2014 World Superbike Season Preview - It's EVO time

As the 2013 World Superbike season ended, the question was how the series, now owned by Dorna, could once more fill the grids. With some races rewarding every finisher with points, while the cheaper Supersport and Superstock championships raced with full grids, it was clear that more seats were needed.

One part of the solution was the new EVO class. Essentially Superbikes with Superstock engines, EVO bikes are much cheaper and, from 2015, will be the standard specification of all bikes, and over a third of the full-time entries in 2014 are EVO bikes, with familiar riders taking some of the seats. Another part of the solution was the addition of several new and returning manufacturers to the series. Alongside Ducati, Aprilia, Honda, BMW, Suzuki and Kawasaki, we now have MV Agusta, Buell and, hopefully, Bimota bringing the number of marques to nine.

A new weekend schedule has been brought in, along with new qualifying rules, details are available here, with the new qualifying bringing World Superbike qualifying into line with the system used in MotoGP, for better or worse, and the Sunday races are timed to allow World Superbike not to clash with other motorsports events, with a view to increasing the audience. Along with the schedule change, Dorna has introduced a video streaming package for those without access to a broadcast of the events.

Kawasaki Racing Team returns with both Tom Sykes (1) and Loris Baz (76). World Champion Sykes will be wearing the number one plate on his bike, and he was characteristically quick in testing, with the Kawasaki looking like one of the strongest packages. The green bike is also a popular choice with EVO entries and the team fields a third rider on an EVO-spec ZX-10R.

Ducati Superbike Team is the return of a factory Ducati team and they replaced Carlos Checa with Chaz Davies (7), 2011 World Supersport champion, while bringing Davide Giugliano (34) back to replace Ayrton Badovini. The 1199 Panigale was a troubled bike last year, with no rider able to get it performing like the Ducatis of old. In this transitional year, the factory team, including the new general manager Gigi Dall’igna, formerly of Aprilia, gets one year to get the bike to work before it becomes the EVO bike. This is the third different Superbike in three years for Chaz Davies, and Checa’s retirement allows him to race with the number 7 plate.

Aprilia Racing Team sport a new silver livery for riders Sylvain Guintoli (50) and Marco Melandri (33). Melandri is new on the Aprilia, having replaced Eugene Laverty on the RSV4, while Guintoli continues his challenge for the title.

Voltcom Crescent Suzuki has two new riders this year as Eugene Laverty (58) joins the team after being dropped by Aprilia for only finishing in second place last year, while British Superbike champion Alex Lowes (22), twin-brother of current World Supersport champion, Sam, takes the other seat. With a new sponsor and new riders, the team did surprisingly well in tests and the GSX-R1000 could prove to be a surprise package.

Pata Honda World Superbike return with the CBR1000RR Fireblade and both Jonathan Rea (65) and Leon Haslam (91). Another year on the same bike may not give the results Honda want, but until they replace the Fireblade with something quicker, both Rea and Haslam will have to push harder than most.

MV Agusta RC–Yakhnich Motorsport bring back the iconic Italian brand back to motorsports with Claudio Corti (71) at the helm. After great success in World Supersport, the Yakhnich team moved up to the Superbike class with the F4 RR. Corti spent the last year in MotoGP on an FTR Kawasaki after three years in Moto2. Both the rider and the bike are an unknown, but they were performing at the same level as EVO-spec Kawasakis in testing.

BMW Team Toth return with Hungarian team owner Imre Toth (10) riding the full-spec bike while also fielding an EVO-spec S1000RR. With no factory support, and going on past form, Toth won’t be troubling the leaders for the title.

Red Devils Roma return with former Moto2 champion Tony Elias (24) on an Aprilia RSV4. Elias came close to the podium as a late arrival in the series. The tyres in production racing suit Elias better than those in GPs, and he got to grips with the Aprilia last year, but he was only mid-pack during testing.

Team Hero EBR bring a new bike to the championship. The Eric Buell Racing 1190RX is the new version of the RS that raced in the AMA championship with Aaron Yates (20) and Geoff May (99) continuing with the team in its step up to World Superbike racing. The EBR is unique in its innovative hub-mounded single-disk brake, demonstrating that innovation is still welcome.

Mahi Racing Team India are racing a Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO with Fabien Foret (9) getting promoted with the team. Kenan Sofuoglu, runner-up in last year’s World Supersport championship, did not step up to the Superbike, letting Foret ride one of the many Kawasakis, the EVO bike of choice for many teams.

BMW Motorrad Italia SBK are racing a BMW S1000RR EVO with 2012 and current Superstock champion Sylvain Barrier (52) carrying the number of is mentor, James Toseland. Unfortunately, Barrier was injured in testing a few days ago and will miss the opening round. Glenn Allerton (14), twice Australian Superbike champion (2008 and 2011), will be taking his place for the Phillip Island race.

Althea Racing, having lost the main Ducati team to the factory-anointed Feel Racing, return with an 1199 R EVO Panigale and have signed Ducati’s experienced test rider Niccolo Canepa (59) to ride the only EVO Ducati on the grid. Canepa was second in last year’s Superstock championship.

MRS Kawasaki bring another ZX-10R EVO, with Frenchman Jeremy Guarnoni (11) bringing his Superstock experience to the team, which is valuable as the EVO bikes are essentially the same as the Superstock engines with which he won the last two races of 2013. He was one of the many riders injured at testing, but he will race in spite of a fractured collarbone. Guarnoni was third in last year’s Superstock championship.

