Analyzing The Details Of The 2014 World Superbike And EVO Regulations

It's been a busy couple of days at FIM headquarters, as they have been putting the finishing touch to new rules for both the World Superbike and MotoGP series. The biggest news was the release of the detailed technical regulations for the World Superbike series for 2014 and beyond. The new rules had been announced in early August, but the precise details had to wait until now. The one thing missing from the announced rules is any mention of an overall price cap. That, presumably, will come at a later date.

Though the changes outlined in the new reuglations are extremely detailed, they can be boiled down to a few major points: the introduction, of the EVO class, which allows Superstock engines in Superbike chassis; the introduction of price caps on suspension and brakes; restrictions on gear ratios; and the introduction of an engine allocation system similar to that in MotoGP, and also in Superstock.

The engine allocation system had long been expected, after Carmelo Ezpeleta made a series of barbed (and misleading) attacks on the number of engines supposedly used by Aprilia in WSBK in 2011 and 2012. The limit on the number of engines is relatively low: each rider will have 8 engines to last a season with. Though that seems reasonable for some 13 or 14 race weekends, that requires the engines to last for 26 or more races. As in MotoGP, the engines are sealed to prevent maintenance on crankshaft, bottom and top ends and the valve train, other than camchain tension adjustment. The crankcases, cylinders, cylinder heads and valve and cam covers are sealed. Seals may be broken to allow gearbox ratios to be changed - see below - but also as in MotoGP, that can only be done in the presence of a technical official from the series.

The aim of imposing restrictions on engine maintenance is to reduce cost, though the savings will be different in WSBK compared to MotoGP. The savings in MotoGP were largely in transport: previously, engines from some Japanese factories were flown back to Japan to be stripped, checked and rebuilt, before being flown back for the next race. For World Superbikes, engines are all maintained by the teams in their own workshops, and so shipping is not an issue. However, restricting the number of engines each team can use will reduce the amount of tuning which can be done. Reliability will become a bigger factor, and as WSBK allows limited modification of engine internals, reducing the state of tune of the engines is the most obvious way of pursuing it. This is likely to punish some manufacturers more than others: in its stock state, the Aprilia RSV4 produces 177hp at the crank. BMW's S1000RR pumps out 193hp, and Kawasaki's ZX-10R kicks out a smidgeon over 200hp.

Another change aimed at reducing cost is the restriction on gearbox ratios. Teams will be allowed two options: they can either have the choice of two sets of gearbox ratios, plus the choice of two primary drive ratios, or they can have the choice of three gearbox ratios. Though alternative ratios can be selected individually for each gear, they can only be changed as a predefined set of gears. In other words, the teams have a choice of two or three gearboxes with set ratios they can use; they can't mix and match individual gear ratios. Gear ratios will have to be selected at the beginning of each season, and declared to the series organizers.

The idea behind restricting gear ratios is to reduce spending in three areas. Firstly, the teams don't have to carry as many physical gears around with them, as their choices are so restricted. Secondly, they don't have to spend so much time either exchanging gears and building gearboxes, or running computer simulations to figure out the best possible combination of gear ratios. Finally, as is the case with the restriction of engines, the hope is that the amount of engine tuning will be less, as the engines will have to be slightly more flexible in their power delivery. Fewer possible gear choices mean a broader spread of torque is required. Of course, for some of the factory teams, the savings in time spent on gearing will just go into electronics to manage power delivery, so it remains to be seen how effective this will be.

Perhaps the biggest saving will come in the imposition of price caps on suspension and braking parts. Though the items themselves were not that expensive, the real cost was in the service contract which teams were forced to sign for the maintenance and set up of forks and shocks. A team might pay, say, 40,000 euros for a couple of sets of forks, but then over 100,000 euros for the technician to maintain them and advise and manage spring rates, damping, etc.

Under the new rules, suspension manufacturers will have to supply a list of available suspension parts, complete with the cost of spares. They must be prepared to supply any team which asks them, at the prices stated in the official lists. More importantly, the manufacturers must be willing to supply them without imposing a service contract on them. The teams are free to sign up to such a service contract if they wish - something the top teams will all almost certainly do - but it is no longer a compulsory part of purchase.

A similar set of rules has also been imposed on brakes and brake parts. Each brake manufacturer will have to supply a list of parts for approval, at a fixed price, and free of a service contract.

There were further minor tweaks to the technical regulations, including restrictions on the method of crankshaft balancing, the use of variable intake tract systems, and the use of the homologated air box. These changes were all refinements, however, not major shake ups.

The biggest change was the introduction of the EVO sub-class of WSBK machines. EVO bikes will race in the World Superbike series, much as the CRT bikes have raced in MotoGP for the past eighteen months. The EVO bikes are basically a hybrid of Superstock engines in full-blown Superbike chassis, with a few minor variations.

