WSBK Considering Fuel Limits - Following MotoGP Down The Road To Perdition

One of the hottest topics of debate among motorcycle racing fans around the world is the difference between the racing in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Where WSBK features regular fairing-bashing action and plenty of passing throughout the race, the racing in MotoGP has been entirely sterile, the focus more on being inch-perfect and preserving tires and fuel all the way to the line. One of the main factors explaining the difference in racing between the two series has always been the fuel allowance, with MotoGP restricted to just 21 liters for races of around 120 km, while World Superbike machines have a generous 24 liters of fuel to last them for between 10 and 20 km less, the average WSBK race being around 105 kilometers.

So it will deeply disturb WSBK fans to learn that the Superbike Commission - the WSBK series governing body - is serious considering the introduction of drastically lower fuel limits, according to the Italian magazine Motosprint. The proposal, put forward by Honda, Suzuki and Ducati, is aimed at reducing power and as a result, reducing the costs involved in the series. The main objection has come from BMW, who oppose the plan because their reliance on a proprietary electronics system means they would have to develop the fuel-saving algorithms completely from scratch. The rest of the field, using the ubiquitous Magneti Marelli electronics packages, will have a lot of existing data and programming to provide a starting point.

BMW's objections highlight exactly what the problem is with this suggestion. If there is one lesson to be drawn from MotoGP, it is that the introduction of tight fuel limits - along with the reduction in capacity - have increased the importance of electronics exponentially, thereby multiplying the costs involved. ECUs and engine management systems programmers have seen their stock rise, and more money is being focused on the electronics and the staff needed to program and manage them.

So important have electronic systems become that Honda has even taken to poaching staff away from other manufacturers. A strategy which has proved to be successful, as the fortunes of the Repsol Honda team have proved since the arrival of Andrea Zugna and Cristian Battaglia, and both Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso have praised the progress booked as a result.

Fortunately, an alternative proposal has also been made, according to Motosprint. The introduction of a hard rev limit is also under consideration, as an alternative method for controlling horsepower. This suggestions also follows MotoGP's lead, though the Grand Prix Commission did not go so far as to propose a fixed limit, instead choosing to limit bore size, using physics to impose a rev limit through a maximum mean piston velocity.

If radical fuel limits are introduced in World Superbikes, the series could ironically become a more suitable feeder series for MotoGP. With greater emphasis on corner speed and fuel conservation, and less on backing the bike up and using surplus fuel to fire the bike out of a corner, World Superbikes could become a lot more like MotoGP than it has ever been in its existence. But if it does, the WSBK series could lose the hardcore fan base it has earned over the years for the excitement of its racing.

Back to top


Perhaps the fuel limits are the way forward for leveling the playing field for the different engine configurations in WSBK. The Ducati advantage vs. disadvantage debate has been raging for quite some time and even the current set of rules doesn't seem to work. Limiting the fuel allowance puts everyone on the grid on a level playing field with the same amount of potential energy and it is up to the teams to use that to the best of its ability. For the most part it makes things like air restrictors, ultra-trick engine parts and weight penalties moot since everyone starts with the same thing, x amount of energy to get across the line.

But the fuel limits are already in place at 24 litres, so everyone is already staring with the same amount of energy, no?

Yes, but there is too much excess. Tighten it up so that there is just enough to make it and the game changes.
Right now the fuel limit is set at 4.375km/l in World Superbike compared to 5.714km/l in MotoGP. In MotoGP you have the engine management systems cutting fuel in the closing stages of the race just to get across the line. When the game is that tight it wouldn't matter is Ducati wanted 1400cc, 1600cc, a turbo-charger or whatever because they can't take advantage of it. Give them a surplus of fuel (like what is currently in place and yes, they can take advantage of it. Ideally, you would have spec fuel and everyone starts the race with the same amount to barely get you across the line. If your machine isn't efficient you run out of fuel and it makes no difference how much you displace. Again, the key though is that the fuel limits have to be tight. If you give them enough to do the job easily, then there is no point.

In motogp we also have boring processions that they try to call "racing." Honestly its like watching amateur races with the gaps between racers. Sure I watch the races, but im less entertained by it than the fairing banging racing in WSBK.

Why even bother to respond to drek like this... 7 different winners in WSBK this year and 3 in MotoGP. Other than #46's Season opener win, its been ALL Pedro and Lorenzo this year.

