One of the greatest fears which World Superbike fans expressed when it was announced last year that control of WSBK would fall under the responsibility of Dorna was that WSBK would either be killed off as a series, or absorbed into MotoGP as a glorified support class. The continued existence of two motorcycle road racing world championship seemed in serious doubt; in dire economic times, one of the two must give. And with Dorna having invested so much in making MotoGP the dominant championship, WSBK fans feared, it would be World Superbikes that suffers.
That fear, at least, is groundless. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta told German-language publication Speedweek that he could not conceive of the two series being run at the same events. There would always be come circuits and some countries that would prefer one series to the other, Ezpeleta explained to Speedweek. "We will be keeping the two series separate, and supporting them both," Ezpeleta said.
The advantages of having two series is clear. World Superbikes, for example, has always had a huge following in Britain, while being largely ignored in Spain, even when Carlos Checa was in the process of securing his first WSBK title. Maintaining both WSBK and MotoGP allows Dorna to exploit the two series in their strongest markets, while coordinating to expand motorcycle racing as a whole and reach a broader audience.
Though Ezpeleta's expression of support for WSBK may go some way to calming the worst of World Superbike fans' fears, major concerns remain. WSBK fans fear Dorna will destroy the heart of the series, by imposing massive technology restrictions and reducing the series to a glorified Superstock spec. Recent reports intimated that Dorna was considering scrapping the Superstock 1000 and Superstock 600 support classes, and replacing them with a junior series to be raced using 250cc four-stroke machines based on production bikes. Though it is still unclear exactly what effect the scrapping of Superstock will have, and whether it really means that both WSBK and WSS will be reduced to glorified Superstock machinery, WSBK fans fear that any further reduction in technology will see the series lose what makes it so attractive.
Those worries were heightened when a number of high-profile names, such as WSBK Director Paolo Ciabatti, series press chief Julian Thomas and Infront CEO Paolo Flammini, revealed that they would be leaving WSBK. The people being drafted in to take their place have served to calm the nerves a little. Gregorio Lavilla is a former rider who has raced in both Grand Prix, World Superbikes and national superbike series, and could form a bridge between the two paddocks. The name of Javier Alonso will be less comforting: Alonso is widely regarded in the MotoGP paddock as Carmelo Ezpeleta's right-hand man, and is a member of MotoGP's Race Direction and a key executive inside Dorna. On the one hand, Alonso is a Dorna man through-and-through; on the other hand, having such a high-profile figure inside World Superbikes is at least a sign of how seriously Dorna is taking the series.
Ezpeleta himself will not be involving himself too closely with the World Superbike series. When asked by Speedweek whether he would be attending a WSBK round this year, he replied that it was unlikely, given his current commitments. Aragon was one possibility, Ezpeleta told Speedweek, another being the Indian round, if they were forced to postpone it to later in the year, due to the current difficulties facing the race planned for the Buddh International Circuit near New Delhi.