Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Super Subversions

Sometimes things are hard in WorldSBK.

The perennial difficulty, however, is defining, balancing and homologating exactly what a WorldSBK machine is. And consequentially, what the technical rules should be.

Now that every single WorldSBK machine is a 1000cc four-cylinder of some kind you would think that the old issues of balancing machines against one another would have been homogenised out of their long-lasting and controversial existence.

After all, Ducatis and eventually Hondas and Aprilias were all bigger on twin-cylinder engine displacement than their four and occasional three-cylinder competitors for almost every season in WorldSBK until this one.

And therefore, usually, they delivered better results. Look at the stats.

Kawasaki’s voracious last few years in WorldSBK have promoted them to second place in almost every conceivable statistical ranking for manufacturers. But Ducati is way out in front still, and thanks to this year’s literal win-or-bust results from Bautista and Davies, they are keeping their relative advantages intact.

The reason Ducati made it to the top in the first place is the same reason Ducati has been unbeatable in more circumstances than any other in 2019.

They sought to subvert the tech rules from day one.

Don’t get me wrong; I intend no criticism of this approach, partly because others have been just as expansive in their willingness to look at the rulebook and work out how to maximise their particular advantages in their next homologation model. Many have also produced as few examples of their road bikes as they possibly can while still meeting the prevailing homologation rules.

Bizarrely, the traditionally hardest envelope pushers of all - Ducati - are probably more successful at actually selling their WorldSBK connected road bike models than any other manufacturer. And it matters little the cost of the machine to the customer or how impractical they can be as road-going machines. Ducati’s trickest sportsbikes are real products that usually sell strongly, if only in a specialised niche sector of the overall marketplace. Some maybe just to collectors, but a sale is a sale.

When Ducati felt they had to build a V-4 model range to keep up a purely fanciful level of performance for their road bike customers, it opened up a new world of possibilities to them.

Allowed to think outside their former V-twin box, they made an 1100cc base model and studied the WorldSBK rules (and general direction of the rules) very carefully before building the final 1000cc V4R for WorldSBK – and BSB, etc.

Without question it is currently Ducati who have looked closest, most avariciously, at the veneered wall of technical rules in WorldSBK and then just made a taller ladder to scale it in 2019. They built a rocket boys.

To read the rest of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription. You can find out more about subscribing to MotoMatters.com here.

This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion. Though most content on MotoMatters.com remains free to read, a select amount of uniquely interesting content will be made available solely to those who have supported the website financially by taking out a subscription.

The aim is to provide additional value for our growing band of site supporters, providing extra original and exclusive content. If you would like to read more of our exclusive content and help MotoMatters.com to grow and improve, you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here.


Back to top


To become a superstock class where you have to run the bike in it’s showroom shape with the only changes being slicks and removal of lights, mirrors and number plate hanger. The bikes must have stock exhausts, electronics, brake pads, etc and an engine must last 7000km before they are allowed a new one. Then we can see which bike is best.

Betcha a pint this was written with drink and a joint Gordo. Right? Caught you mate!

Back to a point in there, no I don't think the GSXR1000 is a good bike right now, and do love that we have these other amazing bikes to buy. Not worried about or interested in any MotoGP <--> WSBK comparisons. Very curious what the 2020 Honda 1000RR will (finally!) be like. Like Rea long ago, I was disappointed that the Honda V4 Superbike was not produced.

Homologation specials have always been really cool. This new V4 Panigale is incredible, albeit needing some set up help more than out of the box provides. It upped the game.

Enjoying watching the Twin and V4 Ducs battle it out on noodly BSB tracks this season. The 2 Cyl looks good! I really and truly wish that a fat 3 Cyl Superbike with less electronics was out there. Triumph, MV, or even Yamaha. I do miss the brilliant Aprilia RSV4, which we lost with engine tune rule changes.

Kawasaki is still doing just fine against the Ducati. The BMW is incredible given that it has been running a much lower spec engine, watch out next year when they unleash the full fat (which has a wee diet for 2020 WSBK spec) motor. It is a good bike. And, we hear, here comes a Honda.

No complaints here.

(Now, about our beloved cobwebbed Middleweight bikes --> the R6 Cup, and demise of the GSXR750...)

Who's riding an old twin cylinder Ducati in BSB? Pretty sure the three at the front are all V4s. I don't watch the support races very often tho, so apologies if that's what you're referring to.

But managing cost still matters, even in the prototype space. I've mentioned the myriad of techs I'd love to see made available in MotoGP...

When the Grand Prix world championship started 70 add years ago, there were few if any purpose built race bikes. They were the manufacturers street bikes modified to race. At some time in the future, merging WSBK and MotoGP would not be the worst thing that could happen. That time may be now, as street bikes are allowed more technology than MotoGP bikes in some areas.

is rubbish on track. Keep the changes sensible and affordable. You cannot stop blueprinting unless you seal engines. A racer can push a machine much harder than a road rider is likely to, or should. Brakes and suspension suitable for both is pointless, and would be wasted expense for the road. Banning things like ABS also promotes rider skill over factory set up.

There isn’t much wrong with WSBK except the lack of supersports class alternatives and JR (at the moment). It’s MotoGP that is failing to develop new tech and it has become processional for all sorts of reasons. The ban on engine development, use of seamless gearboxes, test limits, carbon brakes, standard tyres, etc has no bearing on road use or product and simply strangles technical progress on so much.

Any time a rider disappears up the road the race is spoilt to some degree. Watching ‘losers’ is never as thrilling.

I have no idea what the answers are. Stuart Higgs and the BSB boys have done a good job for spectators though.

I would like to see year-round racing. One series every two weeks would be enough (and a break at some point for families, medical needs, and R&R) ....as long as BSB continues too, as a summer booster and fill-in. Teams could have more than one rider per bike, and riders limited rides for their championship (chosen at the start of each year), to even out the manufacturers and enable riders to have longer breaks for whatever reason.

We might need another David Emmett though.....