But yes please, tell me how processional WSBK is compared to MotoGP. Id love to hear your argument for this... Nur and Salt Lake Ill give you, but lets just review what Julian Ryder had to say from Italy shall we?

"There was a MotoGP race today, nothing much happened. Dani Pedrosa led from start to finish; Jorge Lorenzo followed at a respectful distance; Rossi and Dovizioso overtook Casey Stoner to finish third and fourth."

The racing in WSBK has been much more exciting than in MotoGP. There is no debating this.

Julian's column reflected the somber mood following the loss of Tomizawa, not necessarily the quality of the racing.

Championship standings:

World Superbike, Biaggi leads by 58 points
MotoGP Lorenzo leads by 63

Neither championship is tight.

Phillip island and Portimao were close as was race 1 at Valencia. the rest were not.

WSBK does a much better job of televising the races going on deeper in the pack when the leaders have checked out. makes it moreinteresting to watch but no less processional.

Dont they already have that by being restricted to 24L of fuel? Changing the amount of fuel they are allowed to carry doesnt change the amount of potential energy to all of a sudden being equal among all bikes. A Ducati carrying 21L instead of 24L makes the same ratio of power that a Yamaha carrying 21L vs 24L. Both teams are going to tune the bike to make max power with what they have in the tank. The question is whether the other bikes on the grid make more power in total than the Ducati can. If that is the case, then that is DUCATI'S problem to deal with and they should not be given preference in the rules for it. Especially if it is going to make the racing boring. Design an engine that can run with the rest.

Could this be a way to keep BMW from pulling an "Aprilia" and winning the title on a new machine very quickly?

I still think that this is all part of the "green"(red) movement. The change from 2 stroke to 4 stroke, lowering fuel limits, restricting test time... Sure they use "money" and costs as a reason to cut back, but Im sorry, I just dont buy that. I think part of the reasoning is to "green" these series.

The problem of course is that WSBK is a production based class, so there are tons of other rules which impact power. Hence, it's not about which engine design has theoretically the best power delivery, but rather what parts they can swap out from stock to racing.

Example: Ducati wants to increase throttle body diameter in their bikes to increase power. This has the side effect of requiring more fuel to run; so clearly they're not currently limited by the 24L fuel rule on most tracks. No doubt they believe that reducing the max fuel load the I4's will loose more power then they will.

It seems the manufacturers have no interest in good racing.

You have to wonder about the verity of this story though. What raises my suspicions is that the proposal was supposedly,
"put forward by Honda, Suzuki and Ducati"
Is that the same Ducati who just pulled out of WSBK?

They are still on the series' technical advisory committee

[tinfoil hat]WSBK is rev-limited. The evidence is in the BSB rulebook which refers to an FIM homologated rev limit for 1000cc motorcycles, and besides, all of the bikes make the same power and roughly the same speed which is ridiculous considering how different the engines are. I have no proof, but I believe that the rev limit increase incrementally year by year to keep things fresh and give a modest regulated increase in horsepower.

Ducati switched to 1200cc in 2008 b/c making a 1000cc twin rev to over 13,000rpm was a masochistic exercise. By adding 200cc it was impossible to have a single rev limit so they air restricted the Ducati to keep things equal. This arrangement is proving to be troublesome and is against the stated purpose of the new 1000cc formula which is supposed to eliminate the need for multiple displacements. This announcement to reduce power completely explains the seemingly crack-pot idea that Ducati were going to build another 1000cc Hypertwin for WSBK. If the rev limit goes down, another 1000cc twin makes just as much sense as the old 999R.

There is a war going on behind the scenes. The MSMA want to reduce horsepower in WSBK, but it is painfully obvious that the Flamminis will kill to keep the homologated rev limit a secret. To drop the rev limit they need a diversion. For quite a long time the manufacturers have been pushing to make the series more stock to reduce costs and drop the rev limit, but the Flamminis will not part with the exotic titanium race parts unless they have no alternatives. The fuel limit is a perfect diversion, and the MSMA are even telling the general public that they are trying to reduce horsepower. In other words, the FIM are probably dropping the rev limit back down to 12,500rpm (200bhp) b/c those engine speeds are cheaper, safer, and more accommodating to all engine formats, including twins like the old 999R lump.

