WorldSBK Organizers Attempt To Inject Excitement By Manipulating Race 2 Grid

The Superbike Commission, governing body for the WorldSBK series, met at Madrid to introduce a number of changes to the rules for the World Superbike and World Supersport championships for 2017. There were some minor changes to the sporting regulations, as well as a couple of tweaks to the technical regulations. But there were also two major changes which will have a significant impact for next season and beyond.

The biggest change is also the most surprising and the least comprehensible. There is to be a major shake up in the way the grid for the second World Superbike race is set. The Superpole session run on Saturday morning will continue to set the grid for Race 1. The grid for Race 2, however, will be partially set by the results of Race 1, using a slightly complex formula.

The first three rows of the grid for Race 2 will be filled by the riders who finished in 1st through 9th place in Race 1. They will not, however, line up in their finishing order. The riders who finished in 4th, 5th, and 6th in Race 1 will start Race 2 from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the grid. The riders who finished in 7th, 8th, and 9th will start from 4th, 5th, and 6th.

The riders who finished on the podium, however, will line up on the third row of the grid in reverse order. This means that the winner will line up in 9th, the rider who finished 2nd will start in 8th, and the rider who finished in 3rd will start the race from 7th on the grid.

The grid from 10th place onwards will be set based on Superpole results. That does not necessarily mean that the starting positions 10 through 22 will be the same as in Race 1, however, as riders who started outside of the top 9 places, but finished 9th or better will move up. similarly, riders who qualified in the top 9 but crashed out or finished outside the top 9 will be reshuffled down to the fourth row or worse.

All this makes calculating grid positions a little complicated for 10th place and beyond. Basically, the riders who did not finish in the top 9 in Race 1 will start Race 2 in order of their qualifying time. Of the remaining riders, the rider with the best qualifying position from Superpole will start from 10th, the second best qualifying position will start from 11th, etc. 

The most controversial change is obviously the change to the top 9, however. In what appears to be an attempt to make the racing a little more exciting, success in Race 1 is to be punished, with the podium finishers being put back to the third row of the grid. The idea, presumably, is that the best riders from Race 1 will have to make their way through traffic, providing some excitement and making it more difficult for a rider who dominates Race 1 to do the same in Race 2. 

This would appear to be a misguided idea for several reasons: firstly, the essence of World Championship motorcycle racing is to find the rider and machine combination which performs best in each race. Adding additional, complex obstacles to one group while not applying the same to another would appear to violate the sporting ethos of a World Championship series. That risks alienating the hard core of World Superbike fans which are the backbone of the sport.

Secondly, making the way the grid is set so complex risks making it difficult for casual fans to understand what is going on. Fans will find it hard to remember the process, and have difficulty explaining it to their friends. Though ultimately, grid positions are not the most important part of a race weekend, unnecessary complexity is more likely to make things worse rather than better. 

Finally, it is unlikely to make much difference. In 2016, Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, and Chaz Davies split the overwhelming majority of race wins among them. Rea and Davies both won races starting from 6th position, while Sykes won starting from 4th and finished 2nd starting from 5th. Rea, Sykes, and Davies were dominant throughout 2016, often finishing many seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Starting from 7th through 9th will slow them up only slightly, and is unlikely to reduce their chances of winning. 

Such a system is more likely to result in one rider dominating the second race. With the three best riders on the third row, the chances of them all hitting the front together is slim. It is more likely that one rider will get a break and get through quickly, while one or both of the others gets caught up briefly. If one of the fastest riders hits the front on his own, he is more likely to get a gap and get away.

An intellectually more interesting question - but one which again highlights the weakness of the new system - is whether it places a premium on finishing 4th. The points differential between finishing 3rd and 4th in Race 1 is 3 points (16 vs 13). The question riders who find themselves battling for 3rd in Race 1 will have to ask themselves is whether they will gain more points over their championship rivals in Race 2 by starting from pole than they would by taking the 3 extra points for 3rd and starting from 7th, two rows further back. Battles for 3rd place could devolve into the opposite, a battle for 4th with riders slowing down to try to force the others to overtake. That will not make the championship look very good.

