Subscriber Only Feature: Which Direction For WorldSBK?

After Laguna Seca the future of WorldSBK was once again questioned. Asking the right question may be more important than finding the right answer immediately

“I've said it before and I'll say it again, democracy simply doesn't work,” so said this intrepid reporter when faced with reports that Bart's Comet would bring destruction to Springfield. It was a time of uncertainty and peril for America's greatest city but one from which it recovered by maintaining the status-quo.

While the WorldSBK paddock isn't standing on Mount Springfield singing Que Sera Sera and waiting for the comet to hit, it is facing a moment of truth about where the series is heading. It's always easier to swim with the tide but for WorldSBK patience and thoroughness are more important than being swift and decisive in making the wrong decision.

Since Imola the paddock WorldSBK has been filled with rumor and counter rumor about the direction that the series will take. Will there be a spec ECU? Will there be concessions for different manufacturers? Will there be testing restrictions placed on the successful teams? The list of possibilities has been the talk of the paddock with Dorna's Carmelo Ezpeleta even suggesting making the series into a Stock class, but what is actually best for WorldSBK?

Two up

Dominance by Kawasaki and Ducati is clearly an issue. Over the last three years the series has been dominated by both manufacturers, with only Nicky Hayden's victory at Sepang last year blotting their copy book. On track the rivalry between Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies has been the main tussle, but while theirs is as heated as any it hasn't captured the imagination.

A lot of that has to do with the fact that on a bad day at the office both riders can still realistically expect to finish on the podium. As a result the series has been devoid of drama at times. That is not the fault of either rider or Kawasaki and Ducati. The burden should fall on the rest of the grid to close the gap by raising more money and spending it in WorldSBK.

That Kawasaki does not have a MotoGP team is a convenient stick to beat them with. That they prioritize their budget on WorldSBK and have been able to turn that into a hugely successful run of sustained success is to be lauded.

This is part of a semi-regular series of insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for site supporters. The series includes background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion pieces. Though the vast majority of content on is to remain free to read, most notably the daily round ups at each MotoGP event, a select amount of content will be made available solely to those who have taken out a subscription.

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WSBK is getting predictable but I can't say that I hold it against Kawasaki as they're reaping the rewards of constant development and a very large budget. In memory when I go back to successful formulae that created really close racing it involved air intake restrictions; I remembered Nascar's carburetor air restrictor plates and Formula 3's air intake boxes fitted with air restrictors back in the 80s. The resulting racing was closer than before and in NACAR's case any racer on a winning streak had an even more restrictive plate slapped on their engine. Even control ECU's can be heavily maximized to create a serious advantageif you have enough money to throw at it viz Paul Bird and his Ducati factory engineer tuning Shakey Byrne's Duc in BSB. I don't think Pirelli will want to start making anything other than control tires and control ECUs only go so far until you throw enough engineers at them. So my fallback idea as a non racing engineer leads me back to air restriction for fuel inject engines as a way to create closer racing. I'd like to hear Scott Smart's thoughts on ideas like these.



In that case sir you lose all creditbility.  Case in point is your quote: "The burden should fall on the rest of the grid to close the gap by raising more money and spending it in WorldSBK."

The sportbike genre that WSBK is based on has been in decline the last few years.  The factories have admitted they don't need racing to improve the breed when the best selling bikes aren't sportbikes.  It is possible that WSBK as we know it will be gone soon.  Where is the incentive for any of the to race modified street bikes going to come from.

In the infamous words of Rondo Talbot, "You should have known!"

I hold Honda responsible for not making the series more exciting. Honda should easily be more competitive, that would be 3 contending manufacturers. I will forever have a bit of hard feelings towards Honda for not giving Nicky a competitive  bike in WSBK.

Honda should be EASILY more competitive???? Easily???? I think we have to bear in mind that Honda is just following the base idea of the series: not spending a fortune, no factory support. I also think we have to keep in mind that basically the best base for a winning bike makes a bad or to expensive bike for the street. And the whole idea is racing with streetbikes!

I think that it is not right if we hold the one manufacturer that's is playing by the rules responsible for the other who cheat are dominating. Or because Hayden just signed a unlucky deal riding the oldest bike in the series, not being sure at that point whether a newer was coming next year.