Up until this time, everyone assumed the rev limit was going to continue to increase slowly, and BMW built a massively oversquare 80mm SBK engine. The S1000RR engine will not really hit its stride until the bikes start to creep up around 14,000rpm. If the FIA use fuel restrictions to disguise a reduction in the rev limit, it plays directly into the hands of the small bore teams like Suzuki, Honda, and Kawasaki as well as the twin manufacturers like Ducati. It simultaneously disadvantages the big bore teams like Aprilia, Yamaha, but most of all BMW who have eclipsed the 1.5:1 bore stroke ratio that the manufacturers usually refuse to exceed (even in the 750 era). BMW is also disadvantaged b/c of the electronics concerns they quote.

AFAIK, there are no fuel restriction in WSBK, in fact, the biggest gas guzzler on the grid simply enlarged their tank for the 2010 season so they wouldn't ever run out of gas on the final turn again (Yamaha). Their fuel consumption explains why they have not supported the measure while other MSMA members have. Yamaha also run a relatively high bore number (78mm).

The GP members of the MSMA (less Yamaha) have proposed this as a way of cutting costs b/c they know the fuel limit will not regulate max power. That's what the homologated rev limit is for.Ultimately, I think this is designed to halt the upward climb of bore numbers and rev ceilings in the production market which has put 1000cc race bikes in the crosshairs of legislators everywhere.
[/tinfoil hat]

Sorry, for the hat, but once you assume that WSBK as rev limited, EVERYTHING makes since. From the identical speeds of the small-bore Suzuki and the big-bore BMW, to Ducati's withdrawal from WSBK to work on a new oversquare 1000cc Hypersport twin, to fuel-limit proposals from the MSMA in the name of cost reduction. If WSBK is not fuel limited by restricting fuel capacity (b/c it is rev limited), then reducing fuel capacity should not increase costs significantly. That is the logic, but what actually occurs is anyone's guess.

In the original post, I said that the most important thing to the MSMA was to legislate a lower rev limit to replace the current rev limit. Now you've just told me that Honda, Suzuki, and Ducati have actually have proposed a rev limit below current engine speeds.

How am I supposed to react to this information? How did I know they are okay with a rev limit when they have refused a rev limit in MotoGP over and over and over again?

WSBK has no horsepower war, and it won't have a horsepower war in the future. Some people think this is caused by the miracle of mass production. Some think it's the tires. Some think it's the homologated rev limit.

Honda and Suzuki don't strike me as people who want to help Ducati win, but that's exactly what would happen if WSBK was fuel-limited. Positive valve actuation would be a big advantage.

We need the homologation papers. The homologation papers have specifications not listed in the rulebook. For instance, from 2011 max fuel pressure is regulated in the homologation papers, but not in the rulebook.

Without the homologation papers we will never know exactly what is regulated and what isn't.

BTW, I was mistaken about fuel limit. It's plain as day in the rule book at 24L. I'm surprised that Yamaha weren't running max capacity in 2009.

They would just leave things alone. They have great racing, why mess it up?

Fuel limits on racing machines is absolutely rididulous - for any series.

WSBK should be racing stock (or very close to stock) machines and MotoGP should only have minimum weight, max number of cylinders and no electronic aids.

Isn't it monumentaly stupid that Honda raided a couple of computer programmers and now their machine is faster. I don't care how good the programmers are.

I may just quit watching all but dirt track racing if this comes about.


The inmates are running the asylum.

I hope I don't have to make an addition to my signature................ !

Looking at the Moto GP rules, no one should ever underestimate the power of stupid people in groups.

Why not just freakin force the teams to use production bikes? This is a solution to an artificially created problem: a rule to fix another rule. Stupid.

However, if they go down this path and the WSBK racing becomes even more boring, perhaps it will finally prove to the GPC that the fuel limits are at the heart of the MotoGP problem.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

I agree with you Rats. WTF....

Next thing you know, in a week there will be a proposal to follow this one to drop displacement in WSBK to 800cc.

