New 2014 WSBK Rules Agreed Upon: World Superbikes Enters Price-Capped Era

The long-awaited new rules for the World Superbike series, to be applied from 2014 onwards, are finally ready. Or rather, the framework on which they will be based has been agreed upon by all of the parties involved. Today, the FIM issued a press release announcing that an agreement had been reached between the FIM, the MSMA and Dorna over a new framework for technical regulations for WSBK to be applied from 2014 onwards.

Though no details were announced - the details still have to be hammered out, a process which could turn out to be more difficult than currently anticipated - the gist of the rules is that a price-capped formula is to be introduced. The constructors, assembled in the MSMA, have agreed to supply a minimum number of bikes in a particular state of tune for a fixed price. Component suppliers will also see the price of their parts cut as well, with suspension and brakes the main focus of cost-capping.

Though the introduction of cost-capping is a commendable move, the announcement today still leaves too many loopholes open for exploitation. Until the finalized rules are published, it is uncertain how spending by factory-backed teams can be capped, for example. BMW is rumored to be spending several million euros a year on World Superbike, most of which is not spent directly on the engine, but on data analysis, electronics and chassis set up. Though cost-capping may limit the price at which BMW may sell its bikes to teams - including the semi-factory BMW Goldbet team - it will be much harder to limit the amount spent on developing the bikes and chasing more speed. Whether this helps make private teams more competitive at a lower cost remains to be seen.

The real problem with the World Superbike championship is declining income, with the series raising less and less income and generating less and less interest each year. It is a process which started several years ago, and was the trigger for Bridgepoint to take the series out of the hands of the Flammini brothers and give control to Dorna. The decline in the World Superbike series is linked to the widening differences in the rules between World Superbikes and the main national series. National series have been forced to drastically reduce the level of modification of the machinery, as it is the national levels which were hit hardest by the financial crisis. Differing rulebooks meant that wildcard appearances by local riders - once a mainstay of World Superbikes - have now all but disappeared, as bridging the gap between the two rulebooks has just become too costly to contemplate. Though the FIM announcement mentions a new framework, there seems little evidence that any attempt has been made to bring national and world championships closer together. Given the differing interests of the various series organizers, such an effort sadly appears very unlikely.

Below is the official press release from the FIM:

FIM Superbike World Championship

2014 Rules

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.

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As you say, it's probably very unlikely but Dorna could do worse than simply copy BSB to WSB.

So why not, what's actually stopping this from happening? Honda, or Aprilia?

What is really needed is non-modifiable software, to be used at every track as it is out of the box. The only way to achieve that in a way that can be controlled is randomly swappable ECU's...

Or, if the difference in lap times between SBK and SStk is only 1.6s (current difference at Portimao), do you suppose the fans would really notice if SBK and SSp were each replaced by the corresponding SStk classes?

The appeal of SBK is based on the customer connection to the machinery they can buy on the showroom floor. Build and homologate 500 "R" spec bikes and you're allowed to race them as they are manufactured. If you win with the machinery your company produces on the line, the fans understand the immediate connection and the day-dreaming/ wanting for "that" bike begins... Perhaps the SStk class should be based on the non "R" spec machinery.. Fans actually appreciated seeing the difference between these bikes on the track...

My humble opinion of course....

Two problems.

For any given year, it's common for superstock to be dominated by one or possibly two makes and models of bike based on whoever has the most effective track weapon in their range. So if we want all manufacturers involved we need enough tuning to level the field so the better road bikes can be brought up into line with the better race bikes. So the trick is to find the set of rules that is just enough without introducing huge costs. Like stock crank, piston, conrods, but free camshafts. Or something. Of course this is fraught with problems when one part of the rules allows much increased revs but some other part of the spec can't cope.

And the second issue is the one around a spec ECU. The push in road bikes is for more and more complicated ECUs. This is probably a good thing. But it opens the door for BMW and Aprilia (or Ducati or whoever) to build a race spec ECU into their road bike just waiting for race spec software.

If they really wanted to control costs they would limit the rider electronic aids to what is available on each model on the showroom floor. IMO the MSMA involvement will have the goal of making it as hard as possible for private teams to compete while extracting the maximum profits from leasing programs and limiting the engines per season (as they do in MotGP). This is symptomatic of a series in decline.
For the manufacturers World Superbike was the platform to sell their product. Now the sportbike market is in steady decline ( aided by skyrocketing prices for machines loaded down with electronic gizmos!) and media attention has gone onto the next new money market. BSB is the best formula presently and as David said it's being totally ignored by the rules makers in WSB. How can a series with such great racing have such a dire outlook for the future?