It is easy to guess why the Superbike Commission made such a change. With the popularity of the series languishing, they are trying to find a way to make it more attractive. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, however: they have already split up the two-race format over two days, and moved the races to start at 1pm local time. They have done this to avoid racing at the same time as Formula One, which they often clash with over the course of the season. The early races make it less attractive to attend each weekend, but more attractive for TV stations, who can show the World Superbike series without the fear of having to go against the ratings juggernaut which is Formula One. 

The question is, just how successful will this rule change be? The omens are not particularly good. 

The second major change to the rules is far less controversial. World Supersport races are now also to be run under the same flag-to-flag format as World Superbike. This requires a change in the technical rules, to allow parts to be replaced which will make wheel swaps faster.

Below is the press release containing the new regulations:

FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships
Changes to the Regulations for 2017

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Gregorio Lavilla (WSBK Sporting Department Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) in the presence of Messrs Daniel Carrera (Dorna), Paul Duparc, Charles Hennekam and Scott Smart (FIM) in a meeting held in Madrid (ESP) on 01 December, made the following changes to the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships Regulations:

Sporting Regulations

  1. Slight changes have been carried out to the Sporting rules concerning mainly the meanings of the signalling flags or riders behaviours. In each class, 2 wild cards will be allocated for each event and the deadline for presenting the wild card candidature will be extended to 90 days for overseas event.
  2. The formation of the grid for Race 2 will now be decided following race results from Saturday. Superpole results will continue to define starting positions for riders who finished in 10th position or lower, however the front of the grid will now be determined on Race One results.
    The front three rows will be affected in the following way:
    • Top three riders move back to row three and see 1st and 3rd reverse their positions.
    • Riders who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th will be promoted to the front row.
    • Riders who finished in 7th, 8th and 9th will start from the second row.
  3. A new and updated time schedule across the weekend is to be defined which means we will see changes to how the WorldSBK race weekend is played out, especially with the introduction of the World Supersport 300 series.
  4. There is to be ban of the use of scooters in order to aid track familiarization in the build up to or over a race weekend. Walking or the use of push bikes will be permitted, as seen in MotoGP™.
  5. On a similar note there is set to be a prevention of machines at the back of the grid for race formation which is again mirroring the regulations of MotoGP™.
  6. FIM Supersport World Championship (600 class) will welcome an introduction of flag to flag races, meaning we will see Supersport motorcycles change tyres during a race when conditions change.

It is reminded that as from 2017, the FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup becomes a European Championship under the name of European Superstock 1000 Championship.

Technical Regulations

Various technical changes are to be implemented into WorldSBK for 2017, and despite some only being minor it will see a large impact on the series.

FIM Superbike World Championship: Airbox regulations have been updated meaning sensors will now be allowed to change. Additionally parts of the Variable intake tract system may now be replaced for added strength, whilst retaining exactly the same functionality as the respective street bike.

FIM Supersport World Championship: In terms of technical modifications for this class updates have been brought in to allow modifications to the wheel axles, related parts and front fender mounts. These changes will mean we will see easier, safer and faster wheel changes.

Medical Updates

As of the upcoming season, it will now be the athlete's duty to immediately inform the medical director if there are changes in his/her health condition which may interfere with the ability to ride.


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It seems to penalise the podium of the first race unfairly, making a podium less desirable. The best path to win a round could easily be to finish 4-6th in race 1, get decent points and onto the front row for race 2 and then try for the win. If you win race 1 you're back in 9th for race 2, which puts you in a significant amount of traffic.

This will be a farce.

So, Davies, Sykes and Rea will pass three riders in the first lap. Making race two exciting?

Silly. The racing was already pretty good I thought. What needs to happen is the Yamaha gets developed and the new Fireblade gets moving quick with Nicky and Bradl doesn't throw too many up the road. 

The reason being WSBK couldn't have been much worse for the past couple of years. Why not try something. I see WSBK as a title where new can be tried and discarded or kept occasionally, and I bet there are some interesting second races as a result!

What this entirely misses is that the problems with viewership in WSBK has nothing to do with the quality of the racing; It was, arguably, better than MotoGP race by race. Not the flaw is the Dorna business plan.

Forcing a languishing series on to pay per view, policed by Dorna's "zero tolerance" for free shared content means, almost by design, the series cannot grow.

Perhaps this is exactly what is desired so they can justifiably move WSBK to become a support class for MotoGP, something I blieve Dorna intended to do from the moment Bridgepoint took control. Shame.

By rights, production racing should connect more with fans than MotoGP (although I lack of understanding maybe explains why it is not - I read a fairly famous site write that the Fireblade was the best Litre bike because MotoGP proves Hondas are "always" lighter (eh?) and more powerful than opther manufacturers. There is so much wrong with this statement I will not comment further!

If I were motorcycling racing god for a day, I would make production racing race stock bikes on road legal tyres. Imagine how well 'our' production bikes would crash if they could make NO changes whatsoever. I used to say they had to be able to remove road paraphernalia and swap exhausts and suspension. I have now changed my mind.

Allowing them to change anything provides them with an excuse to sell us crap. Make them race what they sell, at least that way the ever increasing costly sportsbikes will make more sense AND the series will have an unique selling point. In the past the rules largely restricted them to lookalike / profile series where they make a prototype that looks like their road bike (I look at you especially Yamaha; the track racers shared almost nothgin with the road machine.)

Beyond that, they need to get the series on free to air / free to view channels. Only then can viewing figures rise. Of course, they may not want them to rise.

I can see riders forcing passes in race 2 to get to the front in the first 3 laps. l can't believe the factors didn't fight this tooth and nail? 

I would like to see a different mix up for the WSBK series in 2017. Change the Saturday race to 4 sprint races of 8 (or so) laps with one full set tyre change during the 4 sprint races and a fast start process for 2nd to 4th sprints with 15 minutes between the end of one sprint to the start of the next.
As for the points, a tally at the end of the 4 sprint races with the best finisher overall getting 25 points etc. Have the Sunday race start positions based on the results of the Saturday sprints.
This would make an exciting 90 minute TV package with many opportunities for advertising breaks thus increasing revenue for the broadcasters and the sport.
This current proposal is fun for club racing, but for an international event this is a joke.

Ever since they split the races onto two separate days, it's been frequently impossible for me to watch both.  I mean, some people have lives outside racing (you know, wives, kids, track days, rides with mates etc).  Now they're going to make the weekend totally incomprehensible?  Yeah, that should work.

Didn't go to the WSBK last year as I wasn't really able to camp (really.. how many people do in terms of a percentage of total attendance?) and less value for money with just the one race. Went to BSB instead, who seem to have got the format sorted very well. 

This really does feel ill-advised, and actually worrying in that it reeks of desperation. 

Dorna should find some way of limiting spending and factory attention as I think that's one of the biggest reasons for the limited number of winners, might also then prompt some of those factories (Kawasaki, looking at you!) to go and fight with the big boys in GPs rather than just outspending the rest of the WSBK paddock. 

Nail on the head David, Well done Sir.

If riders start to play around to avoid 3rd place, (because as you point out 4th is better for race 2 grid), it could get very ugly. Visualise last lap scenario, first 2 have done a runner, got good speed, safely ahead, happy to take P9, P8 in race 2.

Pack of 5 or 6 or more, dicing for the podium position, nose to tail, full speed on the straight towards the line. Then a genius decides, Oh hang on, 4th will be better for me tomorrow, I'll roll off just before the line and let 1 pass me.

Vision is impaired normally when tucked down, nose to tail, in a freight train, or two wide in a pack. If someone in the lead shuts off, the following riders will have to react by swerving radically at the last moment to avoid the decellerating bike. Others behind will still be accelerating with the slipstream. This could set off a very nasty chain reaction at high speed, I fear.

Stupid idea to consider at a professional level, let alone implement. This is a World Championship, not a junior mini bike club where you want the little slow kid to have a chance like the older kids. I cannot believe this was done by Administrators with history in the sport.

Pole Position is the reward for ability, track knowledge, setup, courage ect. It gives you a clear start out front. Being put back to 9th for Sunday is a penalty, and also increases the chance of getting caught up in someone elses 1st corner mistake. Ie., Catalunya 2006. I honestly believe it is a poor decision for many reasons. Great article :)

At first I wondered if I had overslept and it was April 1st...

...but no.  Dorna is embracing the sporting philosophy of Bernie Ecclestone.  Namely, 'let's make this entertainment and forget about it being a sporting challenge'.  That has led to a plunge in popularity for Formula One and will certaily have the same effect on SBK.  The clear winner here will be MotoGP.  Now, who owns MotoGP and will benefit from its major investment here???

So they take the BSB idea of making the race 2 grid depend on race 1 results (best lap time) but misunderstand what was done and create a ridiculous, unsafe, joke of a plan instead.

As above, this is a world championship not a club race. This kind of approach is just embarrassing.

What about the safety aspect?  Uneccessarily putting the quick boys so far down the grid, forcing them to pick their way through (often) much slower bikes.  Nuts!

They will all be racing under the same set of pre-determined rules. The teams will have to develop a different strategy, I doubt the top 3 in the championship will be any different.

This sticking plaster solution is ridiculous and ignores the fundamental problem, WSBK is boring, lacks glamour and technical interest. By its very nature, motorcycle racing attracts people who have an interest in how the machines work. F1 on the other hand has a vast legion of fans who have no idea what makes a car move and stop. WSBK is a sanitised, watered down series with plastic rockets you can see in your local dealership being ridden by admittedly great riders but with an unfair aura of being not quite good enough for MotoGP.  

My personal opinion of the lack of appeal with WSBK is that it lies in its production racer format. 

The machines are becoming much less specialised in an effort to make the racing closer and bring down costs leading to a bit of a boring spectacle. The racing itself is fine I feel, there is close racing to a point. It's more that there is limited manufacturer support or interest.

Anything which has to have the word 'Super' in its title is anything but! The demise of World Supersport and the introduction of the odd formula of Supersport 300 indicates an organisation which has lost its way.

My solution would be to re-introduce the old F1, F2 and F3 classes plus a Production race in the programme for the existing Superbikes. Full race chassis with production based engines, moving Moto2 (F2) to the WSBK series with engines from all manufacturers. This would introduce technical and national interest with chassis manufacturers and specialist tuners. Manufacturers would still be able to showcase their engines and chassis if desired. 

National series could become more interesting technically and set up skills would ease the path to the GP classes for riders and engineers alike.

Replace Moto2 in the GP seies with 500 twins run to similar rules to Moto3, I don't think production road going sealed engines have any place in GPs.

There, the whole road racing world sorted out in five minutes ;)  

It's all part of Dorna's plan to combine the two world championships.

By making WSB a joke the attendance will fall to new lows.

Moto 2 is due for a revamp in 2018 when Honda's contract as engine supplier expires (I've been hoping for 500 twin prototypes).

So Dorna will "save" SBK by rolling it into their premier series as a replacement for Moto2. Unfortunately, the current superbikes are too quick, as shown at the Valencia test, so the bikes will be more like superstock spec or maybe showroom stock.

Just kidding.

I hope. 

It should be based on how close each rider's underwear colour is to the randomly chosen colour of the week.  If you're a championship contender then it's probably safest to spy on your nearest rivals and wear the same colour they are wearing rather than taking the gamble on an outrageous colour.  Then they can put cameras in the rider's trailers and sell digital passes for the viewers to watch all the hijinx which will occur in "interteam underwear espionage".

At least it'll take the focus off tyres....

What Would Kenny Do. In December of 1979, Kenny Roberts spearheaded an attempt to start another racing organization  called The World Series. This was in response to the FIM caring little about the riders call for safety improvements and for the lack of start and prize money. Although the new series never came to fruition, it did force the FIM to impliment changes. The time has come again for the riders to stand up and force this ridiculous change to be abandened. The first thing that came to my mind when reading this article was the very real possibility of first turn carnage. This proposal, if nothing else, is unbeliveably unsafe. Just when World Superbike is being thought of as comparable to MotoGp, the commission takes a giant leap backwards. Whoever came up with this proposal, and those that support it, should be removed from their positions immediatly, for the sake of the sport.

Dean Adams once suggested that they get the big shots of the rule-making organization together in a room and get them drunk. Then the least drunk ones throw darts at a list of suggestions thought up by the most drunk ones.

At the time I didn't think he was serious...

Just scrap race 2.  I get it, it's tradition, but if SBK is going to continue to gain popularity, ESPECIALLY now that they have their own dedicated lightweight class, just run the same dang format as MotoGP.  

As others have said elsewhere, fake rules like this are a disrespect to the riders and the sport.  I think it's a mockery. 

It looks like Ant West wont be on the Pedercini bike - what happened there? He woudl have been great for the series

and given the idiocy of the rule I am surprised that WSB haven't just said, 
"right, free practice and superpole as per usual and then you pick your race bike out of a hat".

sad, sad, sad.

Bad idea - but I will risk saying that it looks a bit fun. I have fantasized about having a race with reversed grid positions as a spectacle, which is obviously ridiculous. Which means that I bet they considered it. Organizers must feel they have little to lose. Let's hope they are right.

Edit - I am personally surprised that WSBK had to do anything more after putting headlight stickers on - that did it all, no?

So no this doesn't make much sense obviously. But please keep things in perspective, it isn't a huge deal. It is likely to make for some fun viewing here and there, a touch of nuttiness. Yep - that's right, I am in the realm of neutral about it. I care more about electronics and engine spec. The fuel limits in MotoGP are a greater evil. The rookie rule and Marquez undoing were more biased. So forth.

Spectacle motivated, yes. Biased towards any certain interest? No. Give me one star, but this is a bit exciting without marginalizing any one entity. I am close to neutral about it. And likely so is much of the grid aside from a green and a red factory team. Cheesy and a bit dull minded? Yes. Unsafe? No. A bit fun? I think so.

This new rule change makes more sense when you factor in the other rule that they failed to release yet:

:Any rider who enters the grid on a 2017 or newer model year Harley Davidson FatBoy Touring FLXHD Classic shall begin the race with a 3-lap headstart, and shall leave the starting line 60 seconds before the starting lights are initially illuminated.

Baggers, fast guys, backmarkers, all spread out through the entirety of the track.  Excitement!

This is gonna be so great.  This will make WSBK Great Again!

What a bunch of BS, only TV suits that know nothing about racing would come up with such a hairbrianed idea.

Or get viewers to SMS votes for their preferred grid - big-brother style.

Don't like xxxxxx ? 

Here's your chance to vote him to the back of the pack - call-charges and fees may apply...

to suggest that pole position and how people line up on the grid should also be awarded a points system? That way consistent results will be rewarded. If someone bins it during a race because of some other rider's mistake or if a mechanical happens at least SOME reward will be allowed if they had a decent qualifying round. Qualifying proves how good you know the track and your speed after all. I think that makes more sense than these new set of rules. My 2 cents.

I'm wondering what's up with these half-measures, just go all the way and race on figure-8 tracks. That'll make for some real excitement. /s

This new rule takes a away much of the sense of professionality and simplicity that it needs to I wouldn't recommend riding or watching the series to friends

The one positive aspect is that I had a good laugh reading all the comments. As far as the new rules are concerned, they should fire the people that came up with this and give them a restraining order, so they can never approach a motorcycle race again within a radius of 100 km.

So far, not one person on this site (or anywhere else that I've read) has come out in favour of these changes.  In fact, response has been universally negative - usually full of disbelief and ridicule.  I personally can not find anything to support there, no matter how open minded I try to be.

But there must be something we are missing, surely?

Can someone who supports these changes - preferably someone from within the Superbike Commission - please explain the rationale of this approach, and answer some of the criticisms raised here?  I'm willing to listen.

I fear my already fading support of SBK (due to the 2-day format) is going to wither completely now.  I am already paying for the online subscription when I can't always dedicate 2 consecutive nights to racing.  Now I'm likely to not understand what I'm watching on night 2 anyway. sad

This new grid rule is insane! It makes me mad, but laughing and speechless at the same time. This isn't youth soccer/football where everyone should get the winners trophy just for competing.! The commission must rethink this. Mind blowing absurdity.!!

Chas has come out in support of the new system and says that it will make Superbikes great again.

Sorry, I don't agree like many people who will have to watch this farce unfold.

Doesn't make much sense to me. What's next, full lap yellows like NASCAR? By the way, I hate to sound like a dumb American, but it seems like the Euro-centricity of DORNA is highlighted by the reference to "overseas" rounds. Hey, this is the WORLD superbike championship, they're all overseas for some fans, riders and teams. Even if it's just the Irish Sea. 

Have we, motorcycle racing enthusiasts, become innately resistant to change? Especially the journalists, David. This may be a great idea. There was an unusual number of double wins last year. Racing in WSB over two days gives slower teams the opportunity to improve their bikes for the second day, but it generally wasn't enough last year to bring them through to the front because they were mired in the pack as a result of their qualifying position. The new approach could improve the second day's racing for spectators, riders, teams and sponsors. There's no implementation cost and reversing the change, if it doesn't work, would be at a stroke of a pen. Let's give it a go.

I'm sad that I already renewed my video pass.  I would have canceled it knowing this rule change.  This is completely stupid and one of the worst, if not the worst rule making decisions I've ever seen in motorcycle racing spanning three decades.  

Now Carmelo Expeleta is returning the favour.

That people continue to pour scorn on WSBK is a sign they place more weight in Dorna/MotoGP's self promotion than the evidence in front of them: if MotoGP was half as good as they purport to be no production based machine costing a fraction of the price, with a rider unable to score a decent ride in MotoGP, should ever be anywhere near them.....but they are.

So I'm struggling.  MotoGP just seems like a crazy expensive way to go barely faster, with a tech spec that makes no sense: real world useless pneumatic valves and carbon brakes are allowed, but no abs, variable valve timing or dual clutch gearboxes which are far cheaper than the drug money expensive seamless box's which have no real world application.

I enjoy the personal battles but the bikes are disappointing for something costing the equivalent of small nation's GDP.

And now they've made the WSBK grid look Mickey Mouse.....I doubt I'll be staying up too late to watch it as I have in years gone past.

Two thoughts. This might prove less disliked if they SIMPLY reversed race 1 results for race 2 grid. Easy to follow. Easy to explain. A genuine task for race 1 winner to start race 2 dead last. Second thought, bring wsbk machine spec as close to production as possible (or 100% production spec.) This would see bikes crash better, ancillaries made lighter and a genuine link to viewer purchasable machinery (rather than outline.)

Count me out, it adds danger to an already deadly sport so some pinheads that have the attention span of a gnat can be entertained. True race fans and competitors should be appaled. I will not watch a single race as long as this soccer mom mentality exists.