2015 World Superbike Regulations Released: EVO With Limited Tuning, Plus Price-Capped Electronics

The Superbike Commission, the body which runs the World Superbike championship, has finally agreed on a set of technical regulations for World Superbikes for 2015. The initial idea to switch to EVO regulations has now been dropped, with a compromise found to allow greater freedom of tuning, and retain more parity between production bikes. Electronics will remain open, though they will be regulated by price and must remain freely available.

The dropping of full EVO regulations came as a result of pressure from manufacturers such as Suzuki and Honda, whose current bikes are focused more on the road than, say, the Ducati and Aprilia. To remain competitive, they needed more freedom to tune the engine than the proposed Superstock regulations allow. Given the dominance of Ducati and Kawasaki in Superstock, the EVO regulations could have discouraged manufacturers from getting involved in World Superbike.

Engines will now be allowed limited modification, with teams forced to run stock valve springs and valves. They will be allowed to modify camshafts, and porting of cylinder heads will be allowed, though material can only be removed, not added by welding. Crankcases must remain standard, but teams will be allowed to swap con rods. The precise details have not been released yet, but con rods cannot be lighter than standard, and must be of 'similar' material. Only one set of gearbox ratios will be allowed all year, and performance balancing will be done by restrictors in future, and no longer by the addition of weight. Adding weight was always a problem for Ducati, as it made finding a balance more difficult. It also encouraged riders to simply lose the weight which had been added to the bikes, an unhealthy situation for already very thin riders.

The most interesting part of the regulations comes in the electronics. The MSMA has persuaded the Superbike Commission to allow them to continue to develop their own software strategies, leaving WSBK as the only championship where software development is allowed. To contain costs, a price cap of 8000 euros has been placed on ECU kits, and the factories must release their software to all of the teams running their bikes three times a season, preventing them from gaining too great an advantage. All ECU kits must contain all of the parts needed – sensors, actuators, etc – as well as the ECU itself. Allowing software development in World Superbikes makes more sense than in MotoGP, as the results are more directly applicable to the road machines sold by the factories. It is also easier to prevent costs spiralling out of control: with engine tuning limited, the advantages to be gained from software is smaller. As the marketing value of WSBK is smaller than in MotoGP, the manufacturers have fewer incentives to invest massive sums in software development, especially as they must give their developments away to all of their customer teams three times a year.

The full text of the press release is show below:

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup

Decision of the Superbike Commission

The Superbike Commission, composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (WSBK Executive Director), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), met at Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit on 12 June in the presence of Messrs Daniel Carrera (WSBK Championship Director) and Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK Sporting Director ).

The meeting focused on two points:

1. SBK Technical Regulations 2015:

The main pillars of the technical regulation 2015 were approved by majority inside the Superbike Commission.

In 2015 the Championship will return to one technical platform. The rules were previously agreed to be as the 2014 EVO regulations and they have formed the basis of the 2015 rules. However amendments have been made to ensure parity of performance across the diverse range of machines in the championship and the regulations are also aimed at both reducing annual costs and making the Championship more accessible to new teams.

Chassis Regulations:

Remain largely unchanged excepting some clarifications to several points. The tolerances applied in measuring frames have been removed.

Engine Regulations:

The previously agreed EVO regulations form the basis of the 2015 rules. However due to the very limited options available to ensure parity of performance between different motorcycles the level of tuning opportunities has been increased.

The notable points are:

  • Camshafts are free
  • Cylinder head porting is free but no welding
  • Valves, pistons and most major engine components must remain standard
  • Con-rods may be replaced with similar material but equal weight parts for safety
  • Crankcases standard
  • One set of racing gearbox ratios allowed for the whole season
  • Balancing rules no longer use weight, it will be intake restriction only

Electronic Regulations:

The FIM Superbike World Championship remains the last high level championship open to the manufacturers to develop their electronic control strategies. The manufacturers will therefore be allowed to continue to develop the electronic solutions but these systems must be available to all other teams using the same make of machine and it will be called the ‘’Superbike Kit System’’.