Is that the solutions to the current issues with the racing in WSBK have been clear for a while, but haven't been instituted. There's been a real lack of vision over a long stretch of time. WSBK lives and dies on the strength of the racing, no fan gives a flying stuff how amazingly fantastic the latest traction control system is, and the super sophisticated aftermarket electronic modifications favour whoever has the most money to plumb into their development. WSBK is fast disappearing up its own arse. And the closeness in spec and lap times from GP to WSBK detracts from both series as it blurrs their identities which in turn effects marketing and sponsorship dollars. It's so simple. GP should be the serious, super fast prototype tech feast and WSBK should be the fairing bashing entertainment category where rules are constantly updated to keep the racing close. The reverse grid for race 2 is actually a step in the right direction, but until they address the tech regs it will make little difference.

WSBK needs to be dumbed down electronically, and needs a proper race by race parity system ASAP. That would probably make world superstock redundant, so a supernaked racing category should be created instead to cater for the popular and fast machines like the KTM super Duke and Tuono, which would be a spectacular racing series. And this all needs to happen fast, like for next year. I've hardly missed a race of WSBK for 20 years and even I can't be arsed watching anymore. The whole purpose of the series is in question.

I still like the WSBK format. I think there just must be a ban on bike development. Projecting the stock 100 rules should be nice. If motogp was'nt such an excitement yet (read: the factory teams are confused most by all the rule changes and tyre changes), nobody would point a finger to WSBK right now. Also if no motogp riders went there, we would say nothing. We just hate to see our hero's suffer...

There was a time that Honda was dominating the WSBK series

There was a time that Suzuki was dominating the series

There was a time that Ducati was kicking asses

There was a recent time that lower profilled riders where dominating.

Nobody complaint though. But now the front is green we suddenly have issues.

I hate to see the 600 class dissapear next year, though

Making big changes of spec is costly and adversely affects poorer/smaller teams, continuity of rulebook makes for a more stable series. That said, there are two major factors in the context we are in that folks are noting: the sport bike market has dropped off a lot. And the bikes now have complex electronics packages. I hope Dorna is careful and deliberate.

That time we changed engine spec to a lower state of tune we saw Aprilia fall from the front, and Kawasaki really got it right. It helps that they also got Rea from Honda of course. Our first electronics advance was BMW with a F1 sort of gadgetry. The next wave was even better. Yamaha has a nice one, but their bike just isn't quite where Kawi and Duc are.

In the last we saw restrictors etc making parity for the TWINS with the 4's. With that in mind, perhaps the odd stand out is just the Kawasaki overdog? So we are to restrict them? Just the factory team? I see the point that the other teams/manu's should and can put more resources in to catch them. That the Ducati and Davies have come good is brilliant. That Honda and their sacked V4 project/underwhelming "new" CBR1000rr aren't performing is a shame.

What should the series do? Wow. I agree that parity amongst National Series' spec and WSBK is good for wild cards. As we see in MotoGP it would bring more teams and bikes to be competitive. The production bikes themselves though ARE getting increasingly more electronics. And bizarrely powerful. I don't know...

What baffles me somewhat is that as the litre bikes have approached 200hp of barely rideable power that the 600's sales have dropped like a stone. And no 750's aside from the never raced Suzuki. Only the R6 has come forward with something significant lately in middleweights. There is some increase in lightweight sort-of-sportbike sales/interest that sell well especially in emerging markets. The RC390 and R3 are decent but nothing that I would call a sportbike.

Suzuki recently came out with a lonely new 1000. It is atop the American National series. It will have an endurance racing presence. But zip in WSBK?

The English, Italians and Spaniards will always be motorcycle racing, bless their two wheeled wild hearts. MotoGP is thriving now, thank goodness. But WSBK is up against some very challenging dynamics. I don't know what they should do. I don't really like watching it. I don't really find a personal connection to the 1000cc bikes anymore either. I flippin hated my CBR1000rr a few yrs ago. I liked riding an RSV4 a bit ago, but again...just too much for me. The big bikes "left me." And we all left the middleweights apparently, sales dwindling. Me and the GSXR750 may have something in common: a good fit without any where to go.

What do I love? BSS
The Triumph 675r triple (but wish mine had another 125cc's)
Is it true that the bike is going away? And the 765 is only going into a naked standard street triple?


