Jerez Test, Day 3: MotoGP versus WorldSBK

With MotoGP and WorldSBK sharing the track Jonathan Rea led the way for most of the day. We sought out three opinions on the differences between the bikes....

As the sun set on the third day of the Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with WorldSBK runners the big story was that Rea spent most of Wednesday leading the way.

The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships?

Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

Low track temperatures and a circuit that doesn't place a premium on top speed certainly offered Rea the ideal opportunity to challenge the MotoGP riders but to say it was only this also dismisses just how advanced a WorldSBK machine is at the moment.

WorldSBK returnee Eugene Laverty was asked how the Aprilia RSV4 that he will race in 2017 compared to the Aprilia MotoGP bike that he tested last week. The Irishman was clearly impressed by his production based racer:

“The nice surprise was that the riding position was so similar,” said Laverty. “I expected to get back on a Superbike, that would often be longer for the rider, feel chunkier and all the rest, but the bike feels really similar. It's a proper little race bike, isn't it? It's always the tires which are the main difference, and of course the horsepower. You're going to feel that.

“The Superbike feels easier, because the horsepower is less. Around a track like this the thing is moving around and you're having to work hard. I was with Jack and we are pretty strong in braking compared to him. There are some areas where we can gain coming towards them on the front. So that's where we gain. The rest, from the mid corner to the exit, they get going. I'm surprised I can actually pull time on them on entry.”

Laverty wasn't the only rider able to offer a comparison between the series. With WorldSBK riders having filled in for injured Grand Prix riders throughout the season Alex Lowes also offered his opinion. The 26 year old was clear in his view that comparison isn't valid given the track conditions faced on a November day in Jerez when the MotoGP bike couldn't get into it's operating window. Even so he confirmed that the Pirelli tires, available for the public to buy, are a strong tire that works exceptionally well in cold track temperatures.

“The problem is that it's too cold for the Michelin tire here,” said the Yamaha WorldSBK rider. “In the cold temperatures our tire is a lot better and if you put the Michelin tires onto the Superbike we'd be a lot slower than today. I've raced the MotoGP bike and when the tire suits the track they're loads faster than the Superbike.

“The comparison between them is pointless at a cold Jerez with low track temperatures. You can't make a real comparison. The MotoGP bike makes their time up on a day like this because they're faster in the straight but they're a lot harder to ride and a lot harder to keep the heat in the tires. Getting the power down in a MotoGP bike is so much harder than a Superbike and they're more physical to keep the front down.

“On a day like today with the low track temperatures they wouldn't have a lot of grip. On a straight the extra power obviously makes a difference but they can't make up that much time under braking here because it's too cold to give them grip.”

For Lowes the comparison may not have been valid given the characteristics of the single make tire in both series but for Tom Sykes it was the “dumbing down” of regulations in WorldSBK that make it harder and harder to make the comparison. With split throttle bodies now banned in the production based series the former champion feels that the gulf will simply widen further between both series.

“I think that some people don't value the WorldSBK championship,” said Sykes. “The speed of all of us is there but every year there's rule changes to dumb down the class and amplify the gap between both chances. I think that it gives the two championships a false level but it's to give MotoGP all the glory. It works though because everyone thinks that the GP riders are a cut above and while I'm sure they're very, very good I think that we do here is just as impressive given the machinery and budgets that are available.”

When asked what it's like to share a track with the MotoGP machines the Yorkshireman laughed and smiled as he commented about the prototypes:

“It's always nice to be on track with the MotoGP bikes and I'll tell you what those MotoGP bikes sound good! Coming into the likes of Turn 1 they get into there so good and the engine on the overrun sounds great as they shut off the power. Looking at the speed traps they pick up a few k's on us and as the day went on they got faster and faster. Jonathan was the only rider that went for it today and he set an incredible lap time but I think that it shows the level of our riding ability is a lot higher than some people think.”

Three world class riders and three very different opinions on the differences between WorldSBK machinery and what we see in MotoGP. A MotoGP bike is the perfect balance of braking, turning, acceleration and top speed on two wheels. It is a machine crafted and developed to be at the cutting edge but the differences between it and a WorldSBK bike over a single lap aren't massive.

Regardless of the limitations facing a MotoGP bike at Jerez we saw again just how strong the level is in WorldSBK.

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No doubt that the WSBK riders are good, but I think there's a reason it's seen as a second tier series compared to motogp.  Most riders who come from WSBK to motogp have only moderate success - even ones who completely dominate the WSBK series, eg Spies.  Conversely, many riders go from struggling or reaching the end of their careers in motogp to being competitive in WSBK, eg Biaggi, Elias, Hayden, Checa.

I think Rea and Davies could come to motogp and have some success, but I don't think they'd be title contenders.

