WSBK 2011 Rule Changes Include An End To Aprilia's Gear-Driven Cams

As is common at world championship motorcycle racing events, the Superbike commission - the World Superbike series' rule-making body - gathered to discuss rules to be introduced for the 2011 series. After the meeting, a press release was issued detailing the changes to be made for next season, and they make interesting reading.

The biggest change was the scrapping of the loophole which has allowed Aprilia to drive the camshafts on their RSV4 World Superbike machines using gears instead of the chains fitted on the production bikes. The rule had originally read "The method of cam drive (chain, belt or gears) must remain as on the homologated motorcycle unless a complete kit is available through normal commercial channels" but the last part of the sentence - "unless a complete kit is available through normal commercial channels" - has been dropped.

Aprilia's use of gear-driven cams has been controversial from the start. The original cylinders are supplied with the machining required to fit the gear drive as standard, but use a chain drive to keep production costs down. The Aprilia's V4 configuration makes this even more costly, requiring two sets of gears for each bank of cylinders, and so fitting gear-driven cams to the road bike would add considerably to the basic price. Fitted as an aftermarket race kit, the gear-driven cams allow the RSV to attain higher revs and allow for more precise cam timing. The RSV4 has been fast from the start of the season, but since the Alitalia Aprilia started using the gear drive, the disparity with the other bikes has grown.

To put an end to the arguments, the Superbike Commission has prohibited fitting aftermarket kits, and all World Superbike machines must use the cam drive fitted as standard. Of course, this does not prevent Aprilia from using gear-driven camshafts completely, but it does require that the RSV4 be sold with the gear drive as standard, something which Aprilia may be less keen to do.

Two other notable changes are to be made for 2011. The first is the banning of a 2nd bike for the World Supersport class, bringing it into line with the 125cc and Moto2 support classes in MotoGP. The rule is aimed at cutting costs, as having a single bike complete with spares to repair it prepared to race is still cheaper than having two complete bikes. The rule hopes to remove the advantage that the wealthier teams such as Ten Kate Honda and Parkalgar Honda have over the mid-pack riders.

The final change of note is the rescheduling of practice on Friday. Activities had been cut back on Friday morning as a cost-cutting measure, but instead of losing practice, the remaining practice sessions were just squeezed together on Friday afternoon. With the restoration of on-track action on Friday morning, a more relaxed schedule can be followed, and the World Supersport class can get some practice on track at around the time they will be racing on Sunday, a complaint that was commonly heard from the WSS teams. The measure never really cut costs, as teams had to arrive at the track by Thursday at the latest anyway, and would sit twiddling their thumbs on Friday morning, waiting to hit the track at noon. A similar measure is to be tried in the MotoGP series at Aragon, when the schedule will revert to four sessions of practice, including one on Friday morning.

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It's good to see the SBK commission uphold their series' sporting values and knock Aprilia back..I heard the kits cost 25k euro, almost twice the price of a street bike?

blatent mickey taking of the rules, and how the worm can turn is something GP could learn from.

The cost of the gear driven cam kit violates the spirit of the rules. Just the gear cams cost as much as 2 Japanese SBKs.

However, an RR homologation version could be possible. The RC30 and RC45 both had gear driven cams, but back in those days, the manufacturers only had to produce 500 units. I think they changed it to 3,000 IIRC. The homologation quantities might be too high for Aprilia to produce 3,000units without incurring huge losses.

Wow, 25k euro... that's quite some add-on 'kit'... And I bet the markup on those kits to be sold to the public isn't that high, maybe 25% at most? So to meet the homologation requirements and sell a thousand (phoenix1's reply above says 3,000 is the hmlgtn requirement? Didn't BMW only need to produce 1,000 bikes for the market to enter the wsbk series?) bikes, that's going to be about a 35-40k euro monster. Even if Biaggi can take home the championship and really get Aprilia's name everywhere as having the undisputed fastest bike, that is coming at an incredible price.

Everyone must reach 2,000 units. First time applicants have always had separate rules. In the past they got lower homologation quantities but now it looks like they have a longer time to produce 2,000 units.

It was supposed to be 3,000 units for 2010, but it appears they've reduced the quantity or they've delayed raising the quantity to 3k.

Compared to, say, Alexander Lundh, whose "race trailer" is a van and a separate cargo trailer, Parkalgar is swimming in money. Obviously, wealthy is a relative term in WSS, and the team is not rich in MotoGP terms, but they are one of the best funded teams on the Supersport grid.

for what u get!

to make a jap bike go like that off-the-shelf will make a (i'm in canada so will use rough canadian prices here) say $15k gsxr-1000 cost in the vicinity of say $60k. here the 'r' model of the aprilia is around $25k in my town.

i recall gardner saying the aprilia was the closest thing to a GP prototype out there.

thing is - to track day fast group guys, that aprilia MUST be tempting when all one really needs is to remove the street gear & put on some cheap bodywork & slicks. if i had the coin, no way i would look past it.

a lot of track day guys are relatively wealthy - at least in my town (again) ;)

in addition to the 25k (dollars), you will need to pay another 30k (dollars), to get the gear cam kit, b/c the actual "r" aprilia doesnt have it from the shelf, not even de factory edition, thats why people thinks that a gear cam of 25k (euros) isnt really a true street bike spirit

I think Aprilia are taking the piss if the figure of €25k for a gear-driven cam kit is correct. It's worth remembering that not only the RC30 and RC45 had gear driven cams, but also the far more prosaic VFR750F and (early) VFR800Fi road bikes. I bought two VFR750s new; one cost £4,000, the other cost £7,000 - and that's a complete bike, not a conversion kit. And the comparison is exact - VFRs have a V4 engine layout, as does the RSV4.

