downshifting. As in all 998-999, timing belts run free in the air. This saves some weight on belt covers though it's better not to think about what would happen if a tiny stone flew into the area. Extra-short footpeg brackets are a Ducati trademark thanks to the extra-long engine that places the swingarm pivot almost at the same point as the footpeg. Compare to the situation in the Suzuki pics and you'll understand just how much shorter engines are nowadays. 

Note the cool titanium hues in the 999's exhaust system.

The plumbing is pretty crazy, starts with twin pipes from the cylinders that join just above the rear wheel hugger, split again and then rejoin into one silencer and exit through twin openings. Lets just call it a 2-into-1 -into-2- into-1 -into-2. Routing nightmare or not, it seems to work.

Works 999s carry additional air entry points besides those found in the upper fairing. These air conducts start between the two halves of the radiator and bring fresh air to the lower part of the airbox.

Neat and tidy. Dedicated stands hold body parts safely without scratching expensive paint jobs. The pit box floor was covered by the British HM Plant team with interlocking plastic tiles, the orange areas define the working areas in the box.


Foggy Petronas FP1    

Things started well for King Carl. Early SBK rounds saw reasonable placings for the new machines. Then things got sour. Monza wasn't kind either to the FP1s. The things were hardly getting to 180 mph at the straight's end, slower than the factory Ducati 999s by 15 mph, about level with the privately-entered R1 Yamahas.  

Don't know who designed the thing, and while it may not be the mass-centralization marvel you'd think it would be, it sure looks super cool. 

That, from an engine that was originally planned to do war at MOTOGP and changed application over to SBK at the last minute. Speeds say that it's putting down 180 bhp at the most. It is a very innovative engine though. A 900cc triple with a reversed head, intake at the front, exhaust at the backside, tilted-backward cylinders block. If you look closely you'll see the strangely angled cylinder block hiding behind the front engine mount. Without any exhaust pipes at the front, the engine and especially its crankshaft can be extremely close to the front wheel. In theory this bodes well with current trends towards front wheel loading, but in practice Corser seemed to have handling problems on top of his engine troubles. Don't know who designed the thing, and while it may not be the mass-centralization marvel you'd think it would be, it sure looks super cool. 

The FP1's Ram-air system feeds its airbox by passing around the steering stem in ZX6R/RC51 fashion. Over the air intake there are enough black boxes to run a jumbo jet, there's engine management paraphernalia, data acquisition and more. Initially the 900cc unit was born as a 990 for MOTGP with pneumatic valves (as in the Aprilia Cube MotoGP bike) positioned radialy; it was claimed to develop 210 hp. In SBK configuration the valves are returned by good old springs and are parallel. Thing is that this year it seems that 200 hp are needed to stay on top of things in SBK, too. It's a cruel world.

The FP1 gives an impressive show, though, with plenty of flames shooting out from the pipes on over-run. It was too much of a good thing. Corser and Haydon went out of the second race in Monza with their seats and asses literally on fire!

And, how narcissist can you be? Only Fogarty could put a billboard-sized close-up of his eyes in the pit box.


Honda RC51    

Sorry, only two pics, but there isn't much to say about the WSBK Honda really. The works bikes of Colin Edwards were transferred to the British Superbike Championship. The lonely RC51 out there is a private effort, worlds apart from Edwards's ultra-trick tool. Honda seems to keep all the RC51 go-fast secrets close to heart. As with Edwards's RC51, the side-mounted radiators of the street model are replaced by front-mounted ones to fight the additional heat created by 60 percent more power. Carbon frame protectors seem to be in fashion nowadays, saving the frame from wear and tear in falls. Gotta love the cool spark plug cap with its integrated tongue that facilitates pulling it off.


Kawasaki ZX-7RR    

The good old Kawis, seemingly of '96 vintage, carry on with their fighting duties like good old soldiers. Last years' works bikes can be found too in the British SBK series, one of them ridden by Scott Smart, Paul Smart's son. Those here, run by the Italian Bertocchi team, really warmed my heart with their killer looks and oversized frames. How do you keep such old horses running? Good question and indeed the Kawi's frames carried plenty of battle scars and dents. Funny that after seven years on the tracks, the preferred exhaust system for these beautiful beasts is a prehistoric 4-2-1 with the twin pipes running all the way to the silencer.

