At the last meeting of the Superbike Commission, the body which makes the rules for the World Superbike series, representatives of Dorna, the FIM and the factories agreed a number of measures which provide yet another step on the path to the future of the series. There were a couple of minor technical updates, and two changes which point the way to the series' long term future.
The changes to the technical regulations were relatively simple. The balancing rules, aimed at allowing different engine designs to be competitive against each other, received a number of minor tweaks resulting from the fact that those rules will now be carried on from one season to the next. In practice, this means that results for either twins or fours will be carried over between seasons, creating a rolling balancing scoreboard, which should create a better balance between fours and twins.
The other change to the technical rules allow a manufacturer to revert to their 2014 electronics for the first two races of 2015, should the 2015 electronics cause them problems. Basically, this will give the teams a fallback position and give them a little more time to develop the electronics. As the first two round are in Australia and Thailand, the risk of struggling with a system which is not completely ready to race during a period when it is impossible to test has been reduced.
The changes to the sporting regulations are more interesting, and point the way to the future of the series. First of all, the sporting, disciplinary and medical regulations will be harmonized with the rules for MotoGP wherever possible, creating a single set of regulations across both series. This will make it easier for teams and riders to switch between series, but more importantly, it should also make it easier for circuit and medical staff. With a single set of rules, marshals, event organizers and circuit medical staff will find it easier to switch between MotoGP and World Superbike events, which should in turn help keep costs down. It will also make it easier for circuits to either switch between series or host both series, without having to go over the differences between the two.
Most interesting of all, however, is the announcement that the Superbike Commission is to create a working group to look at a new entry level class. That class will be based on what they describe as the Supersport 300 class, the range of small capacity sports bikes which is growing in popularity. The class will features machines such as the KTM RC390, the Kawasaki Ninja 300, and the Yamaha YZF-R3. British site Visordown has a rundown on the bikes which could be allowed. The decision to consider such a class builds on initiatives in countries such as the USA, UK, Germany and the Netherlands to feature a KTM RC 390 cup series, which will allow young riders to compete at a very low cost. Perhaps more importantly, initiatives in key markets such as India, Thailand and Malaysia could see such bikes being raced. With the same class running as a support series at World Superbike events, the new class could provide a stepping stone from nations across all of Asia into world championship motorcycle racing.
The change seems a key part of Dorna's strategy to create a broader base for motorcycle racing around the world. With a more homogenous set of rules across several world championship, national and regional series, the cost of moving up to the World Superbike paddock should be lowered, and wildcard entries at various rounds should also be easier. At the same time as the WSBK rules were being announced, the AMA was announcing a few changes to the MotoAmerica AMA series, bringing their Superbike and Superstock regulations even more into line with World Superbike and Superstock rules.
There appears to be a concerted move to help broaden the base of motorcycle racing, and open up World Superbike racing to a broader audience and a broader range of entry. It is a hopeful development, and one which the series badly needs after a steady decline in the past few years.
The FIM press release containing the rule updates is shown below:
FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup
Decision of the Superbike Commission - 2014 final meeting
The Superbike Commission, composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (WSBK Executive Director), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), met at the Dorna Headquarters in Madrid on 16 December 2014 in the presence of MM Daniel Carrera and Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK-Dorna), Scott Smart and Paul Duparc (FIM).
During the 2014 final meeting, the SBK Commission has agreed as follows:
- The Sporting, Disciplinary and Medical Regulations will be harmonised as much as possible with the 2015 Grand Prix Regulations.
After the approval of the main pillars of the SBK Technical Regulations 2015 last June 12th , two main points of discussion have been clarified:
- The Superbike Commission agreed to amend the details of the Superbike Balancing rules to improve the clarity of the application of the balancing method. Changes for the 2014 season included the balancing level being carried from one season to the next and this had resulted in other small details needing updates.
- For safety reasons, The Superbike Commission agreed to consider, individually, any manufacturers request to use their 2014 season electronics packages during the first two championship rounds 'as is', in case of any issues arising from the changes in the electronics concept in the 2015 regulations. Should this arise then the Manufacturer must make available to all 'customer' teams on the same brand of machinery the same 2014 electronics so as not to disadvantage them.
- The Superbike Commission approved assembly of a working group comprising of any interested machine manufacturers to develop a class structure for an entry level category. The category would be based on the burgeoning Supersport 300 class machinery and would aim to include varied capacities and engine configurations, with the aim to provide a low cost platform to develop new talent. The class would be raced in many domestic championships with the goal being to bring the 'stars of the future' to the premier events running alongside the World Championship series.
The full 2015 Regulations will be available on the FIM website shortly.