But then Aprilia do have a history of profiteering; check out the lease price of the recently demised GP 250cc racer...

the honda nc 30 n nc 45 (vfr) ......v 4 400 cc road bikes had gear driven cams aswell as the nc23-29(cbr) .... inline 400's so 25 k does seem a bit excessive for some machined parts

from someone posting 'i heard it cost 25K' to complete certainty that it is overpriced in 5 easy responses.

the stock system is a hybrid design. each bank has a chain drive from the crank to the intake cam and a gear drive from the intake cam to exhaust cam.

to convert it to a full gear drive system the cams and intake-exhaust drive do not need to be changed. only add 4 gears per side, and we already have heard that the cases are pre-machined to receive them, so i would think it is more about rarity than price at this point.

adding a couple of bosses to the castings incurs a negligible expense but nicely allows for future performance improvement. a very smart move on aprilia's part.


I heard it cost 25k from James Whitham who said it live on the air during the broadcast (for Superpole IIRC).

Hardly bulletproof, but it's not just random hearsay from some yokel at the pub. Whitham said it.

You're obviously a very talented engineer and I wish you luck with the project..but whether the kit part cost 25k or 2.5k is irrelevant.
Aprilia took a gamble on bending the rules and have been brought to book. Trying to side step homologation by producing an elusive and exclusive part, which isn't available to just anyone, is against the spirit of this class. To claim they need to close the gap on other more experienced manufacturers as newcomers, as the reasoning behind this shady interpretation of an admittedly ambiguous rule, is a bit strong IMO as the bike was fast out the box. They were trying to gain an unfair advantage and the SBK commission should be applauded for its firm stance.
If they want the benefits of gear driven cams, put them on the street bike as standard in the name of transparency.

Only that the 25k cost was seemingly pulled from nowhere and imo an inflated number.

But considering that Aprilia can still use the gear drive system all throughout the 2010 season and have plenty of time to learn and tweak and cost reduce it to make a homogolation special in 2011 I think Aprilia achieved all they set out to do, and then some. Especially if Max takes the title.

I don't see what was shady or ambiguous about their actions. The rulebook clearly states the requirements for camdrive systems: keep stock it or offer a complete kit available through commercial channels. There are only 3 RSV4 bikes on the grid, 2 of which are factory bikes. I don't think the complaints were from Smrz' team about cost or availability but from the other manufacturers smarting from getting soundly beaten by a newcomer to the series. Actually, the Aprilias with the camdrive system were likely much cheaper than the astronomically priced Ducati 1098F08 he was using. The street 1098R cost 40k, what does the factory race bike cost, and they are definitely not available to just anyone.

Thanks, I hope the bike goes well too. I also have provisions in my castings to switch from chain to gear drive, who knows if it will ever be useful.


To me it seems laughable to stop aprilia using the cams which they sell as an add on product, but allowing them to use sophisticated traction control and ecu's that NONE of the manufacturers put on their standard bikes.

on a side now i think that even if the cam gears were hand crafted by rossi using metal from melted down britten v-twins they still shouldn't cost 25k. hopefully the new rule will see aprilia using gear driven cams on standard factorys now.. mm that engine will sound so sweet

I may be missing something here, but isn't this just a slight reworking of the game Ducati have been playing (and getting away with) for years? i.e. make a fancy race bike at an extortionate price, then strip off all the fancy bits to make a much less expensive bike for the punters. Several winning championships later and nobody bats an eyelid.

1198 - £13,295
1198R - £30,695

All of the manufacturers built homologation specials during the 750-era at one point or another. Ducati built SPS and R variants, the Japanese built ZX-7RRs, GSXR-750RR/RKs, R7-OWs, and RC45s.

The homologation quantities have been raised 400% in the last 2 years. I have trouble believing that Ducati Corse could boost production by 4 times in order to continue racing the 1098R that Bayliss rode to victory in 2008. If they do still race the 1198R, you can rest assured it is not nearly as trick as what Bayliss was riding a few years ago.

None of these machines are in the spirit intended by the orginators of the WSBK rules.

Production machine with a pipes and slicks have somehow become million dollar machines tuned within an inch of their lives that really aren't that much different to a MotoGP machine - way closer in fact to a GP machine than their donor production model. Unobtainable Öhlins suspension, factory swinging arms, Magneti Marelli Marvel 4 electronics, under seat fuel tanks, engines with under 2000k lives, Titanium this and C-F that. A couple of mechanics augmented by an army of software boffins. 25k for a few gears whilst obscene on one level is not in the context of the money spent in WSBK now.

The performance benefit of the gear cam drive is negligible. But yes a fair clarification of the rule for 2011.