I am just left dreaming of bikes with minimal electronics, bar bashing paint swapping over - filled grid of smaller teams from all over the world. Wildcard wins. New bikes I actually want (retro standards? Blech!). Technology is going places I am not. The whole landscape of production sportbike markets is depressing. Glad I am not making the decisions. Hoping the best for Dorna and WSBK.I can't see them not doing a spec ECU. Getting factories more involved while bike sales are shrinking is tough. Costs must come down, which would seem to point more towards Superstock. Does that make the racing better?

by dropping the Superbike displacement limit to 750-cc (845-cc for triples and 900-cc for twins).  Not only would this temporarily level the playing field by having all new development bikes on the grid, it would also make for bikes that normal people could race at the amateur level without having a full suite of electronic rider aids.  As for street versions, no one can use more than 150-HP on the street for anything but bragging rights while the bike is parked outside of Starbucks.

IMO stock with exhaust and tyres, theyre already fast enough.

People no longer want sportsbikes, I'm one of them.  Motoshrink summed it up nicely above, they're so capable they are actually quite dull unless you ride everywhere at speeds that will soon see you locked up.  So people are buying soft roaders, or doing up hipster shitboxes to ride to the cafe.

So, how about something radical?  Since MotoGP went to 1000cc 4-strokes the two series were always going to end up being far too much like each other, and that has happened.  Take off the headlight stickers and what non-fan would be able to tell the difference between a MotoGP bike and an SBK one?  MotoGP a bit more power, a bit less weight, a bit more revs, a bit more brakes, a bit faster lap time, but really, much of a muchness.

So how about running the bikes people ARE buying?  The ones that look totally different to motogp bikes?  R1200GS vs Africa Twin vs MultiStrada vs Seper Tenere etc?  While I'm being a heretic, why not make part of the track a dirt section?  Keep them at superstock-ish levels of development, with a spec ECU with very limited tuning, and then heavy parity balancing as required through restrictors, weight or whatever. 

It would be totally throwing away SBK as it exists now - risky - but really in the longer term it can not continue to exist as a "not-quite-MotoGP" especially now they're owned by the same mob.

I'd tune in to not-quite-motogp riders thrashing adventure tourers on a tarmac/dirt track, sounds like a hoot!  Meanwhile they could bin the dull WSS class and develop the STK300 class using the high-bar versions of those bikes as the feeder - cheap, fun, clearly different to the GP classes and likely great TV!



^ Yep, crazy. "Hipster Shit boxes for the cafe" - HAH! And oddly, just exactly what I am considering, a DRZ400 based vintage custom cafe racer to 1) buzz around town fast, and 2) race on kart tracks with 250 Supermoto AND the Ninja 300 classes. Banging bars. Crashing and getting back on to finish. Cheap. Unique. Playful fun.

Your adventure tourer racing idea is even worse than mine!

Lokeend, is WSS going away?! I hadn't heard.
Cheers mates

bobbers? ha ha ha ha says he with 3 cafe racers and 1 bobber :-)

WSB needs to pull it's collective head in and look to the national SB rules overall and see if there is some common ground.  Afterall that is where their riders and fans come from.  Yep, it will likely end up being somewhere around super stock but with 200hp stock I think we can cope with watching such "underpowered" slugs.

If the 600s are dead then just get the fek over it and find another class/formula.

 Race what sells, what scooters ? 150 cc put-put four strokes. no thanks.

I am grateful that 250 prodution got me out of D grade. So it is good to see 250 / 300 production back in business. next step is to get the two-strokes back into the class. surely Vietnam or Korea could produce a good late model Aprilia RS 250 knock off & win a world championship against the current crop of single cylinder 4 bangers. "Diesels" as Mick Doohan said.

Surely superbikes, er. I think I would prefer a name change, let me say 1000cc Proddys. If the world chip level is compatible with the various National chips, then surely that is more likely to work that a fragmented array of different national & region competitions. Some if not most of the national chips are going quite well or very well. As mentioned above BSB going very well. JSB also good as we would expect. CEV good, AMA going well with recent innovations. ASBK can do better, at least they went back to Darwin this year. If the regs worked between all the different national Asia, Europe, WSBK etc, then the movement of riders, up, down & sideways would be slightly easier. It might make it easier to compare talent from different countries.

I do not know the answer. If Dorna owns motorcycle grand prix racing and superdooperbikes they can drop SBK as a brand. that is a decision for the directors. I hope the SBK dilema can be solved & I can continue to enjoy the last weekend in February down at The Island. and good close racing with UNpredictable results again like in the old days.