2014 Sepang World Superbike Saturday Roundup: Humidity But No Rain Yet

It rains almost every day in Sepang, and yet it has been dry for the last two days. Rain is predicted for Sunday, but that doesn't mean it's a certainty. Heat and humidity, however, are. New riders need to be reminded to take their helmets off when they get back to their pit boxes, and plenty of fluids need to be ingested.

The Hermann Tilke designed Formula 1 circuit suits motorbikes more than other car tracks, but the bumps, caused by braking cars pushing the tarmac into corners like a carpet against a wall, can still catch riders out, especially at the end of the faster stretches where you have to tip your bike in over corrugated road.

It looms like Aprilia were not just suffering from hubris, throwing down the gauntlet as they did, but both Tom Sykes and Davide Giugliano were able to out qualify all but Sylvain Guintoli. Giugliano doesn't think he will have the pace to maintain his position in the race as he's giving up 8kmh down the straights, and they're big. Sykes is unlikely to be able to dominate the races tomorrow, but the Kawasaki is second only to the Aprilia in outright flat speed, so a good result is likely. Guintoli, who has dominated almost every session, is the favourite for tomorrow, but as he's thirty seven points behind Sykes in the championship, in fourth place. The men in second and third are Jonathan Rea and Loris Baz. Rea is unlikely to be able to ride past his bike's shortcomings and will be trying not to lose too many points instead of challenging for the win, while Baz is on the exact same bike as Sykes and will need it to rain to stand a chance of taking points off his team leader.

On the second row, Marco Melandri is behind Toni Elias, continuing his terrible year. When Melandri was trying to ride the unrideable MotoGP Ducati, he was sent to a psychiatrist by the team rather than have them admit their bike might have been rideable by only one man. Guintoli is no Casey Stoner, and being outqualified by Elias on a cheaper version of your bike cannot be good for morale. Still, he's on the second row and the track suits his bike. It's time for the compartmentalisation that riders do to race without the weight of their problems slowing them down.

If the Honda is lacking in the grunt required to fight at the sharp end, the Suzuki is by its side. This weekend is damage limitation for both teams, as neither expects to realistically fight for the win. The Evo bikes are further back, 20kmh off the Aprilia and Kawasaki's speeds and the EBRs are over 10kmh further back.

In World Supersport, things are less clear. While it looks like Jules Cluzel and Kev Coghlan are shoo-ins for the podium, anyone in the top ten, including local man Zaqhwan Zaidi, could be on their with either of them.

Rain could spoil everyone's predictions, and that might be good.

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Total votes: 15

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Honda and Suzuki are at a disadvantage by having road focused bikes (with smaller bores and longer strokes).

Is it time to work out an equivalency?

Putting it out there, what about a 100 octane for 81mm bore, then a sliding scale of percent toluene for lesser bore. Easy.

Total votes: 36

Honda isnt supported by HRC and the bike is too old. The chassis is more agile though, and Rea's championship position shows that things aren't as bad as one track can make it seem. 

Total votes: 29

may not be a bad idea. Or, at least a power limit of some sort.

Using 'street' fuel would be a good start I feel. Most of the sponsorship appears to come from lubricants as opposed to fuel and it might even be a good marketing aid for 'super unleaded' 97 RON. Germany has better street fuel than this I believe, so some agreement will be needed
I would be interested to know if anyone has the stats for the power difference a lower octane/lower energy fuel might make. Forcing lower compression ratios and power outputs could be a very cheap way of slowing things down (good for the circuit owners, who cannot afford to keep altering layouts for faster bikes) and it should reduce costs as well, as long the rev limits remain.

The organisers seem to always prefer parts-led solutions to equivalency, but why not use dynos to level the field? It would avoid crude devices like air restrictors and allow the teams to use whatever method they like to get to the limit. Also, it would permit changes to things like con rods, where cheaper bikes often have lower-specs to suit production road bikes as opposed to race machines. If teams turn up with a bike slightly over the limit power-wise, they could be penalised by the same percentage added to their lap times (better than exclusion). Complicated for manual timing perhaps (and confusing for fans to some degree) but computers should be able to sort it out during the race for the commentators etc. That's if it was a problem in practice.

Total votes: 39

I'm not convinced that things are so far out of whack that they need fixing with more rules. It seems pretty balanced to me, overall. 

Total votes: 35