The World Superbike championship is to undergo a radical shake up. Today, the Superbike Commission, WSBK's rule-making body, announced two major changes aimed at improving the health of the series.
The first change is the most noticeable. As predicted when the 2016 WSBK Calendar was published, World Superbike races are to be held on both Saturdays and Sundays, with Race 1 being held on Saturday, Race 2 on Sunday. This means that Superpole has now been moved to Saturday morning, rather than the afternoon.
The move, the Superbike Commission says, is to provide a fuller experience for fans at a WSBK weekend. The move has been made after consultation with the teams, TV broadcasters and with circuit owners, which produced positive feedback. How fans will react remains to be seen: the AMA ran races on Saturday and Sunday during the DMG era, which met with a mixed reception, but that era in the US was so tainted by the DMG it is hard to know whether the issue was with the format or much wider.
New for the schedule is a change to World Supersport qualifying. No longer will the support class use a single session of qualifying, but WSS will now also adopt the two-stage Superpole format used by World Superbikes, and taken over from MotoGP. Places in Superpole will now be decided on times set during Free Practice on Friday, for both World Supersport and World Superbike.
Much less visible, but potentially with a much bigger impact, are the changes being made to the homologation procedures. After a period during which homologation numbers were increased, causing problems for smaller manufacturers, the numbers are to be reduced again. From 2016, the minimum quantity of homologated units to be sold is now 500, down from 1000 for 2015.
This change is possibly designed to reflect the changing market conditions for sportsbikes. Sales have been consistently falling, though a thriving market for more expensive, highly specialized machines continues to exist. Yamaha have produced a special racing version of their R1, the R1M, and Honda are said to be working on two different bikes for 2017, an uprated CBR1000RR for road use, and a more extreme V4 bike for racing purposes. Production runs of 500 make much more sense in that context, rather than factories having to gamble on selling enough of a homologated machine. This will also help factories such as Ducati and Aprilia, which have struggled to be competitive on their bikes for mass production. Now, Ducati and Aprilia can produce more highly tuned versions of their Superbikes, and still expect to sell enough to make the homologation numbers.
To ensure that costs do not spiral out of control once again, engine modifications remain limited, and the price cap for the bikes remains in place. The maximum retail price for a bike homologated for World Superbikes remains €40,000.
A further concession has been made to manufacturers, allowing them to stagger their production schedules. It will now be possible to homologate new motorcycles mid-season, instead of having to wait until the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Suzuki is likely to be the first manufacturer to benefit from this change, the Japanese factory expecting to launch a brand new and radically revised GSX-R1000 in the middle of 2016. Though no one will be racing Suzukis in the World Superbike class next year, the bike could be homologated and developed in the Superstock 1000 class during 2016, ready for Suzuki's expected return to WSBK in 2017.
Below is the press release containing the changes and the revised schedule from the FIM:
Motul FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Changes to Regulations for 2016 (and beyond)
The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (DWO Executive Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) met at Madrid, at the Dorna HQ, on 10 December 2015 in the presence of of MM Corrado Cecchinelli, Gregorio Lavilla, (Dorna), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Charles Hennekam, Scott Smart and Paul Duparc (FIM Representatives).
The following changes have been decided in the 2015 FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and Superstock 1000 Cup Regulations:
New time schedule and Introduction of a Superpole in the Supersport category.
For 2016, the FIM and Dorna WorldSBK Organization (DWO) are proud to unveil a new era for the well-awaited Motul FIM Superbike World Championship Race Schedule, marking a turning point in WorldSBK history.
After positive feedback and input from the WorldSBK Series Promotors, Circuits, Manufacturers, Sponsors, and TV Broadcasters, DWO has worked tirelessly to bring forward a new, revamped WorldSBK race weekend schedule. Traditionally held on Sunday morning, Race 1 will now take place on Saturday afternoons, with definitive timetable changes aimed at creating a flexible time schedule for fan experiences to enjoy a more complete and exciting WorldSBK experience from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon
In this new format, Saturday is aimed at offering increased fan attendance and especially the chance to feel the adrenaline of WorldSBK racing during the 3 day event. In addition, Organisers and Sponsors will be able to offer an even bigger selection of special events and shows, allowing fans to enjoy both on and off track action in a way never previously possible. These fundamental timetable changes will prove pivotal in getting WorldSBK fans closer to the action, both those in the grandstands and the millions watching live TV around the world. With more flexibility afforded to the schedule, the new time slots will ensure that each and every fan is able to enjoy the best of the WorldSBK paddock, either at the track or at home. Athletes and Teams will be more available with less timing constraints, whilst the new time slots will give more flexibility to Organizers to actively design and dedicate activities within each and every event, ensuring the proximity and engagement of Fans attending.
Free practice sessions and those timed for qualifying will now take place on Friday, an addition for 2016 will see also the FIM Supersport World Championship adopting the Superpole sessions format as like WorldSBK, which will take place on Saturday mornings, before the lights go out for the first WorldSBK Race 1 in the afternoon. Sunday morning will be dedicated to Warm Up sessions before WorldSSP and WorldSBK kick off the racing action for the second time over the weekend giving fans a further opportunity to experience one of the most exciting and exhilarating motorcycle racing championships in the world.
|08:45 10:15||1:30||WorldSBK||Technical/Sporting Checks|
|09:15 10:00||0:45||STK1000||Free Practice 1|
|10:15 11:15||1:00||WorldSBK||Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying|
|11:30 12:30||1:00||WorldSSP||Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying|
|13:30 14:30||1:00||WorldSBK||Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying|
|14:45 15:45||1:00||WorldSSP||Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying|
|16:00 16:45||0:45||STK1000||Free Practice 2|
|17:00 17:30||0:30||European Jr Cup||Free Practice|
|08:45 09:00||0:15||WorldSBK||Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying|
|09:15 09:30||0:15||WorldSSP||Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying|
|09:45 10:15||0:30||European Jr Cup||Qualifying 1|
|10:30 10:45||0:15||WorldSBK||Superpole 1|
|10:55 11:10||0:15||WorldSBK||Superpole 2|
|11:30 11:45||0:15||WorldSSP||Superpole 1|
|11:55 12:10||0:15||WorldSSP||Superpole 2|
|15:00 15:30||0:30||European Jr Cup||Qualifying 2|
|15.45||Pit Walk - Spectator activities|
|09:00 09:15||0:15||WorldSSP||Warm Up|
|09:25 09:40||0:15||WorldSBK||Warm Up|
|09:50 10:05||0:15||STK1000||Warm Up|
|10:15 11:00||0:45||MKT||Alfa Romeo Laps Experience|
|10:15 11:00||0:45||Pit Walk||Pit Walk|
|15:15||European Jr Cup||RACE|
Additional Sporting, Technical and Medical Regulations
Slight changes to the Regulations have been decided:
- Clarification of practice restrictions: the principle being to give to the teams/riders a lumpsum of testing days for events other than at the WorldSBK. A waiver will be granted by the WorldSBK Race Direction if the teams/riders participate really to the other events with the machine conforming to the technical requirements of this distinct Championship.
- SBK Class: race distance and new parameters for restarted have been reviewed.
- The homologation rules have been updated to allow for the homologation of new motorcycle models, part way through the season and to allow these to compete during the same season. The minimum production requirement has been reduced to 500 machines (units).
- Revised Medical Regulations were adopted.
The 2016 sporting, technical, disciplinary and medical regulations will be available on the FIM website shortly.