The World Superbike season has barely started, and already the controversy has started. The first blow was landed before the first race had even started: Alstare Suzuki team boss Francis Batta complained to the Italian press that the Aprilia RSV4 that Max Biaggi used to grab the runner up spot in Superpole was illegal. "The Aprilia is a prototype, and as such, is not allowed to race here in SBK. We will wait until after the race to make a formal complaint," he told the Italian broadcaster La7.
In the hours since the race, word of any official protest being lodged is yet to emerge, and so the statements made by Batta should probably be put down to the flamboyant Belgian's hot temper, rather than a genuine statement of intent. And given the results of Sunday's two Superbike races, where both Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano finished outside the top 10, Batta may have decided to keep his powder dry, and wait for a more opportune moment.
But even if the Alstare boss does go ahead with his complaint, it is likely to fall on deaf ears. The Aprilia RSV4 1000 Factory has been homologated and approved by the FIM, making them officially legal in World Superbikes. According to Twowheelsblog.com, Batta's complaints center around the Aprilia's fuel injection system, which Alstare mechanics are claiming is the system as homologated. According to the FIM rules, the race bikes must use the same fuel injection system as used on the homologated machine. But any violation would be immediately apparent once the scrutineers get their hands on the machines at the technical inspection.
The other issue is one of numbers: the rules say that manufacturers which have previously homologated motorcycles for roadracing (which Aprilia has, with its RSV1000RR twin) must have produced 250 units of the homologated machines prior to the bike being inspected for homologation. The manufacturer then has to sell 1000 units by the end of June. But as the inspection has already taken place, the FIM must already have been satisfied that the required 250 RSV4s had been produced by Aprilia, which leaves the factory only to sell the required 1000 units by July.
The question remains as to why Batta singled out the Aprilia. The BMW S1000RR will only hit the dealer showroom floors at the end of the year, leaving the Bavarian factory just a couple of months to sell the necessary 1000 bikes. What's more, with the advanced electronics available on the S1000RR, the BMW looks like much more of a prototype than the Aprilia.
The dispute, though largely baseless, highlights the difficulties which can arise when the stakes in a championship are high enough to make challenging overly specific regulations worthwhile. More manufacturers in the series means the chance of winning races and championships has gone down, making litigation a more attractive route to glory, if such it can be called when awarded by a judge rather than a checkered flag. This is another story that could run for a while yet.