On the same day that the Grand Prix Comission met to discuss new rules on penalty points and Moto3 chassis prices, the equivalent body ruling the World Superbike series - the Superbike Commission - also met to discuss a raft of new measures. The meeting was part of a series of ongoing talks between the teams, Dorna and the manufacturers to establish a new set of rules for WSBK from 2015 onwards. At this meeting, the Superbike Commission established a new time schedule for each World Superbike weekend, as well as continuing talks on homologation and technical regulations.
With Dorna now in charge, one of the measures taken was to attempt to standardize the sporting regulations between the World Superbike and MotoGP series. In practice, that means that both series will have a common set of procedures and flags, which should make it a little easier for TV audiences to understand the differences between the two, with only the technical rules being different.
A much bigger change for TV audiences is the radically changed schedule for race day, with racing moved to the late morning and early afternoon to avoid clashes with major sporting events such as Formula One, MotoGP and European soccer matches. The day will now start very early, with a warm up for the World Superbike class at 8:40am, followed by Supersport warm up at 9:05am. The first World Superbike race of the day is at 10:30am (was previously 12 noon), the Supersport race is at 11:40am (was 1:30pm) and the second and final World Superbike race of the day is at 1:10pm (was 3:30pm). For most of the rounds taking place in Europe, this means that the second World Superbike race will just be finishing as Formula One or other major sporting events start at 2pm. The hope is that fans of both motorcycle racing and Formula One will tune in for the WSBK races before F1, offering a full day of motor sports action for race fans.
The change will be less positive for fans attending the races. They will have to get to the tracks earlier, and will see the main races of the day early on, while the support program shifts from before the main classes to afterwards. The Superstock 1000cc race has already been shifted from its morning slot to the time slot following WSBK race 2, and any national support classes are likely to follow suit. Event schedules for Saturday remain largely unchanged from previous years, with Superpole still taking place at 3pm, as before. How the schedule will run at overseas rounds, where TV clashes are less likely to happen, remains to be seen. It is likely the season opener at Phillip Island will run to the European schedule, as a 10:30am race local Melbourne time would start at half past midnight on Saturday night, a time when fans are more likely to watch than the previous 2am start.
One interesting detail from the Superbike Commission is the mention of discussions about homologation procedures, minimum sales numbers and, for the first time, a proposal to impose a maximum retail price for models to be homologated. With sales of sports bikes continuing to decline, even the relatively lowly numbers of 2000 units can be hard to achieve, especially for small manufacturers. With Buell set to enter for 2014, this has become a very relevant consideration. Reducing the homologation numbers risks seeing the return of the so-called 'homologation specials', bikes such as the Yamaha R7, which were close to being racing prototypes with lights and mirrors. The suggestion to impose a maximum retail price should reduce the temptation of factories to build homologation specials, as they have to be able to sell the base model at a reasonable price.
The interesting part will be the level at which the maximum retail price is set. Honda have admitted they are building a special V4 Superbike, but its introduction keeps getting put back, now being expected at the end of 2014. Insider reports suggested that bike would retail at a price around 75,000 euros, a price which would presumably be well above the proposed limit. With bikes such as Ducati's Panigale 1199R retailing for around 33,000 euros in Italy, it seems likely that a price would be set at around the 50,000 euro mark. The devil is in the detail, of course: to avoid manufacturers gaming the system, agreeing which market defines the retail price to be used for homologation purposes will be crucial.
Below is the press release from the FIM with the minutes of the Superbike Commission:
FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships 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 Dorna Headquarters in Madrid on 10 December 2013 in the presence of MM Daniel Carrera and Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK-Dorna), Corrado Cecchinelli (Consultant in Technology), Charles Hennekam and Paul Duparc (FIM).
The 2014 FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and Superstock 1000cc Cup Regulations were approved by the Commission. The Sporting Rules will be as similar as possible to the 2014 GP Regulations. The Technical Regulations were also accepted. Some minor details are still to be reviewed and the complete regulations will be available on the FIM website shortly.
A long discussion took place between the members to review the homologation procedure for 2015, especially to review the minimum number of machines to be produced by a manufacturer for the purposes of homologation and to fix the maximum retail price for a model to be homologated.
For the next season, the time-schedule of an entire SBK event will be as follows:
|10.00 – 10.45||45’||SUPERSPORT||FREE PRACTICE 1|
|11.00 - 11.30||30’||SUPERSTOCK 1000||FREE PRACTICE 1|
|11.45 – 12.30||45’||SUPERBIKE||FREE PRACTICE 1|
|TIMED FOR QUALIFYING (SUPERPOLE)|
|13.45 – 14.30||45’||SUPERSPORT||FREE PRACTICE 2|
|14.45 – 15.15||30’||SUPERSTOCK 1000||FREE PRACTICE 2|
|15.30 – 16.15||45’||SUPERBIKE||FREE PRACTICE 2|
|TIMED FOR QUALIFYING (SUPERPOLE)|
|09.00 - 09.30||30’||SUPERSTOCK 1000||FREE PRACTICE 3|
|09.45 – 10.30||45’||SUPERBIKE||FREE PRACTICE 3|
|TIMED FOR QUALIFYING (SUPERPOLE)|
|10.45 – 11.30||45’||SUPERSPORT||FREE PRACTICE 3|
|12.30 – 13.00||30’||SUPERBIKE||FREE PRACTICE 4|
|NOT TIMED FOR QUALIFYING (SUPERPOLE)|
|15.00 – 15.15||15’||SUPERBIKE||SUPERPOLE 1|
|15.25- 15.40||15’||SUPERBIKE||SUPERPOLE 2|
|15.55 – 16.40||45’||SUPERSPORT||QUALIFYING PRACTICE|
|16.55 - 17.25||30’||SUPERSTOCK 1000||QUALIFYING PRACTICE|
|08.40 – 08.55||15’||SUPERBIKE||WARM UP|
|09.05 – 09.20||15’||SUPERSPORT||WARM UP|
|09.30 – 09.40||10’||SUPERSTOCK 1000||WARM UP|
THE COMPLETE SPORTING, TECHNICAL, DISCIPLINARY AND MEDICAL REGULATIONS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON THE FIM WEBSITE SHORTLY.
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