I would agree on limiting the bikes to showroom TC, what is available on the stealers' floors but all that will do is keep increasing the cost of literbikes, which are already pushing it cost wise.

The real solution is to adopt BSB's rules. And EVERYONE adopt it, that means WSBK and all the domestic series so that their rulebooks all line up. But that would be economically viable and make sense on so many levels that they won't do it.

One has to ask.....are electronics, as in rider aids, worth so much as to ruin all of racing world wide? If you were looking at a plate, and making an analogy as to the cost of racing in 2013, electronics would be the largest part of the plate. Eliminate it. The riders will like it more, the fans will like it more, and the teams will like it more because the cost of racing would go down dramatically. It seems as if the mfr's would rather bankrupt or bust up the series before conceding that electronic rider aids are just too costly. Their merit vs. their cost does not match up in any series whatsoever.

Kudos to BSB for being brave enough. They are leading the bike racing world on rule sets. Proof is in the pudding as they say. Have their been a dramatic increase in deaths/injury in BSB since they switched rules, NO! TC is mostly for lap times. It's not the safety device that the manus try to market it as. It's also ruined "the spectacle" that racing used to be. F1 learned this lesson why can't bike racing?

Yeah, Formula 1 is now so much more exciting and inexpensive than it used to be!

All the ban on electronic driver aids has done is turned the cockpit of an F1 car into a video arcade, where a driver is manipulating 50 - 50! - buttons, switches and levers on the steering wheel so the driver can manually do what the computer used to do.

And if you really think BSB is any better than it used to be, you haven't been watching it long. If you think those Superbikes are inexpensive, try to buy a front-running one. Trust me, the front-running teams are going to make sure that you won't get the same boxes from Japan that they do. That's racing. Going to a spec ECU has saved a few bucks for the front-runners and cost the mid- and back-pack racers a packet they didn't have.

A good ECU/TC system is now down to about the cost of re-wrapping the semi at the beginning of the season (and I am not exaggerating in the least).

You want spec racing, watch the European Junior Cup (which is, actually, spectacular to watch!) and enjoy. But banning electronics at the upper levels isn't going to change a thing - and maybe, just maybe, rule makers aren't rushing to do that because they know that it won't change anything.

You didn't get my point at all. BSB'S racing did not get WORSE after they changed the rules and costs went DOWN. A front racing bike in any series, whether that be at the national level or world level, isn't inexpensive but it has always been that way. With electronics spreading, throughout, costs took a massive jump towards the sky. BSB has proved Noyes's point to the tee, that he has talked about since the 800's first year. The 4 stroke power band severely mitigated the high sides and due to the power being spread throughout the rev range instead of all being in the space of a couple thousand rpm's, made the sport safer, not traction control.

And you failed to understand the bigger picture. When the bikes start sliding again and the riders have more control over a bike vs a computer, fan interest goes up, to much include the occasional fan. When they don't impose severe engine limitations riders do burn outs, wheelies, all which adds to people tuning in. Getting rid of TC and/or rider aids brings the spectacle back into World bike racing because you get to see a pilot do more work. Viewing/attendance increases, which brings more interest, more advertiser revenue, more sponsors. All the while the prices of the bikes go down. From 2002 through 2006 every avenue of MotoGP was better. Sat riders could win a race, the bikes came crossed up out of corners, there were wheelie celebrations, burn outs on cool down laps, more passing. It was just more fun to watch. And it just so happens the bikes were cheaper and there were more sponsors and more teams willing to pay for a prototype Satellite machine.

All electronics have done to racing is decrease the show and lower the lap time slightly. To those who want stop watch racing to continue, with minimal passing, minimal excitement perhaps you can book a flight to a test track and watch x rider do laps because the racing, most of the time is almost as boring.

WSBK is struggling to fill the grid now also, and it is because the bikes have become too bloody expensive, just like MotoGP. And the bulk of that cost is electronic development and rider aids. Soon you will not be able to buy a liter bike without nannies in place which increases the MSRP of the bike. It will not save you from oil or a coolant spill, it's a bike with 2 wheels only, and you will go down anyways TC or not. Nobody on this green Earth is going to convince me that it's the holy grail safety device that the manus try to indoctrinate us riders into. It's increasing production bike costs, racing bike costs, ruining racing, and nobody but the BSB seems to want to do anything about it. They are throwing all these stop gaps at the problem when the real problem is staring everyone in the face. Unless someone stands up to the mfr's and rid the sport of it, it will not change. As electronic development continues to increase in WSBK watch it become as processional as MotoGp has been since 2007. It's inevitable. BMW is spending a fortune on it already in WSBK. Capping bike costs, that's a laugh. The manus will just eat the costs and fundbit out of their own pocket and write it off come tax time.