EVO bikes will be allowed to use 6 engines a season, rather than the 8 allowed for the full WSBK rules, but twice as many as the 3 allowed in the Superstock 1000 rules. Though engine modifications are as limited as they are in Superstock, the exhaust systems can be full Superbike systems, rather than the more restricted Superstock homologated systems. Clutches are similarly unregulated, with the same ability to replace the stock unit with modified or specialist racing clutches.

Gearbox rules are in the middle of the new WSBK and existing Superstock rules. A team running an EVO bike are free to select their own gear ratios, but they are only allowed a single set of ratios, which they must use all year. Primary drive ratios must remain as standard. The advantage is that EVO bikes are not stuck with the standard gear ratios, but once they have selected a set of gear ratios, they are stuck with them, and can only modify gearing by changing the final drive sprockets and chains.

The electronics remain as they are in Superstock, limited to either the standard ECU with modified software, or a manufacturer-approved kit ECU with a price cap. The price cap is slightly more generous than the Superstock rules. Data logging is also less restricted than Superstock, with 10 channels allowed rather than 7, but not as free as in WSBK, where there are no restrictions on how many channels can be logged. As with so many other items, the data logging system is price capped, in this case to 1000 euros.

The point of the EVO class is to offer a cheap entry point for teams wishing to enter the class, and to help flesh out the grid. WSBK was down to 19 full time entries at the start of the 2013 season, but since the announcement of the EVO class, two teams have indicated their interest in moving up to the World Superbike class. It seems unlikely that EVO is the desired end point of the WSBK technical regulations; due to the disparity in power of the various production bikes, performance is hard to balance without allowing engine modification. The dominance of the BMW S1000RR, Ducati 1199 Panigale, and most especially the Kawasaki ZX-10R in Superstock 1000 show up the difficulty of restricting engine modification too much. World Superbikes cannot afford to lose any more manufacturers. But given the severely anemic state of the grid, it cannot continue as it is, either.

The changes for the 2014 World Superbike regulations can be found in this PDF document on the FIM website. The EVO regulations can be found in this PDF document.

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Comments

... I'm not alone in not really having much clue as to the effects and effectiveness of these cost saving measures.

I hope that WSB would only permit 'off the shelf' items any team can buy, prototype or factory special parts consigned to their proper place of a prototype series. Furthermore, I tend to think manufacturers shouldn't be involved (as teams) in WSB. Perhaps how they'd be involved could be to sell price capped complete machines to any team who wishes to buy. Any further involvement should be limited to purely advisory to any team running their machines. Whether this is relatable to putative price cap ideas, I do not know.

I hope too that any changes will allow smaller teams to be competitive rather than just 'fill the grid' and that national series wildcard entries can be competitive. How this is achieved seems to have little agreement even between competitors and each suggestion unleashes a barrage of claim and counter claim.

As a general philosophy, I would prefer the fewest rules possible. Rule makers, perhaps by definition, seem to react, making ever more rules, some of which only to counter the consequences of earlier ones. I wonder would it be possible to effectively 'rip up' the rule book and start again, making as few as possible? What rules would be required?

A 1000 euro cap on the data logging system for a World Championship class! That won't buy a loom.

I doubt that the cap covers things like looms, labour, and analysis. What it means is that one team cannot buy the most expensive/sophisticated/exclusive system and outperform their competitors by budget/other resources alone.
These rules will enable teams on lower budgets to participate. As with most racing, they will find out who their closest competitors are and focus on beating them.
Front runners (with budgets to suit) will be front runners, but if the day of the $/£1M bike is at an end that can only be a good thing for WSBK.
I just hope that Sykes gets his WC this year (although perhaps the bike he’s on could be very good under these rules too, given that power is still a fundamental to winning).
I just hope that those technicians can all find jobs.....more teams should mean more needed overall, perhaps.

I know that the hospitality budget attracts sponsors into sport, but I'd love to know why they couldn't have a model where facilities like catering could be centralised by the series organiser so that each team could get the essential stuff provided for a fixed cost at each venue rather than having to hawk another truck (or two) around Europe. Wouldn't that help keep costs down and at least help smaller teams to attract sponsorship as they would be providing a similar experience to the big spender teams? Surely the main draw for WC sponsors is TV time for bikes carrying their brands? Not fancy coffee / food / tents to sit guests in while they don't watch the race?

And I've always belived that big venues like Silverstone could increase attendance and revenues by making tickets (and don't get me started on food / drink) more affordable. They seem determined to bleed dry existing fans rather than grow the sport, and I'm not at all surprised that attendance is down at most venues. How about a very low price ticket for three big numbers who already pay through the nose to attend their F1 meeting? These people are Motorsport fans, probably a fair few from their numbers would consider turning up for motogp or wsbk if they were offered a £15 ticket?