Wow!! I knew this, but hearing it put this way really struck a chord. & it's for that reason I've decided to let my MotoGP video pass expire this year to totally focus on WSBK & Moto'Murca. Though GP racing is as great as its ever been, I still feel I'm watching a high-speed soap opera sometimes. I'm sure I won't be disappointed to leave it as the superbikes do put on some great races. & they do it on machinery that is a bit more me. 

I've been lucky enough to have ridden the latest R1M, ZX10R, and S1000RR, and to be honest as road bikes they're fairly nonsensical these days. They've been honed to such a razor edge that the only way to really appreciate them is on a racetrack. Unlike previous gen sport bikes they're pretty well gutless below 10K rpm, and the ride positions have become super extreme. I'd never buy one as my everyday bike anymore. On actual roads something like the Tuono 1100RR is at least as quick.. probably quicker. I've heard rumours that SBK is going to introduce a naked class, I'd make it the main class, get the Super duke racing the S1OOOR and Tuono, it'd be great to watch and remove the similarities b/w the series, and be more of a relevant reflection of what people are actually buying.

I've heard rumours

I agree that it's dangerous and pretty much impossible to fully enjoy a modern literbike on public roads. That said, I own a '16 S1000RR, and at least with respect to that bike, the "gutless below 10k" comment is pretty far off. By 6k it's making 75hp and 70 ft-lbs at the wheel, and by 10k it's up to something like 150/80. If that's gutless, you must be pretty jaded.

Another insightful report, another flake of gold fished from the stream.

Am I correct in thinking that prior to this, SBK was running a 'total loss' electrical system with a huge battery running the ecu, injectors, TB's, ignition coils et al and no alternator at all? I didn't realise this was even possible over race distance with all the aforementioned systems to run.

Does that mean GP bikes also have no charging system to speak of?

Good question. Leon Camier explains it very well on the WorldSBK website. Basically, it allows the throttle bodies to be operated independently, rather than as a single unit.

So for example, with normal throttle bodies, when you open the throttle, the butterfly for all four throttles opens exactly the same amount, providing the same amount of fuel/air mixture (and therefore power) to all four cylinders.

With split throttle bodies, when you open the throttle (for example in a corner) the throttle butterfly valves only open on two cylinders, providing less power, and making the engine more controllable. As you start to accelerate, and the bike goes faster and you stand the bike up, the other two throttles open the same amount, so the four throttle bodies are working in unison again for maximum power and acceleration.

This test is really not representative of MotoGP vs. WSBK since the fastest guys from MotoGP aren't there.

I've been a passionate and devoted motogp fan since 2000, an avid motorcyclist since 1985, and since getting my son involved, thoroughly taught, disciplined, and on his own first bike, the second bike I owned when was his age, a nicely restored 87 Yamaha Radian, together we have enjoyed our two wheel addiction, absorbing almost anything motorcycle related, especially the motogp and wsbk seasons, subscribing to whatever is needed to continue watching races both recent and past. I dunno what i would do without access during these Michigan winters. Altho motogp has been the top of my watchlist for many years, the zenith of motorcycle racing, there's definitely something to be said for all the classes and categories, namely wsbk. Once you're familiarized with the goings on behind the scenes and not just watching race day, the true beauty of this man made ecosystem of sorts is realized. Wsbk/moto 2/moto 3 to motogp is to me a bit like college football vs pro, usually more exciting and often a sneak peak of what might be entering the so called big leagues in time. Not that it's really better. Wsbk is getting more spectacular every year, the talent very much on par with that found anywhere, and with more dynamics adding to the drama. Motogp has never been this good, either, 2017 looking to be the most exciting season ever. I can't help but have the utmost respect for every single rider on the grid, manufacturer or off track personalities aside. They're all superhuman, heroic, and inspirations for us all, reminding us of not only what we can be capable of achieving, but of what it means to get out there and truly live. I am so profoundly grateful. It's so good to a motorcyclist, and it's never been such a time for motorcycling. God bless us. Stay thirsty my friends.

In my opinion i cant see any sort of production bike in the WSBK bikes. The WSBK bikes are far off from any production bike, hence there is the superstock class with laptimes accordingly. Hats off to AL pointing out that the tires make a bike work or not in certain conditions like Jerez this time of the year. A real world comparison would be a normal race like any other and put WSBK bikes head to head to moto-gp bikes. By all means, any class has top riders and deliver world class performance!

Rather than testing times. Race weekends are where it's at.

WSBK was there in October, MotoGP in April. Fastest laps were by Davies and Rossi. 41.521 compared to a 40.090. Could also be that the Michelins were still getting figured out early in the year.If both races were held in October, the gulf may have been a little larger. 

That all said, the better riders are in MotoGP, no doubt. If the team managers felt they could get a faster rider from WSBK, they would. Conversely, I do believe some WSBK riders are faster (possibly) than some of the MotoGP riders on the smaller or non-factory teams. Those would likely be Davies and Rea in my opinion. 

Sykes sounds like he's bitter. I think he should concentrate on how he's gonna beat the guy on the other side of the garage more than whine about how WSBK is viewed.