WSBK Rules Update: Testing Restricted, Superpole Scrapped, MotoGP Qualifying And Penalty Points Adopted

The World Superbike championship remains in a state of flux, despite the good news emerging today about the 2014 grid (Feelracing taking on the Ducati factory team, MV Agusta expanding into World Superbikes, and Michel Fabrizio joining Grillini). The Superbike Commission met at Valencia to agree further rule changes to the series for 2014, as part of the push to revitalize the series. Some of the rules are cost-cutting measures, others are aimed at making the series a more attractive TV package, while some are aimed at providing a more homogenous set of basic rules between the World Superbike and MotoGP series.

The biggest change - and the change that will be mourned the most - is the loss of the current three-stage Superpole qualifying format. Instead of having three Superpole sessions, with the slowest riders being dropped after each session, World Superbikes is to adopt a system similar to MotoGP, where the fastest riders in free practice go straight through to the second and decisive qualifying session, the rest having a second chance in a first qualifying session. The aim of adopting the MotoGP system is the same reason it was adopted in MotoGP: it gives much better TV exposure to the teams lower down the qualifying order, while still providing an exciting qualifying session. It also has the benefit of ensuring that the qualifying system in both WSBK and MotoGP is the same, making it easier for casual viewers to watch either series and understand what is going on.

The loss of the current Superpole system will be widely mourned. The three-tier system provided a superb mix of strategy and excitement, especially as the riders only had two sets of qualifying tires to use in three session. Faster riders had to gamble on getting through to Superpole 2 using race tires, while slower riders could use qualifiers to pick up the pace and qualify further up the grid. The loss of Superpole opens the door for further cost cuts, as it removes the need for soft qualifying tires.

The other measure aimed at unifying the two series is the introduction of penalty points in WSBK. The system has been a success in Grand Prix racing, and extending it to World Superbikes and World Supersport is a logical step aimed at policing riding better in both series. The announcement that points are to be introduced in WSBK was accompanied by news that the points system is also to change in MotoGP, with each penalty point being awarded having a validity of 12 months. This addresses the problem raised by incidents in the final race of the year, and discussed in our recent interview with MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb.

The schedule for race day is also to change, with the timing of the races to change. This is to fit in an earlier TV window, so that WSBK races do not clash with Formula One, MotoGP, major soccer games, or other big events. By changing the event schedule, Dorna are hoping they can make the series a more attractive package for TV, and generate more income for the cash-strapped series.

The full details of all the changes, as well as more details on the technical regulations, are due to be discussed in the next meeting of the Superbike Commission, due to be held in Madrid on the 10th December. Below is the press release with the changes so far:

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup

Changes to Regulations for 2014

The Superbike Commission, composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (WSBK Executive Director), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), met at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit on 08 November 2013 in the presence of MM Daniel Carrera, Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK-Dorna) and Paul Duparc (FIM).

A draft of the Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations taking into account the conclusions of the SBK Working Group composed of MM. Lavilla, Carrera and Duparc was submitted to the Commission. The goal was to harmonise the regulations of the FIM Grand Prix and Superbike World Championships and to have a set of regulations as similar as possible for both FIM series.

These SBK Sporting and Disciplinary Regulations were basically approved. However, some items remain pending and the SBK Commission will meet on 10 December, in Madrid, to finalise the FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and Superstock 1000cc Cup Regulations for 2014.

The main changes will concern the following items:

  • Practice restrictions will be applied for contracted riders and teams. (However it will be taken into account that the Superbike and Endurance Championships will provide teams and riders in each series thanks to the similarity of the EWC and EVO class technical regulations);
  • Time and practice Schedules will be reviewed: the SBK format of the free and qualifying practices will be inspired by the MotoGP ones (with a number of participants directly qualified in Q2);
  • Revision of the Start Procedure with a scenario for a quick restart (in case of a red flag caused by reasons other than weather conditions) with a very short time for opening the pit lane;
  • Superbike and Supersport Race distances will be reduced by the equivalent of two laps in case of wet conditions.
  • Sunday race timing schedule for Superbike, Supersport, and Superstock 1000cc Cup will be shortened from 10.30 am to 14.30.
  • Introduction of licence penalty points that will last for a period of one year (this system be applied in all FIM Road Racing World Championships).