BT sport have outspent BBC on TV rights this year in motogp. Will we sanctioning fees down? Gate prices down? Attendance up? I doubt it....

Just being curious, where do those power figures come from?
Official numbers from the factories are indeed 193 for the BMW and 200 for the Kawasaki, but 184 hp for the Aprilia. Measurements in magazines are very different from one magazine to another, mainly because of different types of test bench and fundamentally differing interpretations of how it should be measured, but also because of operators and of course there's production differences between bikes.
Usually the Kawasaki and BMW measure the other way around, around 200 for the BMW and around 195 peaky horses for the Kawasaki, while the Aprilia does a bit over 180 hp. all at the crank of course.

Like you say, these figures explain the results in Superstock, with the Ducati Panigale also there with over 190 hp. Making Superbikes run Superstock engines would certainly make for less potential winners. I surely hope that is not the direction we will go in, that you are restricted by the standard state of tune of a bike.

Anyway, I definitely don't like having a class within a class and making the rules very complicated, so that the fans don't even know what they are watching. When one bike goes faster than the other on track, it should be because it's a better (prepared) bike, not because it's riding according to a different set of rules. But maybe I'm just being old-fashioned.

What they are trying to do is prevent a manu from buying a championship. I don't like the complexity either but that is what it is taking to keep the manus from bending rules and buying championships. What WSBK needs, as well as MotoGP is a grid full of many manus, all with a shot. If you don't like that I suggest we just hand the trophies to manus who have the most $ before we even start the season and forego the races.

This is likely to punish some manufacturers more than others: in its stock state, the Aprilia RSV4 produces 177hp at the crank. BMW's S1000RR pumps out 193hp, and Kawasaki's ZX-10R kicks out a smidgeon over 200hp.

Unlikely. The Evo concept was developed by the MCRCB and MSVR. If you drill down into the fine print of their Evo rulebook, the organizers were allowed to make competitive adjustments to the rev limits of the bikes. I'm quite certain the same will be true for WSBK Evo. I'm not sure how effective balancing will be on stock engines, but some parity should increase the variety of equipment.

The crankshaft weight rule could be an interesting change. Perhaps I've not thought it through properly, but it seems that limiting the crankshaft weight reduction (-15%) and requiring the weights/shaft to remain in the homologated location, will necessarily make the reciprocating engine parts more heavy, while also restricting mass centralization of reciprocating internals?

If my reasoning is correct, SBK may have found an elegant solution to a complicated problem. However, the solution may not be effective for long. Manufacturers could skirt the restriction by using more exotic production internals.

The Series says cost`s must reduce to make racing in the series a more viable proposition. Yet non OEM wheels, brakes, forks, swingarms, are allowed. At enormous expense. In many national series all these parts must be used, they may fit fork internals from aftermarket firms and a rear shock. It seems that bodywork can be altered in sillouete from OEM, fuel tanks relocated and volume changed. All of which costs the earth and well outside the scope of even a well funded private team. BSB recently changed engine tuning regs and a Spec non European ECU, the sky did not fall down,riders have not reguarly been launched to low earth orbit, and the "racing" which is what most go to or tune into is still very good or better than ever. Perhaps a formula with fairly std bikes a shock and fork kit 210-215 hp could put on a good show and not financally cripple the teams.
Just my 2 bobs worth Beamer12

I do applaud the reigning in of the series. WSBK was starting to look like a different formula of prototype racing. I join the chorus that WSBK should be the pinnacle of a production series. They should be the absolutely best built and fettled versions of what we can buy. In that I think the rules could be very simple. Make it primarily a bolt on series.

A bike as available off the showroom floor with any and all parts being commercially off the shelf items. Factory kit parts and homologation specials are fine. It's not that the bikes have to be affordable to the average Joe but that parts and bikes used in the series are indeed homologated production bikes.

Only bespoke items being things to prep for track duty that eliminate road going parts such as the bodywork, loom, subframe, fairing stay.

Engine limits. A fixed amount of engines per season will see that extensive tuning will be minimal.

That should do it. Make the rules reflect a bike that anyone, a privateer in a national series or just a rich doff could buy or build as a track day toy.

"Secondly, they don't have to spend so much time either exchanging gears and building gearboxes, or running computer simulations to figure out the best possible combination of gear ratios."

I cannot argue with the first part of this sentence, but the second part is patently false. There are several SAE papers on how to do this (including an excellent one that shows the optimal path through a set course using set gearing, horsepower, and torque). The MATLAB / Simulink code for this is complicated, but once complete then it is just a matter of plug and chug.

Given this, a good computer engineer (and the paddock has plenty) could spend time before the season finding the optimal set FOR A SET of races. Then the team can pick those few sets that work best for a number of races.

Again, building, optimizing, lugging around steel - cut back on that; but I know there are computer engineers who will take this challenge. And it will be a challenge. And it will cost no less.