Latest World Superbike News
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes leaves the two-day official World Superbike test with his authority firmly stamped on the WSBK field. The Yorkshireman was nearly a quarter of a second faster than Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli, and nearly four tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz. Marco Melandri was six tenths off the pace of Sykes, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies setting the fifth and sixth best times.
Neither Sykes nor Baz had much to work on besides further perfecting set up of the Kawasaki ZX-10R. The development work was handed to EVO rider David Salom, who spent time developing the 2015 version of the bike Kawasaki will race next year. Despite the rule changes coming next season, the Kawasaki is still more closer to a Superbike than an EVO bike, Kawasaki manager Guim Roda told German website Speedweek.
The Superbike Commission, the body which runs the World Superbike championship, has finally agreed on a set of technical regulations for World Superbikes for 2015. The initial idea to switch to EVO regulations has now been dropped, with a compromise found to allow greater freedom of tuning, and retain more parity between production bikes. Electronics will remain open, though they will be regulated by price and must remain freely available.
The dropping of full EVO regulations came as a result of pressure from manufacturers such as Suzuki and Honda, whose current bikes are focused more on the road than, say, the Ducati and Aprilia. To remain competitive, they needed more freedom to tune the engine than the proposed Superstock regulations allow. Given the dominance of Ducati and Kawasaki in Superstock, the EVO regulations could have discouraged manufacturers from getting involved in World Superbike.
With just a single round of the World Superbike championship taking place in the UK, those involved in the series are making a serious effort to try to revive the glory days of British World Superbike races, which saw up to 100,000 fans flock to the events. The charity Riders for Health, the Donington Park circuit, and the UK-based team Voltcom Crescent Suzuki are all playing their part to try to create some more buzz around the event.
The World Superbike weekend opens with the Day of Dreams, organized by Riders for Health to raise money for motorcycle racing's favorite charity. For £15, fans will be able to purchase a ticket giving pit lane and paddock access, catch the World Superbike riders question and answer session and paddock show, get autographs from their favorite riders, and take part in a special Riders for Health pit walk, and get a close up look at the WSBK and WSS machinery. The day will end with a special auction for Riders for Health. For £95, a select group of people will also have the chance to put in some track time under the watchful eye of British legends Ron Haslam and Niall Mackenzie.
The Russian round of World Superbikes, due to be held at Moscow Raceway on 21st September, has been canceled. Citing the political iinstability caused by the situation in Ukraine, Dorna announced that the round would be canceled for this year, though the intention is to continue to run the race next year and for the rest of the contract. The situation surrounding Ukraine and the Crimea has made it impossible for several companies involved in organizing the Russian race to guarantee they can be ready in time for the race in September.
The press release issued by Dorna appears below:
WSBK Russian Round cancellation
Barcelona (Spain), Saturday 12 April 2014 - DWO and YMS Promotion have decided to cancel the WSBK Russian Round which was scheduled to be held at Moscow Raceway on September 21st 2014.
The current political situation affects the capabilities of a number of key partner companies essential to run the event.
Parties regret the decision, but are confident that the strong partnership between DWO and YMS Promotion will prevail.
It is a common intention to continue with the organisation of the WSBK Russian Round in 2015 and for the remainder of the contract period up to 2021.
The continuing worldwide decline in sports bike sales has forced the Superbike Commission to reduce the minimum number of motorcycles to be produced for homologation, to be allowed to take part in the World Superbike series. As of now, manufacturers wishing to race a particular motorcycle must have sold 250 bikes by the end of their first year of racing in WSBK, and 1000 bikes by the end of the second year, half the requirements previously on the books. But manufacturers will still have to have produced 125 bikes before they can even embark on the homologation procedure.
The sales numbers have been reduced in response to the continuing decline in sales of large and middleweight sports bikes around the world, under pressure from increasing speed restrictions and monitoring on public roads. Even Honda is reportedly having problems selling the required numbers of the CBR1000RR SP, despite the popularity of the bike. The declining sports bike market is rumored to have persuaded Honda to shelve its V4 sports bike, which has already been postponed once. Smaller manufacturers have faced similar problems, with Aprilia struggling to sell the RSV4, despite the bike having won two world championships and consistently been a championship contender.
Cirjesa, the body which runs the Circuito de Jerez just north of the Spanish city, and GCJ, the company which organizes the events at the circuit, are under investigation by the Spanish tax authorities and the Spanish organized crime unit for tax evasion. According to reports in the regional Diario de Jerez newspaper, the investigations center around unpaid tax over undeclared income from ticket sales to general admission areas during races, including the MotoGP rounds in recent years.
Both the police and tax authorities have spent the last six months investigating the existence of a second, clandestine set of accounts which are alleged to include the missing income. The alleged fraud was made possible because the general admission areas (the so-called 'Pelousse') are accessible without having an assigned seat number, paying spectators sitting on the grass anywhere around the hillsides overlooking the circuit. Suspicions had been raised by the fact that the number of spectators in the general admission areas seemed to be larger than the numbers officially reported. But without numbered seating, it was impossible for anyone outside of the circuit organization to know the actual numbers of paying spectators.
