The World Superbike championship remains in a state of flux, despite the good news emerging today about the 2014 grid (Feelracing taking on the Ducati factory team, MV Agusta expanding into World Superbikes, and Michel Fabrizio joining Grillini). The Superbike Commission met at Valencia to agree further rule changes to the series for 2014, as part of the push to revitalize the series. Some of the rules are cost-cutting measures, others are aimed at making the series a more attractive TV package, while some are aimed at providing a more homogenous set of basic rules between the World Superbike and MotoGP series.
The biggest change - and the change that will be mourned the most - is the loss of the current three-stage Superpole qualifying format. Instead of having three Superpole sessions, with the slowest riders being dropped after each session, World Superbikes is to adopt a system similar to MotoGP, where the fastest riders in free practice go straight through to the second and decisive qualifying session, the rest having a second chance in a first qualifying session. The aim of adopting the MotoGP system is the same reason it was adopted in MotoGP: it gives much better TV exposure to the teams lower down the qualifying order, while still providing an exciting qualifying session. It also has the benefit of ensuring that the qualifying system in both WSBK and MotoGP is the same, making it easier for casual viewers to watch either series and understand what is going on.
The loss of the current Superpole system will be widely mourned. The three-tier system provided a superb mix of strategy and excitement, especially as the riders only had two sets of qualifying tires to use in three session. Faster riders had to gamble on getting through to Superpole 2 using race tires, while slower riders could use qualifiers to pick up the pace and qualify further up the grid. The loss of Superpole opens the door for further cost cuts, as it removes the need for soft qualifying tires.
The other measure aimed at unifying the two series is the introduction of penalty points in WSBK. The system has been a success in Grand Prix racing, and extending it to World Superbikes and World Supersport is a logical step aimed at policing riding better in both series. The announcement that points are to be introduced in WSBK was accompanied by news that the points system is also to change in MotoGP, with each penalty point being awarded having a validity of 12 months. This addresses the problem raised by incidents in the final race of the year, and discussed in our recent interview with MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb.
The schedule for race day is also to change, with the timing of the races to change. This is to fit in an earlier TV window, so that WSBK races do not clash with Formula One, MotoGP, major soccer games, or other big events. By changing the event schedule, Dorna are hoping they can make the series a more attractive package for TV, and generate more income for the cash-strapped series.
The full details of all the changes, as well as more details on the technical regulations, are due to be discussed in the next meeting of the Superbike Commission, due to be held in Madrid on the 10th December. Below is the press release with the changes so far:
FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup
Changes to Regulations for 2014
The Superbike Commission, composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (WSBK Executive Director), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), met at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit on 08 November 2013 in the presence of MM Daniel Carrera, Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK-Dorna) and Paul Duparc (FIM).
A draft of the Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations taking into account the conclusions of the SBK Working Group composed of MM. Lavilla, Carrera and Duparc was submitted to the Commission. The goal was to harmonise the regulations of the FIM Grand Prix and Superbike World Championships and to have a set of regulations as similar as possible for both FIM series.
These SBK Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations were basically approved. However, some items remain pending and the SBK Commission will meet on 10 December, in Madrid, to finalise the FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and Superstock 1000cc Cup Regulations for 2014.
The main changes will concern the following items:
- Practice restrictions will be applied for contracted riders and teams. (However it will be taken into account that the Superbike and Endurance Championships will provide teams and riders in each series thanks to the similarity of the EWC and EVO class technical regulations);
- Time and practice Schedules will be reviewed: the SBK format of the free and qualifying practices will be inspired by the MotoGP ones (with a number of participants directly qualified in Q2);
- Revision of the Start Procedure with a scenario for a quick restart (in case of a red flag caused by reasons other than weather conditions) with a very short time for opening the pit lane;
- Superbike and Supersport Race distances will be reduced by the equivalent of two laps in case of wet conditions.
- Sunday race timing schedule for Superbike, Supersport, and Superstock 1000cc Cup will be shortened from 10.30 am to 14.30.
- Introduction of licence penalty points that will last for a period of one year (this system be applied in all FIM Road Racing World Championships).
For the Superbike Technical Regulations, a clarification of the rules will be made in view of the next SBK Commission to be held in Madrid in December, taking into consideration that the 2015 SBK Rules should last for a long period of time in order to give stability to the series. The MSMA is also expected to put forward joint proposals for ensuring a low-cost championship with fair and close competition between the different manufacturers on the track.
OTHER SPORTING, TECHNICAL AND DISCIPLINARY MODIFICATIONS WILL BE AVAILABLE AFTER THE LAST SBK COMMISSION MEETING ON THE FIM WEBSITE.