The old 750 unit is still able to pump out some 180 horsies, not bad at all for a real old geezer.

Every part on the Kawis looks like it could withstand an atomic attack. That fork triple clamp wouldn't look out of place on an M-1 tank steering system.

Really makes you want to put aside a nice ZX-7 so your grandsons will know in 20 year's time what sort of dinosaurs we used to ride. A modern classic. 

Just as I was thinking about the Kawis spare parts situation, this was being dragged into the pit lane.

That's what was left from Ivan Clementi's bike after falling and being hit by Xaus's Ducati.

Talking about the Kawi's oversized parts, these Dumbo ears are the air intakes, crafted in trendy Carbon-Kevlar. The red box is the data acquisition unit made by 2D and the downloading connectors for a PC can be seen under the instrument cluster. Italian suspension makers Bitubo are testing the racing waters by supplying the green meanies their top of the line front fork. It has a pressure equalizing tube between legs and an external gas reservoir (right of the red box).

Suzuki: this thing already has 200 hp, some say 210 and as soon as it starts behaving himself around corners, Ducati is going to be in deep trouble.


Suzuki GSX-R1000    

WSBK was never kind to Suzuki.

This year though, Soozook's decision to stay against all odds in WSBK is going to pay-off big time. The GSX-R1000 based racers are already collecting podium finishes. In one or two years, when Yamaha and Kawasaki will return to SBK after failing to do much about the Hondas in MOTOGP, Suzuki will already have a well-developed tool. I just hope that Suzuki won't start redesigning the thing every two years, something that hampered the development of the GSX-R750 in the past. Restrictors or not, this thing already has 200 hp, some say 210 and as soon as it starts behaving himself around corners, Ducati is going to be in deep trouble. In the fast Ascari chicane it was hard not to notice the Soozooks limits. Nevertheless, when Gregorio Lavilla started exiting corners with his rear tire power-smoking, the Italian lads in the pressroom were shouting: Capirossi!

One of the amazing things is how stock this bike looks. The bike of Vittorio Ianuzzo, Lavilla's team mate, is not even a full factory effort but the boy placed the thing on the first row of the grid at Misano. Compared to Lavilla's bike, Ianuzzo's looks almost like a SuperSport. Fabrizio Pirovanno, the team manager has said "everybody can build this bike at home." The Brembo calipers stand out as well as the many frame geometry adjustment possibilities. 


Lavilla's bike sports an adjustable swing arm pivot and a chain-tensioning wheel. Race setup means a very high tail and to keep the chain tension at the extreme angle of the swingarm, a tensioning wheel is needed.

Special sprocket cover and quickshifter switch can be seen too. 

One of the amazing things is how stock this bike looks.

It's a bit of a mess up here. Notice the carbon fiber ram-air ducts and the deflectors that guide cooling air into the radiator.

A Showa damper calms down steering while a radial Brembo pump supplies braking line pressure. Funny to see in a works bike, plastic overflow bottles that seem like they've been bought at the nearest drugstore. Even funnier is the little paper tag attached to the bottle. Any Japanese readers out there?


Yamaha YZF-R1    

Hats off to these entirely private Yamaha efforts.

Rumors say that Giovanni Bussei's bike (the yellow one) was actually a used street bike in its previous life.  Regretfully for Alex Gramigni (white bike) and Bussei, there is precious little knowledge available outside of Yamaha on how to make these five-valved engines sing. Just how competitive can these engines can be? With their mandatory intake restrictors these bikes were as fast as the multi-million Euro Foggy Petronas effort.

Who said R1s don't have Ram-air? A special radiator with a deep cutout at the top allows fitting a Ram-air like intake that leads directly to the airbox. It might not work as effectively as in the GSXR1000 but judging by the top speed of this backyard effort, it works rather well. Gramigni and Bussei have collected plenty of higher than mid-field finishes, makes you wonder what will a full factory effort achieve.

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