The continuing worldwide decline in sports bike sales has forced the Superbike Commission to reduce the minimum number of motorcycles to be produced for homologation, to be allowed to take part in the World Superbike series. As of now, manufacturers wishing to race a particular motorcycle must have sold 250 bikes by the end of their first year of racing in WSBK, and 1000 bikes by the end of the second year, half the requirements previously on the books. But manufacturers will still have to have produced 125 bikes before they can even embark on the homologation procedure.
The sales numbers have been reduced in response to the continuing decline in sales of large and middleweight sports bikes around the world, under pressure from increasing speed restrictions and monitoring on public roads. Even Honda is reportedly having problems selling the required numbers of the CBR1000RR SP, despite the popularity of the bike. The declining sports bike market is rumored to have persuaded Honda to shelve its V4 sports bike, which has already been postponed once. Smaller manufacturers have faced similar problems, with Aprilia struggling to sell the RSV4, despite the bike having won two world championships and consistently been a championship contender.
The decrease in minimum homologation numbers reverses the previous trend. The last change to homologation numbers was to increase it, to prevent manufacturers from producing so-called homologation specials, high price-tag bikes aimed purely at racing. That move was said to have been aimed at reining in Ducati, in particular, which was producing ever more exotic versions of its superbike contender in very small quantities. As sports bike sales have stagnated, it is no longer commercially viable to produce such small-run specials, making it easier to reduce the minimum sales numbers.
The minimum quantity of 1000 bikes is still thought to be too large for smaller, specialist builders to achieve. Italian builder Bimota has signed with the Francis Batta of Alstare to campaign the BMW-powered BB3 in World Superbikes, but even selling 1000 bikes in two years could be beyond their reach. Whether the Superbike Commission will find agreement on a solution for 'micro-manufacturers' like Bimota remains to be seen. This reduction was only passed by a majority vote, rather than unanimously. Which of the participants - teams, FIM, Dorna and the manufacturers - voted against the reduction is not known.
Below is the press release from the FIM announcing the new homologation numbers:
FIM Superbike World Championship
New homologation procedure
The FIM is pleased to announce that a new homologation procedure has been approved by a majority within the Superbike Commission.
It is a common intention to bring the homologation requirements in line with the current situation of the motorcycle industry and markets worldwide.
The major impact of the new regulation is related to the total required number of units to be produced:
- The minimum number of units to start the homologation procedure will be 125.
- At the end of the first year of participation, manufacturers will have to reach 250 units.
- At the end of the second year of participation, manufacturers will have to reach 1000 units.
The Superbike Commission will follow closely the production plan of each manufacturer in order to control the minimum number of units produced as above and guarantee the fairness of competition.
The Superbike Commission are still considering further improvements to the new rules and discussions will be held in Phillip Island, Australia, during the first Round of the WSBK Championship (21-23 February).
A full description will be included inside the WSBK technical regulations 2014 that will be updated on the FIM website in the following days.