So many of us long for the days of old when 90% of the control of the bike was in the riders right hand instead of a computer. Maybe they'll mount chimps on these bikes in 10 years and remote control the bikes from the pits and people can watch the stop watch race. Actually they won't. Sooner or later everyone is going to have to understand that the human element is why people watch these series. They don't watch it to see who can code the best rider aid.

Give the riders the sport back and take the power back from the mfr's. the sport has moved so much of its beauty from the racetrack to some computer lab. It's absolutely sickening.

I got your point; I simply disagree. Show me a BSB team that has a smaller budget than during the TC era that's running up front.

The great myth of electronics is that the costs are high and will remain that way always. That is the progression of every innovation in racing; the first people to use anything spend a ton of money, then it becomes commonplace. Electronics costs are dramatically lower than they used to be, and continue to come down.

The great myth of racing is that more restrictions = lower budgets = more racers running up front. It doesn't work that way, never has and never will. I also find it hard to believe that there's a substantial number of people out there who are staying away from motorcycle road racing solely due to the lack of rear-wheel spinnage.

I'll end with this: I've had the chance to ride the track with TC-equipped stock machines, and I went fast, had a ball and went home in WAY better shape than the dude who highsided his non-TC bike in front of me! Try it before you condemn it.

Team Manager HM Plant Honda Havier Beltran:
"MSVR listened to the teams and manufacturers. I predict a reduction in costs of around £100,000 per year and by this time next year lap times will still be the same. We will see more emphasis on rider skills now and that's how it should be."

Team Owner Buildbase BMW Stuart Hicken:
"These rules will stop people buying 'factory' bikes, which shouldn't be in a domestic series in the first place. There will be no point. It will put the emphasis back on chassis set-up. Removing traction control won't increase crashes - but certain riders will have to be a bit more astute in the wet."

Ex-Worx Suzuki team manager Jack Valentine:
"The thing is that if we stay with the current BSB rules (which are the same as WSB with no limits on electronics), we’re going to have to upgrade to at least two data guys - we have one at present - and do much more testing. Because if we don’t, you can bet our rivals will.

"If that happens, the first thing I’m going to have to do is push for more budget, more sponsorship so we can invest in more staff and an improved electronics package.

"We could buy an advanced package, with gyros and map the bike from corner to corner. There’s no limit really – apart from your budget. But the problem is, the kind of money we’re talking isn’t out there in the current climate.
And that’s why, in BSB, we need to have a control ecu to stop this escalation now."

HM Plant no longer competes in BSB. Nor does Valentine. The Suzuki hasn't won a race yet this year. The BMW hasn't won a race yet this year, nor has it finished on the podium.

So these quotes come from people who either don't participate or aren't winning. It never costs much to sit on the sidelines or get your ass kicked! Find out how much it costs to WIN and then get back to me.

I'm not trying to be obnoxious. Look for yourself past the rhetoric and see what is really happening. The teams that are winning on a regular basis in BSB are getting factory chassis parts straight from Japan, have a data guy tweaking the electronics as far as they can within the rules and have engine packages that you or I couldn't get at any cost. And it's the same teams and riders winning, with or without spec ECUs.

The budget gets spent. End of discussion. That's racing.

I will repeat what I've said multiple times: You want bigger grids, you go to the people who support your series (manufacturers) and make them build for-sale proddie racers. Trying to manipulate grid sizes by tweaking specs doesn't work.

One last thing: The reason Superstock racing is so competitive is that the manufacturers aren't involved as much because they don't care as much. If you go to a Superstock spec, and BMW dumps as much money into that program as it does its current Superbike program, what do you think is going to happen?

they would just spend the portion they do on electronics on motor and power deliver to mimic what they already know. still a fan of doing it but it wont cut costs which is the objective. the electronics or lack there of will likely increase the show and, maybe, increase sponsorship but wont directly decrease spending.

budgets will be spent on something to give a competitive

From my very American-centric point of view, why would Josh Hayes (the current dominant AMA Superbike class rider) want to attempt to race on tires that he and his crew have no experience with? Let the AMA guys race on their Dumb-slops at Laguna and you would probably have a great deal more local interest.

I agree that electronics have gotten out of hand. I am also quite suspicious of single tire supplier rules. I guess its just a coincidence the Japanese bikes utilize the Japanese tire best in MotoGP and the Italian/European bikes utilize the Italian tire best in WSBK.

When the bean-counters realize that controlling the races to the point of determining which teams even have a chance at winning hurts public interest all these regulations will change.

