Gordon Ritchie has covered World Superbikes for over a quarter of a century, and is widely regarded as the world's leading journalist on the series. MotoMatters.com is delighted to be hosting a monthly blog by Ritchie. The full blog will be available each month for MotoMatters.com subscribers. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.
In an effort to shoot WorldSBK back into the big time popularity it once inhabited, the long-time rights holders Dorna have not been shy in loading a variety of projectiles into the WorldSBK blunderbuss in an effort to hit a target that appears almost impossible to get the range of any more. WorldSBK is, after all, just too well camouflaged behind Dorna’s own impressively proportioned MotoGP force field.
So far we have had WorldSBK initiatives like partially reversed grids, races on both Saturday and Sunday, three race weekends, a ten-lap sprint race, different rev limits manufacturer-to-manufacturer, the culling of the entire Superstock 1000 and 600 development categories and the promotion of 300s to a full World Championship class. And now slick tyres in the 600 and 300 Supersport divisions for 2020. There will be other things too but there have been so many changes I have doubtless forgotten some of them, as I shake off the inevitable jetlag inherent in adjusting to Aussie time.
Some initiatives were forgettable anyway, but as it stands Dorna/FIM has now created about as level a playing field, for as much of a realistic overall cost, as genuine full-on World championship racing possibly can be. With a good backroom staff and decent electronics bods, you could score significant results in WorldSBK. If you had a Razgatlioglu, or a select few others, as your rider of course.
You could always do that kind of non-factory winning thing in the distant WorldSBK past too, but usually because you had different tyres from the World Champion (different brands worked at some tracks better than others) and of course you already had an expensive factory bike to ride in your domestic championship, built at WorldSBK spec.
But what WorldSBK has not done in those recent Dorna years is come close to the status it was once held in the Foggy, Bayliss, and Edwards eras. ‘No-one puts baby in the corner,’ says one movie quasi-quote, but too many people have put WorldSBK on the sidelines of their affections since even before the big global financial crash.
So what is the next grand gesture, a real change in format from the organisers, intent on moving the whole WorldSBK scene away from the sidelines and right back into everybody’s must-see sight lines? Something radical, maybe?
According to the spookiest corners of the dark satanic rumour mill, we could well be going to Suzuka again.
No, not for an individual WorldSBK round, or anything that self-sufficient. Unless HRC wins the championship with Bautista or Haslam this season, at least. The return to Japan may come from the prospect of WorldSBK and EWC – the World Endurance championship – becoming one hybridised spectacle in the near future.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume this to be true. Or completely fake. Either way, let’s examine the arguments.
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