Updated World Superbike Rules: Balancing And Electronics Clarified, And A New Global Entry Class Mooted
At the last meeting of the Superbike Commission, the body which makes the rules for the World Superbike series, representatives of Dorna, the FIM and the factories agreed a number of measures which provide yet another step on the path to the future of the series. There were a couple of minor technical updates, and two changes which point the way to the series' long term future.
The changes to the technical regulations were relatively simple. The balancing rules, aimed at allowing different engine designs to be competitive against each other, received a number of minor tweaks resulting from the fact that those rules will now be carried on from one season to the next. In practice, this means that results for either twins or fours will be carried over between seasons, creating a rolling balancing scoreboard, which should create a better balance between fours and twins.
The other change to the technical rules allow a manufacturer to revert to their 2014 electronics for the first two races of 2015, should the 2015 electronics cause them problems. Basically, this will give the teams a fallback position and give them a little more time to develop the electronics. As the first two round are in Australia and Thailand, the risk of struggling with a system which is not completely ready to race during a period when it is impossible to test has been reduced.
With the start of a new month comes the start of a new contract and a new challenge for Jonathan Rea. The Ulsterman is now officially under contract to Kawasaki, and as a result, is free to speak to the media. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Kawasaki Racing team issued a press release containing an interview with Rea, in which he speaks about the new challenge he faces. In the interview, Rea talks about the background to his decision to leave Honda and join Kawasaki, his first impressions of the ZX-10R, and what he expects of the new rules which will apply in World Superbikes in 2015. The press release interview appears below:
Jonathan Rea Excited About New KRT Quest
In the 2014 FIM Superbike World Championship Jonathan Rea won four races and finished third in the World Championship, proving yet again to be one of the most talented and competitive WSBK riders of his generation.
After an entire career spent riding for a single manufacturer and having been a full-time rider in WSBK since 2009, Rea has opted for a new challenge in 2015 - competing as part of the official KRT FIM Superbike World Championship effort.
Rea has already ridden the 2015 spec Ninja ZX-10R - alongside 2013 world champion and new team-mate Tom Sykes – with very positive results for each rider during recent winter test sessions.
Press releases from the Kawasaki and Ducati World Superbike teams after completion of their winter testing program at Jerez:
Testing at Jerez has wrapped up completely, with the final day once again plagued by heavy rain, cold temperatures and high winds. A slight improvement at the end of the day saw the two MV Agusta World Supersport bikes get a little closer to a normal lap time, though both Lorenzo Zanetti and Jules Cluzel were still 4 seconds slower than they were on Wednesday, when the bikes were out on a dry track. Nothing can be read into the times of the World Superbike riders, however, as neither Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier nor Tom Sykes completed more than ten laps, and most of their track time was focused on starts.
Ducati's MotoGP team were also present on the final day, but no reports of their times will emerge, as they were testing the new Michelin tires. Under the terms agreed by Bridgestone when they announced that they would be withdrawing as single tire supplier to MotoGP, the factories are not allowed to comment on the Michelin tires until next year, when the first full year of testing starts ahead of the switch to Michelin in 2016.
Times from Friday:
Press releases from teams in the MotoGP, World Superbike and Moto2 teams at tracks across southern Spain:
Rain hampered the fourth day of the combined World Superbike, MotoGP and Moto2 test at Jerez. The circuit in Southern Spain was hammered by rain, high winds and cold temperatures, rendering the times set far from instructive. While the Ducatis continued to circulate without transponders, Tom Sykes was the fastest of the officially timed riders, though he was lapping over ten seconds slower than in the dry, the day before.
Testing is set to continue on Friday, but rain continues to plague the circuit. The Ducati MotoGP team is set to test Michelins, and due to the contractual situation with current single tire supplier Bridgestone, those times will be kept confidential.
Below are the times set on Thursday:
Press releases from the Gresini Moto2 team, the Aspar Moto3 team, and the Crescent Suzuki WSBK team after testing:
It was a busy track at Jerez, with more teams from various classes having converged on the circuit for the last couple of days testing. While the Suzuki factory MotoGP team has packed up and left, their place has been taken by the Ducati factory team, both MotoGP and World Superbike, along with the Forward Yamaha Open class team and Avintia Ducati. There were a number of Moto2 riders lapping here, rather than joining the Marc VDS Racing team and Gresini at Almeria, the Pons Kalex and QMMF teams taking to the track at Jerez. MV Agusta also started their first couple of days of testing, with Jules Cluzel returning to race in World Supersport, while Leon Camier gave a brand new F4RR a shakedown, starting his first day of work with his new team.
QUESTIONS ARE NOW CLOSED
One of the best things about running MotoMatters.com (apart from the opportunity to get so close and learn so much about racing motorcycles and the people who are involved with them) is the interaction I have had with readers. I am regularly complimented by people in the paddock on the intelligence and thoughtful tone of the comments on the website. Indeed, I am sometimes put to shame by them, the comments being far more interesting and insightful than the story which appears above them.
It is not just on the website itself. There is also social media, and interacting with race fans via Twitter or Facebook gives me a real sense of what fans think and what they want to know. From time to time, I will also try to arrange a meet up with fans at a racetrack itself, and talk to people directly, although that is too often very hard to fit in to the hectic schedule of a race weekend.