At the cost of sounding like an idiot, I will still go ahead and say this. I think WSBK should (as should all national series) simply outlaw all electronics like traction control and make WSBK racing simple by making rules that would require teams to buy motorcycles from show rooms and bring them to the race track. I think there should be no factory involvement in WSBK and that way only privateer based series will ensure that there is no upward spiral of costs. It will also ensure that there is a difference between MotoGP and WSBK and also it might just force factories to get involved in MotoGP. Privateers can race to their hearts content in WSS and WSBK and I think that is in the larger interest of all concerned. I do not think that WSBK will be any worse because these days production bikes are capable of producing over 190 horse power. That should be fine therefore for some good racing. And eliminating electronics will mean that the onus is on the rider than on the factory. This way the factories will also be able to sell motorcycles more if they are doing well on the race tracks.

I think this is also the time to make the series TV friendly. So how about just one SBK race (that should also help in cutting costs), one Supersport race and introduce a 400cc category since Honda has already come up with that category and Kawasaki has a 300cc bike whose cc can be bumped up and I am sure Yamaha and Suzuki and KTM can produce bikes in this category. So one race each in the three categories can make the series viewer friendly while the manufacturers can see an increase in sales in the 400cc category and 600cc straight away and over a period of time in the 1000cc category. And the number of races in MotoGP and WSBK can be rationalized so that there is no clash of TV times and race days. Also venues can change in different years for WSBK and MotoGP races. What is the big deal if there is no leveraging of advantage by Dorna and Bridgepoint if they have both series under control? Making WSBK totally production based will also give Dorna the advantage of negotiating more solidly with the manufacturers for cost cutting in MotoGP and thereby bringing more manufacturers into the series and giving them a chance to win races without spending billions of dollars on the series.

Maybe all this is naive thinking but then sometimes naivete is not a bad thing at all. I post this boldly because the time has come for a paradigm shift and not some piecemeal changes.

Eliminating the electronics is not an easy task for two reasons. First, manufacturers like BMW, Kawasaki, and Aprilia have on GP presence, and they want an international series that allows them to develop electronics and electronics personnel. Second, the attributes of the engine have a major impact on the tractability of the bike. If you take away traction control and advanced engine mapping strategies the MSMA are not going to say "well, I guess it's up to the riders now". They will pour millions into mechanical development of the engines. Some manufacturers might only be able to re-profile their cams and so forth. Other manufacturers might completely overhaul their engine architecture by altering firing order or altering the engine layout completely.

Mechanical experimentation with engine designs is more compatible with rapid prototyping in MotoGP. For production racing, it makes sense to keep the engine designs relatively affordable and to allow the manufacturers to play around with advanced electronics. If the FIM were to ban TC and advanced engine mapping in MotoGP (to encourage rapid mechanical prototyping) and preserve advanced electronics in SBK, the fanbase would be immensely confused.

Thanks for clarifying the situation vis a vis electronics. I suppose there are certain things that cannot be reversed and this could well be one of those things. But that piece of yours has given some insights into the working of factories. Thanks again.

Though many of us would like revolutionary changes in SBK, it appears that evolution (or devolution to some) may be the order of the day. I'm not keen on death-by-half-measures, but WSBK can probably stabilize the series and the racing industry with a few modest changes.

Perhaps the most important change is providing privateers with affordable race components. Sounds like the MSMA have all agreed, but hopefully they stay away from leasing. Instead, each factory should be required to homologate a parts kit, designed to meet minimum specifications outlined by the FIM (Dorna in reality). Privateers in international and national competition will hopefully be able to purchase these kits, rather than lease.

Second most important, SBK need to fix the Ducati problem. SBK addressed the problem with the 1000cc-for-all regulations in 2003. Unfortunately, the regulatory instability of that era caused 1000cc twins to be cost prohibitive. Ducati demanded additional capacity for 2008, which was granted as long as they agreed to the clumsy air-restrictor regulations. If the SBK Commission will simply clip 10-15hp from the bikes (as BSB have done), Ducati could theoretically return to 1000cc for special R/SP/F competition models. The problem would be solved for all intents and purposes.

...and opinions here.

I have only one thought and that is to restate that manufacturers should have no place in superbike racing whether world or national. Their job is done when they sell the showroom bike. Then it should be up to teams to turn it into a race machine without input from the factories. this can only help privateers (they all would be) and lower costs because it would be only sponsorship funded. Factories can then go and spend/play in motogp thus helping that series too.

The big question remains though how one ensures parity? Well, perhaps the rule makers dont. Equilibrium will be reached regardless in time, if manufacturers want to sell bikes. If homologation was required at much higher numbers the market will prevent stupidly priced machines.