The Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade of Chris Vermeulen could score its first World Superbike win of the year at Monza - a circuit that the Australian rates very highly - this weekend.

The Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade of Chris Vermeulen could score its first World Superbike win of the year at Monza - a circuit that the Australian rates very highly - this weekend.


Vermeulen, the reigning World Supersport Champion, has made outstanding progress since his promotion to Superbikes, having secured two podiums already. The 21-year-old Aussie now sits in fourth place overall, 27-points off the lead.


If his rapidly-improving machine has made sufficient progress since Misano, he could be a good outside bet for victory at the historic circuit. As Vermeulen is the only rider in the top six without a win to his name this season the Australian is particularly keen to join this increasingly inclusive club with all due haste.


With ultimate velocities of well over 300 km/h and average lap speeds of over 190 km/h, Monza holds the crown as the fastest track on the World Superbike calendar and - despite the addition of numerous chicanes over the years - speed and power are still the most important keys to success at the Italian circuit.


With no fewer than five different winners in six races so far this year, the 2004 version of World Superbike is as closely fought and unpredictable as ever, with the latest race winner also the pre-Monza championship leader, Pierfrancesco Chili.


At Misano, Chili sent his local crowd into frenzy by securing his 17th career win in his 223rd SBK race. The enduring and always entertaining Chili knows what it's like to win at Monza, having secured his first ever SBK victory there in 1995.


Chili's speed and consistency have delivered him a 20-point championship cushion. The factory Fila Ducati riders, James Toseland and Regis Laconi, sit second and third overall in the table at present will be looking to exploit any power advantage that their unique Ducati 999F04 machines have.


Other top-level four-cylinder entries come from the Bertocchi Kawasaki, MIR Suzuki and UnionBike Yamaha teams. With Chili, Toseland and Laconi having all won races so far, the other victories have gone to Ducati 999RS riders Noriyuki Haga (Renegade Ducati 999RS) and Garry McCoy (Xerox Ducati Nortel Networks 999RS).


The Foggy Petronas team, running the three-cylinder Petronas FP-1 machine, has experienced a real measure of success this season. Chris Walker took a third place at Valencia and more recently Troy Corser secured second place in race one at Misano.


An interim engine specification will power their Monza assault, before a full revamp comes on stream for the Laguna Seca round in July. The team has managed to squeeze in a test of the new engine in Spain and it has already been voted an improvement over the previous specification.