Team Pedercini have raced Kawasakis in both Superstock and Superbike classes and this year are running one of the popular ZX-10R EVO bikes. With Luca Scassa (23) fracturing his pelvis during the Phillip Island tests, Allesandro Andreozzi (21) has been drafted in to replace him.

Kawasaki Racing Team have entered their own ZX-10R EVO with Kawasaki regular David Salom (44) taking on the EVO development duties. Salom has spent the last few years on Kawasakis in both Supersport and Superbike.

Iron Brain Kawasaki SBK bring regular Michel Fabrizio (84) and South African World Supersport racer Sheridan Morais (32) to the championship on a pair of ZX-10R EVOs. Fabrizio, winner of four races in his career, looked like he might not have a ride this year, but Team Grillini picked him up at the prompting of their sponsor, Iron Brain.

BMW Team Toth tatch their full-fat BMW with an S1000R EVO ridden by newcomer Peter Sebestyen (56). Hungarian Sebestyen will require medical clearance to race on Friday as he was one of the many injured riders during the Phillip Island test.

Team Alstare also returns, but not just yet. Ayrton Badovini (86) and Christian Iddon (2) will ride Bimota BB3s, as soon as Bimota has made enough to pass homologation rules. The Italian marque failed to produce enough of their BMW-powered superbikes to ensure entry in the first round. As there are seven weeks between Phillip Island and the second round at Aragon, it is hoped that enough bikes will be produced to be allowed to race.

World Supersport has a firm favourite as Kenan Sofuoglu (54) stays in the series on a Kawasaki ZX6R, hoping to regain the title he missed out on last year, with Michael Van Der Mark (60) sticking with the Pata Honda team continuing on from his strong debut last year. Jules Cluzel (16) returns to the series on a MV Agusta F3 675 as title-winners Yakhnich switch from Yamaha.

Newcomers Ratthapart Wilairot (14) and PJ Jacobsen (99) arrive on a Honda and Kawasaki respectively. Wilairot comes from Moto2 while Jacobsen comes from BSB. Both riders were in the top five times in testing, ahead of Yamaha’s Kev Coghlan (88).

The series starts at Phillip Island, Australia tomorrow and continues seven weeks later in Aragon, Spain. With full grids, new bikes, new rules and new riders, it is one again an unpredictable and potentially exciting series.

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Can't wait to see this season unfold. New bikes and riders, old bikes and old riders. EVO is not a dirty word (if you are most likely Australian and / or remember the band "Skyhooks" from the 70s you'll get it. If not, Google Skyhooks and look at their playlist).

Can't wait for the Supersport madness ..... it's shaping up to be another cracker of a year!!!

Cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war!!!! (or words to that effect)

That meant to say "in his career". I'll correct it. The off-season has made me rusty. smiley

I thought maybe you knew something I didn't ;) I had high hopes for Michel when he was with Ducati, but he never really came through.

Didn't read the heading closely. Have you heard anything about new homologation specials for 2015, Jared? or is WSBK really going to Superstock engines and performance balancing?

I've not heard anything, but I'm hoping Honda get something like the rumoured V4 built; the Fireblade needs taking out to a field and shot, or sent to the glue factory.

Has there been any news about what the new homologation rules are? Last month FIM and Dorna were saying the production volume rules would be reviewed, and promising resolution by the end of January. I have not heard anything more. Did I miss some announcement of new rules that would permit Buell and/or Bimota to race? Frankly, I'm surprised M V Agusta is good to go.

The fastest way to kill any production-based formula is to allow in 'homologation specials.' The original rules from 1987 for 1988 had a sliding scale of numbers that had to be in production before a model could be homologated. This was dependent on the size of the factory, or more specifically, its annual production volumes. Now, Honda is making 15 million units a year globally. So is just 1000 units of any one bike truly representative of production?

I know most of the Japanese manufacturers want to see their world-wide distributors committing to ordering a total of at least 15,000 units before they will even start the production process.

On the other hand, 1000 units for Bimota would be more than a year's production I'd would guess, perhaps two.

Back in the 1987, the rule was that factories with total annual production of 500,000 units (or more) had to make 1000 units (minimum) of any one model in order to homologate it. Honda promptly built the RC30, which was not a bike you would see on many show room floors in the day. So that was where the rot started.

In defence of the rule makers of the day, they were trying to get a whole new series off the ground.

The 200 units of the 851 Ducati had to build (when it was making around 5000 units a year, total) was way more representative of its annual production than the RC30 was of Honda's. Same with that turd, the OW01. Like the RC30, it was sold for more than double price of the show room stock 750 Yamaha, then you had to spend twice as much again for a factory race kit, and it still struggled.

Meantime, in the USA, the CCS class was awash with GSX-R750 Suzukis, the bike real privateers could afford to race. Same thing in Australian Production racing. Actually, the RC30 would have struggled to qualify for the old Castrol Six-Hour race in terms of its being a 'production' bike...

If you want special bikes, go straight to Grand Pricks racing and surround yourself with fellow travellers.

If you want production-based racing, RAISE the minimum requirement for the big factories and look at a formula to lower it for the small fry. For a while, the privateer Superbike of choice was the Kawasaki 750. It was way cheaper than an RC30 and the factory race kit did not require a second mortgage on your house.

2015 Would be all Evo class for WSBK. Similar to superstock with some performance spec balancing act thrown in. That change alone should bring some homologated specials to us in the future. I keep hearing about the Honda V4 in a lot of places other than the interwebz and I do think that we might see it as soon as next year. *Rubs hands in anticipation*