FIM press release:
The FIM, Dorna & MSMA are pleased to announce that a new framework for the Superbike Technical Rules has been obtained after many discussions between the parties involved.
The new Superbike rules will be applied progressively, starting in 2014, in 3 stages. The aim was focused on the reduction of cost and to fix a maximum price for the motorcycle and its components, to be reduced in yearly in the next 3 years. The price of the motorcycle and its components will be much lower than today’s cost. Furthermore, a maximum number of engines for use by a rider during the complete season will be introduced. Items considered for cost limitation are suspension components, brakes and gearbox ratios.
The constructors present in the FIM Superbike World Championship agreed to have a minimum number of motorcycles with the same state of tuning, available for sale or through lease.
A draft of the new technical rules will be published soon.
Last straw, we are told, was when the Superbike World Championship successfully ran a round of its series in Russia and then signed up India for a future event. Didn’t Infront, SBK’s owners, know that MotoGP had its eye on those venues? Shortly, the financial overlords of Dorna, the TV rights-holders for MotoGP, bought Infront. What next? Would Dorna gut its upstart competitor, thereby destroying a series loved by a large audience?
While business is not the purely rational actor assumed in the idea of “efficient markets,” its respect for stockholders usually restrains suicidal impulses (setting aside the events of 2008). In the past, SBK has been intentionally managed to present highly competitive racing. Six manufacturers have remained in the series because technical rules have, in the words of series tech inspector Steve Whitelock, “given ’em what they need.”
In SBK, if a make became uncompetitive—as Kawasaki, Suzuki and Aprilia did in MotoGP—they were given the means to become competitive. Two years ago, when Honda fell behind, it was permitted to deploy ride-by-wire and returned to competitiveness. If a team prepared to deploy a “destabilizing” technology, Whitelock would remind them of the likely response from companies A, D and H. He kept teams competitive while preventing an “arms race” of the kind we’ve seen in MotoGP.
Why mess with success? Dorna seems concerned with SBK grid shrinkage and so seeks to cut the cost of equipment and number of engines that may be used by each rider per season. Last year, Aprilia was rumored to have used 28 engines to make Max Biaggi champion. In MotoGP, each rider gets five engines per season, and some teams furiously change engines in practice to use up the mileage of clapped-out “smokers” no longer good enough to race. Rules come and go, and this is what’s fashionable now, even though travel costs are by far the largest expense in racing.
Why take three years to move to the lower-tech, lower-cost machines? First, compromise may have been necessary to keep existing teams in the series. If you’ve invested a lot in developing sophisticated Superbikes, you may not be thrilled by the prospect of racing warmed-over stockers that will never challenge existing lap records. Second, making smaller changes over three years may make it easier to maintain competitiveness among the teams.
Last item mentioned in the release is a requirement that production racers “with the same state of tuning” as factory Superbikes be offered for lease or sale.
The rich irony is that many people enjoy World Superbike more than they do MotoGP. Now, MotoGP’s management proposes to improve SBK. Doctor, heal thyself.