Dorna has revealed the pricing for its online video pass for the World Superbike championship. The price for a full season of coverage via the WorldSBK.com website is to cost €69.90, or around US $95. Included in the price is live access to all World Superbike races, as well as the ability to play them on demand after the race is over. There will also be access to a highlights package of each race, and rider interviews and exclusive features. There is also an archive of race and season reviews going back to 1993.
The online package is very similar to the one offered by Dorna for the MotoGP.com website, with suitably revised pricing. Since Dorna was handed the running of the World Superbike series by Bridgepoint, it was only a matter of time before WSBK would also be available via some form of online video streaming. Leveraging both the experience which they had gained in TV rights negotiations and in running the MotoGP.com video streaming platform, Dorna could put the World Superbike races online with relatively limited effort.
The addition of the EVO category to the World Superbike class has had the hoped-for effect on the grid. From a modest entry list of 19 riders last year, the grid is up to a healthy 27 entries for 2014. The number of manufacturers has increased as well, up to 9, with MV Agusta, EBR (Erik Buell's latest venture) and Bimota all taking part, racing this year under the EVO banner. Bimota's entry is still provisional, subject to homologation of the BMW-based BB3 being approved.
The gamble of introducing a cheaper, lower-spec form of racing appears to have paid off, with 12 riders entered in the EVO category. Like the CRT class in MotoGP, the EVO category makes competing cheaper, with tuning restrictions closer to Superstock levels on engines, while chassis regulations remain the same as for the full SBK class entries.
The expansion in the World Superbike class has been partially at the expense of World Supersport, with teams such as Team Toth and Yakhnich using the opportunity to move up to WSBK. The World Supersport field is down to 23 entries, after years of fields of 30+ riders. The list of manufacturers in WSS is shorter, with just Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and MV Agusta represented. The World Superbike and World Supersport entry lists are shown below.
World Superbikes will be easier to watch for fans around the world this year. The World Superbike series has announced that it is to make an online video pass available to fans this season, making it possible to watch WSBK races live on the WorldSBK.com website, or rewatch them at leisure. The update comes as part of revamping of the series website, bringing it closer inline to the MotoGP.com website, now that the series is firmly in Dorna's hands.
The influence of Dorna is clear in the WorldSBK.com redesign. The layout has been adapted to echo the structure of the MotoGP.com website, and the video player is now identical to the one used on the MotoGP.com website. Using a single player, and Dorna's existing video infrastructue is what has made it possible for the World Superbike series to offer the online video streaming of races and archive of past videos. Though the announcement on the WorldSBK.com website is light on details, it promises live coverage of every weekend, including streaming of races, interviews with riders and 'exclusive video content'. It will likely feature a similar service to that of MotoGP.com video subscribers, which includes an extremely comprehensive archive.
The long wait for motorcycle racing fans is over. The winter test ban for the World Superbike ends today, and a number of teams will take to the track in Spain and Portugal over the next four days, weather permitting.
The World Superbike paddock is split between Portimao in Portugal and Almeria in southern Spain for the next few days, with Aprilia, Pata Honda and Ducati heading to Portimao, while Kawasaki and Voltcom Suzuki start at Almeria. Suzuki will pack up after two days at Almeria and join Aprilia, Honda and Ducati at Portimao until the 20th of January. The Yakhnich MV Agusta team will also be testing at Portimao, as will the World Supersport teams of PTR Honda and Mahi Kawasaki.
Kawasaki and Honda will be back in southern Spain in early February, with the factory Kawasaki team being joined by the Pedercini squad and Pata Honda for two days at Jerez. Everyone then packs up and heads much further south, to Australia, for the season opener at Phillip Island on 23rd February.
Below is the preseason testing schedule for the World Superbike, World Supersport and Superstock teams for the next few weeks:
Alex Lowes is to leave BSB and race for the Voltcom Suzuki team in World Superbikes in 2014. The move had been widely expected, after Lowes had tested the GSX-R1000 at Jerez in November, with unofficial reports suggesting Lowes had already signed a contract to move to WSBK. Today, the Voltcom Suzuki team confirmed officially that Lowes would be racing for them this season in WSBK, alongside Irishman Eugene Laverty.
Lowes' switch means both Lowes twins will be racing at world championship level, with reigning World Supersort champion Sam joining the Speed Up Moto2 team. Like his brother, Alex also clinched a title last year, becoming BSB champion with the Samsung Honda team.
Below is the press release issued by the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki team announcing Lowes' signing:
British Champion Lowes joins Voltcom Crescent Suzuki for 2014
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki is thrilled to announce that it has secured the signature of 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes to ride the Suzuki GSX-R1000 in this year’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship.
Ratthapark Wilairot is to return to racing, and will compete in the 2014 World Supersport championship. The Thai rider will be joining the PTR Honda team for the 2014 season, racing a CBR600RR alongside Jack Kennedy and Nacho Calero.
Wilairot's return comes after an announcement in August last year that he would be retiring from racing, stepping down from the Gresini Moto2 team with immediate effect. That announcement was met with a good deal of incredulity, especially as the decision was made by the team, at the behest of Thai Honda, who had backed Wilairot until that point. Reports from Thailand suggested that the decision had been involuntary, coming as it did mid-season, and after a string of mediocre results. But Wilairot's successor, Thitipong Warokorn, fared worse than Wilairot, raising even more doubt about the reason for the announcement.