Flammini Says 2013 World Superbike Series "To Go Ahead As Planned," But What Of The Future
After the bombshell announcement that Bridgepoint was putting Dorna in charge of both the MotoGP and World Superbike series, the media were keen to get a reaction from either of the Flammini brothers, the two men who had helped to grow the series into the success it is today, and who currently run WSBK. After an initial deafening silence, Paolo Flammini finally made an appearance at Magny-Cours on Sunday morning, to explain his, and Infront's, point of view. Our friends at the Italian website InfoMotoGP.com were present to record the press conference on video.
Flammini did not say much - indeed, he started his speech with the words "I don't have much to add to what is written in the press release," - but what he did say helped clarify the situation a little. Starting off with an understatement - "This step represents a very big moment in the history of World Superbikes", Flammini told the assembled media - the Italian was at pains to make clear that World Superbikes would face few changes for 2013. "Many people are worried for the 2013 season, but nothing special will happen," he said, emphasizing that his aim was to keep stability in the series.
Flammini, his brother Maurizio, and his team at Infront had worked hard to make World Superbikes, and would continue to do what they could to ensure its success in the future. "We will do whatever is necessary for the good of the World Superbike championship," Flammini said. "Whatever will be the end of the reorganization process, whatever will happen during the next weeks and months, we want that the World Superbike championship will continue to grow, will continue to be a very strong product." Flammini accepted that changes were inevitable, though he told reporters that he believed that the most logical step would be for the current Infront team who run the series to remain in place. Flammini emphasized that any changes to be made should have a positive effect on the series: "The only important thing is that the changes are for the good, and if we obtain that we are happy."
He was uncertain about his own position, Flammini told reporters, but he acknowledged that it was a risk that companies run when they partner with larger companies. "Clearly, when you open your company to external investors, you give an advantage to your company, but you can lose power at a personal level," Flammini said. "This is not a problem, as long as this reorganization process will bring a good result for the World Superbike championship, we will cooperate, we will push for the good whatever will be our position in the new structure, if there will be a position."
The championship would not change radically in the short term, Flammini told reporters. The Superbike Commission - WSBK's rulemaking body - was due to meet on Monday to ratify the changes discussed during the current season for 2013. Those changes include the adoption of 17-inch wheels and the application of fake headlights to bikes, as adopted by Kawasaki for the second half of the season and Honda for the last race of the year. Another change Flammini mentioned was less expected: pit stops will be introduced during wet races, to avoid races having to be stopped and restarted. That was in itself a consequence of the introduction of a single bike per rider, a move which made running flag-to-flag races with bike changes an impossibility. The straitjacket of TV schedules means that Infront have had to explore alternative options, however.
Flammini would not be drawn on the future beyond 2013. "From what I can tell you, the 2013 season will go ahead as it is already planned. For the future, I cannot give you any information, this will be part of the strategy that will be implemented and we will see what will happen."
That does not mean that other sources were not providing information. Though 2013 is set more or less in stone, or at least will be once the Superbike Commission publishes the minutes of its meeting today, the years after that look to be rather different. Dorna has made no secret of its desire to see the performance of the World Superbike machines limited, in order to maintain the gap between WSBK and MotoGP. With Dorna now in charge, it is widely expected - both inside and outside the World Superbike paddock - that such limits will be imposed. Reducing modifications to Superstock level seems unlikely, though the regulations could be closer to Supersport than the current WSBK rules. Standard electronics seem almost inevitable, however, to contain the costs which are spiralling out of control in both WSBK and MotoGP. With a spec ECU to be introduced in 2014 in MotoGP, it seems likely that a similar measure could be imposed on World Superbikes at the same time. Such a move would be unpopular with the factories currently involved in World Superbikes, but would be welcomed by the private teams, which have struggled to compete in recent years, with a few notable exceptions.
The most interesting rumor to emerge from Magny-Cours, however, concerned the future of the spec tire. Current suppliers Pirelli were rumored to be ending their tenure as single tire suppliers, with no extension expected. The rumors were not clear on whether they will serve out the full extent of their contract, which runs until the end of the 2015 season, or whether the contract would be terminated prematurely. Nor was their any word on who would replace the Italian tire manufacturer. If the rumor is true - and it is a very big if - it would be a surprise, as Pirelli is also the sole supplier for the British Superbike championship. The series - both World and British Superbikes - are an excellent fit with the current consumer market: Pirellis remain a popular choice for sportsbike fitment, both as OEM equipment and as an aftermarket choice when riders replace their standard tires.
Below is the full video of the press conference Paolo Flammini gave, courtesy of InfoMotoGP.com: