Concessions and control ECU on the cards for WorldSBK?

Momentum for a technical shake-up in WorldSBK has increased but the manner to instigate that change is a big question

The Imola paddock was full of rumor and discussion about changes to the technical regulations for 2018. With Kawasaki and Ducati having shared all but four wins since the start of the 2015 season there have been calls to grant other manufacturers some avenues with which to improve performance. Discussions between the manufacturers took place once again in Italy to lay down a framework for the future.

No answers were forthcoming but with Yamaha and Honda having brought all-new Superbikes to the series in the last year and struggled to compete with the front runners it is clear that the winds of change may be in the air. For 2017 Aprilia increased their involvement with the Milwaukee Aprilia bikes built and prepared in Italy. The former title winning marque has thus far failed live up to preseason expectations.

Spec ECU for WorldSBK?

A unified electronics package with a standard ECU (Electronic Control Unit) is one step that is being discussed, but that is far from a silver bullet with which to cure all ills in the WorldSBK paddock. The biggest reason for Kawasaki and Ducati dominating proceedings is manpower and resources. With more people in the garage and more resources spent on electronics and overall bike development they have proved the class of the field. Regulating that all bikes run the same specification of electronics will close the gap but not eliminate it.

That is one of the reasons why some teams, such as the Ten Kate team, have called for more drastic changes. Speaking over the weekend Ronald ten Kate said, “The ECU would be a start but bringing in some concessions similar to MotoGP would be a better solution.”

Concessions stand

While MotoGP has developed a unified electronics system that is shared by all teams on the grid it has been the concessions offered to manufacturers that has, arguably, had the biggest influence on improving racing. These concessions range from having unlimited testing, allowing engine development mid-season and in the past a softer tire to offer improved performance. These allowed manufacturers to short-cut their development cycle by making large performance gains in a shorter time frame.

With Honda clearly struggling with a poor bike and a lack of experience with it they desperately need track time to be able to understand the all-new Fireblade and make improvements.

With resources clearly lacking at MV Augusta the team has precious little to test but opening some of the restrictions on bikes could help the Italian manufacturer. The team's rider, Leon Camier, crashed out of second position in Imola last weekend but knows the struggle facing the team.

“Right now if you're not on a green bike or a red bike you're not going to win,” said Camier. “At the moment Yamaha, MV, Aprilia, BMW and Honda all have good riders but at best we're really fighting for fifth or sixth position. It would be great if we could see some help to improve our performance or open the regulations somehow to help make it more competitive at the front because fans at home want to see more bikes at the front.”

Herding cats

To bring about such a change in the regulations the manufacturers would have to be in agreement. While Yamaha, Honda, BMW and Aprilia would be able to form a majority finding agreement is another issue entirely. The biggest stumbling block to that would appear to be Kawasaki who have said consistently in the past that electronic development is one of their key reasons for racing in WorldSBK.

With electronic development restricted in MotoGP the only series that allows manufacturers to flex their mental muscles with software development is WorldSBK. It is one of the single biggest reasons why Kawasaki races in the championship and puts huge resources into it. As a result the Japanese manufacturer is against the series bringing in a unified electronics software package.

Ducati are also likely to oppose any motion to restrict their performance but the Italian manufacturer will have a new bike on the market in the next two years. Their all-new V4 engined machine will be their flagship bike once again and the importance of WorldSBK as a marketing tool will not be lost on Bologna as they make the transition from twin-cylinder bike to the four cylinder. Kawasaki are in a comparable situation to Ducati, though there are key differences. With no MotoGP team, and no desire to race in prototype series, Kawasaki need a championship series they can showcase their Superbike in.

Equalizing performance

While their feelings on the potential change are not set in stone at the moment both manufacturers would be against restricting their performance on track, but equally, there is leverage against them in negotiations over the regulations.

Fresh from dominating at Imola Chaz Davies said, “I've not heard much about any changes to the regulations other than a few questions but in principle I would think that the best approach isn't to penalize Ducati or Kawasaki for being successful, but rather to help bring the other teams forward. If that's with granting them more testing, more engines, or some different parts, then that would be the best solution.”

It would also be the simplest solution for keeping all manufacturers happy. With seven manufacturers on the grid for 2017, and Suzuki likely to return in the coming years, it is clear the value and importance of WorldSBK holds for each manufacturer. Keeping them all happy and competitive in the series is an almost impossible goal but offering ways to improve their potential certainly isn't. Racing improves the breed, and the brand, but finding the best way to accelerate that improvement now appears to be a key challenge facing WorldSBK.

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I have for a long time wondered about the regulations which allow for the Ducati with 2 enormous pistons to be competitive with the 4 cylinder bikes, even on the faster circuits.

Are the regulations which control what can and cannot be done with the different machines to try to balance their competitiveness publicly available or are we not allowed know these things?

Thanks for any knowledge about this


... granted to Ducati, or any V-Twin raced in the series is a 200cc displacement advantage over the 1,000cc 4-cylinders.

By the way, I think Chaz hit the nail on the head: Don't penalize the leaders in the series, but grant the struggling teams concessions to help them get towards the front - and most importantly keep all the current manufacturers in the series. Losing Kawasaki for example would be awful.

Ducati is now showing the highest speeds on the straights at several tracks, which means not only do they have a torque advantage, but also a power advantage - so even with poorer handling than the ZX-10R (and argualbly lesser riding talent) they still dominate at certain tracks.  Surprising that any of the other manufactures bother to compete with a 4-cylinder bike (surprisingly KTM does not compete is WSBK, despite their only superbike of the recent past being a twin).

In WSBK, two cylinder machines are permitted 1200cc while 3 and 4 cylinder engines are permitted 1000cc.  Additionally, there is a 'balancing' calculation (based on race results) and handicaps may be applied to two cylinder machines by requiring air restrictors in the intake tract of various sizes.

I still have a streaming subscription to WSBK, not for the SBK races, but for Super Pole and the WSS300 races. SBK has become the Kawasaki/Ducati yawn fest. Even as good as Kawa's electronics are they still can't help Sykes manage his tires.

I would welcome restrictions on WSBK electronics. WSBK is supposed to be a production based series, so shouldn't the electronics be the same as what's on the bike on the dealer floor? Not a kit you can add after the fact with a racing licence, but with the bike.

Why don't Yamaha and Honda just build competitive bikes?

Kawasaki doesn't spend much in MotoGP... so it makes sense that they will do well in the series that they do spend money in. Ducati does, but they have been the masters of WSB for always, they know how to win in WSB.

This is not news to Honda and Yamaha? They both know that they need to dig deep to win in WSB (or any production category in any market, for that matter). So, why aren't they doing so? Don't give me some sob story about depressed markets and decreased margins - all of the major motorcycle manufacturers on the planet are doing very nicely indeed, thank you very much.

Why not just give everyone a blue ribbon for just turning up and call it a championship? I'm sick of competitive sports being dumbed down. Either you play to win, or you don't play. I'm a Honda guy and I prefer WSB to MotoGP, but fair play to Kawasaki and Ducati, they are simply smashing Honda out of the park and Honda deserves it!

Want to win? Build a fast bike! Crikey...

I know I'm turning into an old moaner but I really don't see a future for Superbike racing. They are becoming less and less relevant as road machines and I think that Superstock is probably their most likely future.

I'd like to see a return to the old Formula One class, using race chassis and tuned road machine engines. A bit like Moto2, which should be a support class for this series with multiple manufacturer engines. Something has to replace the Supersport class when the machinery dries up. Add in a Formula Three class and you have a great series.

Anything to get rid of that title "Super"! 

The new bikes just need more time. It took Kawasaki a long time to get where it is, it took Ducati a long time to understand the panigale(I called it the fail-igale) after years of not compeating in wsbk for Yamaha you cant expect them to fight for the title or podiums and 5th 6th sounds not so bad. I want them to do better cos im a Yamaha fan

Oh no not blooming Dorna dumming down again. How often do they have to duck around with the regs???

Don't get me started. oops too late. Thanks for the article Kent Brockman. I am switched on now man.

At first I thought this was just another episode of Big H trying to re-write the rulebook to suit themselves.

Not that simple, Now I realise there is more to it

Yeah V4Racer "Why don't Yamaha and Honda just build competitive bikes?" what is up with the new Blade? come on big H surely they have had plenty of time and resources. I don't get it?

Yamaha, big company made heaps of money out of motorcycles, what have they been doing in superbike racing in the last few years. they dropped out of WSBK for a few years, the R1 & R6 where selling very well so Yamaha didn't support WSBK. then the wanted to develope the R1 into a race winner, the R1 won the BSB title the year before Big Y got back into WSBK. did they offer the BSB champion a ride in world superbikes? no, they let hm go. Why should Yamaha get a leg up ?

Concessions Yes. for who & for why ? Aprilia had things going very well for themselves not that long ago. remenber when Max Biaggi raced SBK for Aprilia. they did OK then sat on their laurels for too long, left the SBK side of the factory with insufficient resources while they put more $ & stuff into MotoGp, now they struggle in SBK. that is no reason to give them a handout. Piaggo gruppo were still making money last time I looked. Why should Aprilia get special treatment.

KTM is the biggest european motorcycle manufacturer why should they get special treatment, assuming their SBK class offering is ever good enough to race against real sportsbikes.

MV ? Augusta is making money to. Mr Castilioni says he is doing well enough that the m/c division does not have to make much money. I would love to see Leon Camier do even better! Leon Camier needs another bike & a teammate. Twice the data twice the feedback, twice the rider input. Giving MV unlimited testing isn't going to help if they only take one bike & one rider to the track. It is up to MV to get themselves to a more competetive position. surely a professional SBK team must have two riders!

control ecu,change for what reason? to save money? like the STUPID one bike rule. that didn't save anyone any money either. It only made life more difficult for the people working on the bikes. change for the sake of change with no plan no long term vision.

Man who comes up with these "ideas", "rumors and discussions". can I see the envelope these ideas where written on?

At least we have not been subjected to the Ducati Cup story again. I love the idea of the red team racing a four cylinder 1000cc bike and not having any advantages of displacement or weight. Bring that on and the same set of rules for all.

A spec ECU for WSBK is a no brainer and should be instituted as soon as possible. The reasons for doing it it in MotoGP hold doubly true for WSBK. Why would a production based series reward teams who spend millions of dollars on completely aftermarket electronics. Sorry Kawasaki, you're going to have to suck eggs on this one. And if it means less manufacturer involvement that's fine with me, so long as there is better parity and closer racing.

To be honest I'd be happy to see the SBK class scrapped entirely, with Superstock regs becoming the top class. Is anyone seriously going to try and tell me a race prepped 1000cc sports bike isn't 'super' enough? They're bloody missiles! And spending the extra millions of dollars for a few extra seconds a lap is just unnecessary and kills the racing. Spending all that cash to get the lap times so close to MotoGP hurts both series needlessly.

The only issue with having Superstock regs as the top class is that occasionally a manufacturer just builds a bike that's head and shoulders superior to anything else, and they dominate too much, as with the S1000RR when it first raced in Superstock. To prevent this there would need to be some sort of parity system. Inlet restrictors or ballast added to the chassis somehow, similar to the BTCC. And homologation numbers might have to be lifted to prevent manufacturers building super exotic specials.

The sooner we see a category for Supernaked bikes the better too. These machines would be amazing to watch race and WSBK is missing a huge opportunity by not having this ready made category in its line-up. Who gives a stuff about the 600 class anymore. They're losing relevance to consumers and once again WSBK is too slow to react to the shifting market place, even under Dorna.

Just because a company has money does not mean they shuld spend it. They need to spend money on the basis of return. They have no responsability to support a winning WSBK team unless that investment will pay off with a return. What Dorna has to do if provide an atmosphere where Honda, Yamaha, Aprilla and others can get a good return on their investment.  Perhaps allowing Honda unlimited testing they would be able to develop a more complete bike without a big cost and get closer to teh front so they would have more fan support and sell more bikes, get more TV time. Already the TV coverage is cafeful to cover all of the factory bikes regardless of where they are in the field. I wish WSBK and MotoGP coverage would be better in the USA, that would really give all the manufacturers a boost in value to race and perform.  TV coverage is the biggest issue with all US roadracing. MotoAmerican has a great program but internet streaming is not going to cut it

Balancing regulations between twins, triples n fours? Why do we  have this nonesense? All that is needed is a class weight limit, a set amount of fuel to use over race distance and a blank piece of paper (preferably a cheque). No, the rule makers have it tough - we need good regs else there would be no racing because only the richest factory could afford to build / enter a winning bike. It might pure, it might be racing but it aint really a fair competition. Thats why I don't watch F1.

Make something close to that number the minimum number of bikes needed for homologation, and change the rules to be similar to Superstock - same ECU as the bike you and I can buy from the dealer, and limit suspension changes from stock to spring rates and oil viscosity.  Keep brakes stock except for pads, and exhausts stock except for slip-on cans.

And with almost no one buying new supersport bikes, and superbikes now making too much power to be ridable on the street without electronic rider aids AND the rider not using more than a fraction of the power, why not drop the Superbike displacement limit to 750cc and get rid of Supersport?  Yes, tires, brakes, and suspensions are much better than in the past, but riders' level of talent has not (and will not change) in such a short time span.