Alex Lowes has topped the second day of combined testing for teams from both major world championships at Jerez. After another wet morning, the track finally dried out in the afternoon, allowing the riders to post competitive lap times. Lowes ended the day as fastest, the Suzuki rider posting a fast lap right at the end of the day, beating his superpole time from the race weekend here back in September.
Lowes was one of a group of riders who chased a quick time at the end of the day, Kawasaki's Tom Sykes ending just over a tenth of a second behind Lowes, while Leon Haslam put the factory-backed Red Devils Roma Aprilia into third place. Both Aprilia WSBK riders were fast all day, Haslam and possible future teammate Michel Fabrizio dominating proceedings earlier.
Testing is set to continue this week in a range of classes, as bikes take to the track in preparation for the 2015 season. The south of Spain will see the most action, with a group of MotoGP teams being joined by the Crescent Suzuki World Superbike team at Jerez, and a selection of Moto2 teams heading to Almeria.
At Jerez, Suzuki and Aprilia will continue work on their bikes ahead of next season. As new factories, they receive the same concessions as Ducati, which means that they are allowed unlimited testing, more engines, they have the softer rear tire, and they are allowed to develop their engines throughout the season. Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro will be riding the GSX-RR for Suzuki, while Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will be taking the Aprilia ART out for further testing.
Ducati will also be present at the test, Andrea Dovizioso and new teammate Andrea Iannone continuing work on the Desmosedici GP14.2. They are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of the GP15, but that bike will not be ready until the Sepang tests, and most likely, only at the second test at Sepang.
One of the things I enjoy most about running the MotoMatters.com website is the ability to communicate and interact directly with fans. Here, and as @motomatters on Twitter (and even one day on Facebook, once I get the page sorted out properly), I derive a lot of pleasure from hearing your questions and answering them to the best of my ability.
Of course, the problem with Twitter is that space to give an answer is severely limited, to just 140 characters. That doesn't leave much space to give as full an answer as the questions usually deserve. Similarly, when responding to comments on the website, I often don't have the time to spend giving the answer the full attention it deserves, as most of the questions and comments come during a race weekend.
While the Moto2 and Moto3 bikes were circulating at Valencia, along with the Althea WSBK team, Ducati and Kawasaki wrapped up their test at the Motorland Aragon circuit in preparation for the 2015 World Superbike series. The two Ducati riders were once again fastest, building on the work from Monday, with Davide Giugliano topping the timesheets ahead of teammate Chaz Davies. Jonathan Rea managed to just pip his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, an impressive enough performance on his first ride out on the ZX-10R, though reports from the track suggest Rea may have set his best time on qualifying tires.
All of the riders have a lot of work to do, with new technical regulations that restrict the tuning of the engines and limit electronics to a factory-supplied kit. Ducati has the least amount of work to do, the factory already having prepared for 2015 during the 2014 season, and having not to change much as a result. Kawasaki had more work on their hands, much of it falling on the shoulders of Tom Sykes, as Jonathan Rea's main objective at Aragon was simply learning his way around the bike. Also present at the track were a number of journalists and test riders, who got to ride both Tom Sykes' WSBK ZX-10R and the EVO spec Kawasaki ZX-10R with which David Salom took the 2014 EVO crown. Among those doing media laps were former Moto2 race winner Jordi Torres.
The FIM have finally released the provisional calendar for the World Superbike series for next year. The 2015 season will see WSBK travel to 14 rounds, returning to all of the venues which hosted races in 2014, and two more overseas rounds added, in Russia and Thailand.
The chances of this being the definitive calendar appear to be slim. Three rounds are marked as still subject to contract: Portimao, Moscow and Qatar. Both Portimao and Qatar look likely to go ahead, but whether WSBK will actually return to Moscow remains to be seen. The 2014 round was canceled due to the political instability in the Russian Federation and the overflow of conflict in Ukraine, which affected various partners of the series. The political situation has only deteriorated since then, with the EU and US imposing sanctions on Russia, making the race there almost impossible. The teams and riders will be hoping for the round to be canceled: the race was a logistical nightmare to get equipment to and from, and for both the fans and riders to attend and find accommodation for.
Though testing for the MotoGP class has finished, motorcycle racers in other series still have plenty of work ahead of them. Both the World Superbike series and the Grand Prix support classes have been hard at work, ahead of a busy schedule of testing. The Ducati and Kawasaki World Superbike teams have been testing at the Motorland Aragon circuit, while Moto2 and Moto3 are back at Valencia.
At Aragon, Jonathan Rea made his long-awaited debut on the Kawasaki ZX-10R, alongside 2013 World Champion and fierce rival Tom Sykes. With the World Superbike teams adapting to the new regulations, the two Kawasakis were a little slower than the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. The day started off soaking, with journalists and test riders doing media laps on the 2014 bikes of Tom Sykes and David Salom. Once the track dried out in the afternoon, Kawasaki also joined the action. At the end of the day, both Ducati riders clocked up unofficial times of 1'51.3, while Sykes posted a 1'52.2 and Rea a 1'52.7. As an interesting note, they are running the track in its MotoGP configuration, using the long, sweeping double left hander as the final corner, rather than the longer version used by WSBK when the series races there, featuring the hairpin and then right and left combination leading back on to the front straight. Giugliano's best time is three seconds slower than the best time set by Andrea Dovizioso on the first day of practice for the MotoGP race at the circuit.