WSBK » Michel Fabrizio
For a rider of relatively youthful age of 28, Michel Fabrizio has managed to pack a lot of racing into his career. Starting to ride at age six, on the highly prevalent minimoto circuits of Italy, Fabrizio rose to become a champion at only 12 years of age, winning the Trophy of Future Champions in 1996, and repeating the feat once more in 1998, as well as scooping a success in his regional Minimoto Championship.
His minimoto career continued up to the point of securing the Italian Cup, before making a typical move for any aspiring modern day Italian racer, into the SP 125 class - for roadbike based 125cc Supersport bikes. He scored two victories in this division, and his winning ways were repeated in 2001, with not one but three championship wins in total.
The Gilera Italia team noted his incredible rate of progress and he was offered a ride in the 125cc GP series in 2002. Scoring points in two races, at Motegi and Welkom, Fabrizio found himself in one of the most tightly contested series on earth.
With no two-stroke GP opportunities presenting themselves thereafter, the 2003 season nonetheless proved to him and the world that he was not afraid of running on closely matched machinery, even if it was as far from the small two-strokes of his previous racing exploits as it could possibly be.
The European Superstock Championship had helped more than one rider progress his career and Fabrizio, riding a full 1000cc Suzuki for one of the few high profile teams, proved his worth almost right from the start. Michel secured four wins and won the title by three points, from well-supported Ducati rider Lorenzo Lanzi.
Fabrizio’s ability to handle over 150bhp, all on regular treaded street tyres, brought him to the attention of the WCM Grand Prix team for the 2004 season, but he battled against the cream of the MotoGP world on an underpowered machine.
Michel then took up the offer of a ride for the Team Italia Megabike squad for the final two World Supersport races, at Imola and Magny Cours. He acquitted himself well on home tarmac, taking a seventh place, but saved an outstanding second place qualifying ride for the last round in France. His race ended with a retirement, but he had done more than enough to convince his new team to give him a full time berth in 2005.
A combination of retirements and poor fortune at key moments saw Fabrizio only fifth after the end of his rookie WSS season, but he scored a pole position at Magny-Cours and took a total of five podium finishes, including two second places. More importantly, he had proved his worth to a watching world once more, and was promoted to the Superbike class for 2006, with the DFX Honda team.
His progress was cyclical, but the highs were very high, scoring three podiums in total when the machine set-up and tyre choice were in harmonious combination. A planned Gresini Honda MotoGP debut at Donington Park, in place of the injured Toni Elias, was dashed when he broke his collarbone in a practice crash.
Fabrizio remained with DFX for 2007, but soon felt that the gulf between satellite and factory teams was bigger than ever and the sole highlight of a tough season was a third place finish at Brno. The Italian's Honda Europe popularity saw him finally make his Honda MotoGP race debut, again in place of the injured Elias, at the German Grand Prix, where Michel qualified 17th on his way to a tenth place finish.
Despite statistically making little progress over his debut season, Fabrizio’s star turns on several occasions still caught the attention of the Ducati Xerox team, who were looking for a rider to replace the man Fabrizio beat to the 2003 Superstock title, Lanzi.
With youth – and an Italian passport – on his side, Fabrizio was duly snapped up alongside Bayliss for 2008, where he worked as protégé to his title-winning team-mate. On paper, eighth in the overall standings – one position lower than Lanzi had managed in 2007 – and no wins didn’t signal a particularly success season.
Nonetheless, despite a score sheet that crests and troughs throughout the year, Fabrizio achieved some consistency towards the end of the season, finishing up with seven podiums, two of which saw him chase home Bayliss.
Noticing his progression, Fabrizio was given another chance in 2009, an opportunity he grasped with both hands to win on three occasions and supplementing it with 12 further podiums.
Despite this, Fabrizio didn’t always endear himself to rivals, fans and commentators alike over the season. His bungled attempts at an overtaking manoeuvre over Spies at Brno prompted a furious reaction from the normally placid American, while his ‘surprise’ victory over Haga on home ground at Imola led many to blame him for the Japanese rider’s failure to secure this year’s title.
On-track incidents and conspiracy theories aside though, Fabrizio came of age in 2009. While his win at Monza was fortuitous and his Imola victory controversial, he went some way to redeeming himself with a fine last lap win at Portimao, a result otherwise ignored amongst the hubbub of the title conclusion.
Regardless of whether Fabrizio lost himself a few friends at Ducati, he would remain for another season, but while he was expected to join Haga in launching a fresh post-Spies title challenge, it would never materialise.
Finishing on the wrong side of the closest finish in WSBK history during round one, Fabrizio never really recovered from that point on, failing to bother the podium again until a slightly out-of-the-blue dominant victory at Kyalami.
That win excepted, Fabrizio struggled in 2010, returning to the flaws of his 2008 campaign when results varied from podium challenges to anonymous mid-field efforts. Seven DNFs negated his eventual six podiums, Fabrizio ending the year in eighth overall and – following Ducati’s withdrawal - out of a job.
Despite this, Fabrizio was still able to retain a presence on the 2011 grid after being snapped up as Suzuki Alstare’s sole contender. A return to four-cylinder machinery, Fabrizio showed plenty of promise on the GSX-R1000, even if the early-half of his campaign was distinguished by charging race rides from lowly grid positions.
Indeed, Fabrizio never fully got the best from the bike over a single lap, often negating race pace that had him on a par with the leaders further up the road. His peak of a podium finish at Monza had Fabrizio up to sixth in the standings at one stage, but an error-strewn second-half, during which Fabrizio crashed repeatedly and scored just 18 points from the final ten races, would see him plummet down the order to an eventual 12th.
With Alstare on its way out of World Superbikes, Fabrizio quickly made alternative arrangements with a deal to join BMW Italia for 2012 alongside Ayrton Badovini.
Though he spent much of the season battling in the mid-field once more, Fabrizio did at least add to his podium tally with a run to second place in the wet at Silverstone, while greater consistency left him just a few points shy of the overall top ten by the end of the season.
Even so, with BMW opting to reduce its WSBK involvement for 2013, there was no room for Fabrizio in the ‘Italia’ operation, prompting him to make another change of team and bike to Red Devils Roma Aprilia, the most experienced rider on the grid embarking on his eighth consecutive season with his fifth different bike…
Fabrizio adds Aprilia to his WSBK roll call as he joins the Red Devils Roma team2012:
World Superbike Championship, BMW Italia, 11th2011:
World Superbike Championship, Suzuki Alstare, 12th2010:
World Superbike Championship, Ducati Xerox, 8th (1 win)2009:
World Superbike Championship, Ducati Xerox, 3rd (3 wins)
MotoGP World Championship (one race), Pramac Ducati, N/C2008:
World Superbike Championship, Ducati Xerox, 8th2007:
World Superbike Championship, DFX Honda, 11th
MotoGP World Championship (one race), Gresini Honda, 21st2006:
World Superbike Championship, DFX Honda, 11th2005:
World Supersport Championship, Megabike Honda, 5th2004:
MotoGP World Championship (10 races), Harris WCM
World Supersport Championship (2 races), Megabike Honda, 27th2003:
FIM Superstock 1000, Corona Alstare Suzuki, 1st (4 wins) 2002:
125cc World Championship, Gilera Italia, 30th