For the Superbike Technical Regulations, a clarification of the rules will be made in view of the next SBK Commission to be held in Madrid in December, taking into consideration that the 2015 SBK Rules should last for a long period of time in order to give stability to the series. The MSMA is also expected to put forward joint proposals for ensuring a low-cost championship with fair and close competition between the different manufacturers on the track.


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I will not mourn the loss of the stupid three tier system. I don't like it in F1 and I don't like it in SBK.

I wish they would go back to the one-lap flyer Superpole. Much better for TV and not that much worse for the stands.

I too believe that the Superpole system is viewer unfriendly. I hope they do away with the two race format for superbikes and in its place introduce the Supersport, Superstock 1000cc and finally the Superbike race itself. That way, like MotoGP TV channels will want to telecast the series. Right now here in India, we get to see the occasional race depending on the whims and fancies of Star Sports which is a part of the Fox Sport network. Sometimes we don't even get to see qualifying of MotoGP and do not even get live telecast on Star Sports if it decides to show domestic cricket or EPL football. Hope Dorna can better market both MotoGP and WSBK so that fans around the world including India can get to see races live.

If anything I would think having a unique qualifying such as Superpole would actual help. If they are trying to attract casual viewers isn't it important for said viewers to be able to differentiate between the two. Sure for us we can just tell by the bikes, sponsers, riders and tracks; but for the uninitiated wouldn't having the two series being more similar create more confusion? My dad loves watching motogp but if I threw on WSBK at lets say Misano he probably wouldn't know the difference until someone mentioned it.
Just a thought. Personally I never agreed with Superpole. The riders at the top that are already fast get even more sessions to be faster? While the riders and teams that need more track time are outta luck and have less time for setup?

The problem with all the superpole versions and more especially with the current MotoGP and proposed WSB system is that it turns every free practice into a qualifying session for the lower borderline riders.

If I had my way we'd have a single qualifying session for each of the races of about 20 minutes. Enough time to check setup in qualifying trim and then 2 runs. That's effectively what happens in Moto2, 3 and WSS just with half an hour of free practice added on the start. It has more than enough excitement without introducing anything artificial. The only thing I'd add to that is aggressive penalty points for dawdling on the racing line and getting in the way of riders on a fast lap.

I will not miss the three-stage Superpole at all. It did not make sense to me from the beginning. It does not add anything to watching a normal qualifying, since it's still bikes chasing fast laps in random order. Even worse, there's fewer and fewer bikes on track with every next stage. It was just an extra complication and costs for the teams and riders, and the audience did not get anything exciting for that. If they had wanted to attract extra crowds or TV time on Saturday (which was the purpose, I think), they should have done a sprint race determining starting positions instead. Then there is really something more to see than just fast circling bikes.

I think the current MotoGP qualifying format is a little bit better than the three-stage Superpole, but I agree with jbond above that it does mean that all free practices become qualifying sessions for the lower middle ranks, thus sort of reducing sensible set-up time. Although it is still up to the teams wether they sacrifice everything for a better grid position.

Anyway, personally I think there was nothing wrong with the old system of having a free and a qualifying practice each day.

But, how about the time table..? How are they going to shorten it? I surely hope not that they are going to scrap the two-race format for Superbikes!

I do hope they introduce a video package for WSBK, just like the MotoGP one. I have to watch the races on mute here in Brazil because of the way they butcher the riders' names and all the asinine comments.

So I guess pretty much no fans will miss the current Superpole session judging from comments on here. I know I won't. I think the current MotoGP format will be better and the old 3 tier system just didn't make sense with the tire situation involved with it.

I didn't mind the 3 stage super pole. I like it more than the 2 stage quals in GP that use half the time exclusively for the slow bikes. It's to the point where I don't even bother to watch the first qualifying because it's a bunch of silly, also ran, CRT bikes that have no hope in hell of doing anything even mildly interesting.

I never much liked the single lap super bike poles either.

My personal fave format is the old school 1hr on the clock and everyone go.

Good luck to super bike because you'll need it now that the Dorna random 'cost saving' bullshit rules will be flooding in and changing every week.