The long-awaited new rules for the World Superbike series, to be applied from 2014 onwards, are finally ready. Or rather, the framework on which they will be based has been agreed upon by all of the parties involved. Today, the FIM issued a press release announcing that an agreement had been reached between the FIM, the MSMA and Dorna over a new framework for technical regulations for WSBK to be applied from 2014 onwards.
Though no details were announced - the details still have to be hammered out, a process which could turn out to be more difficult than currently anticipated - the gist of the rules is that a price-capped formula is to be introduced. The constructors, assembled in the MSMA, have agreed to supply a minimum number of bikes in a particular state of tune for a fixed price. Component suppliers will also see the price of their parts cut as well, with suspension and brakes the main focus of cost-capping.
Though the introduction of cost-capping is a commendable move, the announcement today still leaves too many loopholes open for exploitation. Until the finalized rules are published, it is uncertain how spending by factory-backed teams can be capped, for example. BMW is rumored to be spending several million euros a year on World Superbike, most of which is not spent directly on the engine, but on data analysis, electronics and chassis set up. Though cost-capping may limit the price at which BMW may sell its bikes to teams - including the semi-factory BMW Goldbet team - it will be much harder to limit the amount spent on developing the bikes and chasing more speed. Whether this helps make private teams more competitive at a lower cost remains to be seen.
The real problem with the World Superbike championship is declining income, with the series raising less and less income and generating less and less interest each year. It is a process which started several years ago, and was the trigger for Bridgepoint to take the series out of the hands of the Flammini brothers and give control to Dorna. The decline in the World Superbike series is linked to the widening differences in the rules between World Superbikes and the main national series. National series have been forced to drastically reduce the level of modification of the machinery, as it is the national levels which were hit hardest by the financial crisis. Differing rulebooks meant that wildcard appearances by local riders - once a mainstay of World Superbikes - have now all but disappeared, as bridging the gap between the two rulebooks has just become too costly to contemplate. Though the FIM announcement mentions a new framework, there seems little evidence that any attempt has been made to bring national and world championships closer together. Given the differing interests of the various series organizers, such an effort sadly appears very unlikely.
Below is the official press release from the FIM:
FIM Superbike World Championship
The FIM, Dorna & MSMA are pleased to announce that a new framework for the Superbike Technical Rules has been obtained after many discussions between the parties involved. The new Superbike rules will be applied progressively, starting in 2014, in 3 stages.
The aim was focused on the reduction of cost and to fix a maximum price for the motorcycle and its components, to be reduced in yearly in the next 3 years. The price of the motorcycle and its components will be much lower than today’s cost. Furthermore, a maximum number of engines for use by a rider during the complete season will be introduced. Items considered for cost limitation are suspension components, brakes and gearbox ratios.
The constructors present in the FIM Superbike World Championship agreed to have a minimum number of motorcycles with the same state of tuning, available for sale or through lease.
A draft of the new technical rules will be published soon.