The notable points are:

  • Price limited Superbike Kit System available to all teams in World Superbike and other FIM championships
  • Only approved ECU’s may be used in these kits – they will be race ECU’s
  • The software of the factory team will be available to all other teams at three points during the racing season
  • The Superbike Kit System must include all of the electronic parts not fitted to the standard street machine and required for the system to be fully operational (except the wiring harness)
  • The selling price for the Superbike Kit System will be €8000
  • Alternatively the Superstock Kit ECU may be used as in the 2014 EVO regulations, this is to encourage wildcard participation

Throttle Body Regulations:

For the 2015 and 2016 season the regulations will continue to allow the addition of Ride By Wire (RBW) systems to the throttle bodies. These systems must become available to all the other teams using the same machines. They will work hand in hand with the ‘’Superbike Kit Systems’’. For the 2017 season and onwards the regulations will mandate the use of the standard throttle bodies.

The notable points are:

  • Ride by wire kits must be available to all teams in World Superbike and other FIM championships
  • Only the machine manufacturer or one appointed supplier will be allowed to provide the kit (for safety)
  • The price of the kits will be €2500
  • All non RBW machines currently utilise a solution and the control strategies are mature
  • Standard road bikes will adopt the use of this technology by 2017 meaning development continuity

*Complete provisional document will be available in the following days at FIM WEBSITE.

2. Additional engine allocation SBK category:

There was an official request from a team to slightly increase the number of engines available for 2014. The Superbike Commission refused this possibility by majority.

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Great step forward for WSBK. A much better idea than copying the CRT formula from MotoGP. We can directly see the hardware we want to buy in action and nobody can reach Hondas current level of dominance in MotoGP, such perfection marring the show.

I hate restrictors as an equaliser, hope they never get used. Also disappointed that aftermarket electronics are being allowed. Of course Suzuki and Yamaha would struggle, both machines are in need of some major updates.

Compared with the patchwork quilt that the MotoGP regulations have become, this is a breath of fresh air.

For the 2003 season the teams were agreed on homologated race kit parts with intake restrictions on 1000cc fours. Then the Flamminis tore that up and allowed non-homologated parts, with the result that apart from Suzuki, the other Japanese factories withdrew.

These new rules look very good. This point in particular:

"Ride by wire kits must be available to all teams in World Superbike and other FIM championships."

I take it "and other FIM championships" refers to the World Endurance Championship. Is there another FIM Championship this could also apply to?

On the chassis front, is the Superbike Commission going to buy a Computrack three-dimension co-ordinate measuring machine to keep track of the chassis geometry to ensure there are no cheater frames, as there have been many times in the past?

Is there another way of interpreting: "The tolerances applied in measuring frames have been removed." ?

It would be good if the rules also mandated standard placement and shape of fuel tanks rather than these non-standard under-seat jobbies...

But all in all, this looks pretty damn good.

WSBK is basically adopting the BSB regulations, but without the spec-electronics. However, I doubt the MSMA are interested in developing proprietary software, since they will be required to open source their codes during the season.

In general, spec ECU and software would exaggerate the performance differences between the engines (sort of like Superstock regulations), particularly if the spec ECU lacked traction control or had a primitive TC system. In MotoGP, the MSMA could engineer new bespoke engines to work around the limitations of a spec ECU, but production racing does not give the MSMA the same flexibility. The electronics must be flexible, instead, and the manufacturers will probably use programming flexibility to make sure their engine doesn't have a disadvantage. Some competitive development is inevitable, but I doubt the kit electronics will be sophisticated enough for the manufacturers to spend a great deal of time or money.

Perhaps, someone at Dorna can provide a bit more detail about the differences between the spec ECU in MotoGP and the new kit hardware in WSBK.