Nail on the head domino,well said.
Sometimes,actually most times I wish they would drag SBK straight back to it's roots.Race on Sunday,buy on Monday. Stupid rules generate even more stupid modification of rules.
Example : Back in the '70's and early '80's we raced Ducati's in three SBK classes,namely 5OO,750 and 1000,using the 500 and 600 Pantah's and the 900SS. The SS naturally got smoked by the 1000cc 4's although it was a sweet handler.
The Pantah trounced everything in 500,the 600 struggled against 750 4's,but did win the title in '82 in Dave Petersen's hands.Then Kawa came up with the GPZ 550. To accomadate Kawasaki,the limit was raised to 550,but the 500 Pantah still won.Then it was discovered at a scrutiny that the Kwak was actually 553cc,so the fools changed the class to 560.
Correctly,they should have allowed the 583cc (600 Pantah) compete here,but no it had to race against 750 4's.
So,yes,I would actually love to see everything go back to a Superstock form of SBK.
Provided it is a standard,mass produced motorcycle for public consumption,homologate it,be it an 1800cc Harley or a 954 Fireblade,lose the ancilliary equipment,fasten what needs to be fastened,production tyres that you and I can purchase,fuel capacity as delivered on the dealer's floor and let's go racing with whatever each manufacturer deems their top of the range sports bike.
Proddy racing was great back then.

Superstock ruins production bikes b/c it forces the manufacturers to sacrifice reliability for performance. The FIM should ban stock compression racing or Superstock should move to a fixed compression ratio like 12.5:1. Manufacturers can either make piston kits to drop compression (Honda would need to raise compression) or they can build their stock bikes to Superstock compression rules.

Racing stock machines is a bad idea, imo, b/c it turns street bikes into race bikes (sounds cool but it isn't). Racing heavily modified machines with production-relevant parts is a good idea. In other words, keep the same rules in WSBK but ban carbon fiber, raise the min weight, ban bottom end titanium engine internals, ban titanium exhaust, and ban other exotic mods that do very little other than raise costs.

I have yet to read one of your posts that makes any sort of technical sense.

Superstock is stock compression.

If a manufacturer wants to win Superstock, they have to build a stock race bike with high compression and a high rev ceiling like BMW have done. This creates reliability and production-cost problems which is why manufacturers like Honda still run relatively low stock compression (12.3:1).

If the manufacturers can modify the bike for racing, the stock machine can remain road relevant and better for the end consumer. But if you allow hundreds of exotic modifications, the series goes to hell b/c no one can afford the parts. If the exotic titanium and carbon fiber mods are replaced with low-cost production-relevant aluminum kit, costs can be reduced.


While I understand what you are saying and it does make sense, it makes me think that maybe you don't realize that S1000RR's, R1's, CBR1000RR's, ZX10's, GSXR1000's,RSV4's, RC8's and 1198's are production race replicas.

They aren't designed to last forever. They are designed to have the snot beat out of them and go fast around a track. If your concern is with the life of the vehicle these aren't appropriate choices of vehicle. You can have performance or you can have longevity and reliability. They don't mix well but currently their is a balance between the two that it sounds like you are happy with. You are implying that the balance would move to performance and away from reliability and longevity. That is true only if there is a market for it. The market will decide what is the best combination. Sort of like the market has pushed Ducati to increase the valve inspection interval in all of it's bikes.

If it means that production race replicas move to $25K on average and the motors are only good for 5000, 10000 or 20000 km that would suck for most people who own these sort of bikes today. Then those people wouldn't buy these machines and the OEMs would have to figure out how to get their customers back. They are already hurting enough with the current economic climate. I just don't see them pricing out customers from such a lucrative segment. What would be the point?
"Wow, now we won a race so people will want to buy our bike that they can't afford."

That is my opinion, not to be rude, but it just seems like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

Demand controls the motorcycle market, unless it is what I demand in which case it is unreasonable. I'm going to need a minute to digest that market principle.

Racing is not like other segments b/c the bikes are built to the demands of the governing bodies who write the rulebooks. If the mfgs want exposure, they've got to get the bike to the front. If they want to get to the front, they've got to build a disposable racebike and then convince consumers to buy it. So if Superstock had a fixed compression ratio, it would stop the FIM from demanding disposable racebikes from the manufacturers. The manufacturers are not giving consumers what they want (clearly), they are trying to balance the demands of the rulebook and the demands of road riders. Looking at industry trends over the last 3 years, I'd say it's going quite poorly.

If we were talking about new government regs, I'd agree with you. Much better to let the industry collapse and learn from it's mistakes. When the mistakes are being driven by the perverse incentives of a private entity, I don't really see any reason for it to continue.

Don't do it. Please.

I've rewritten this damn post seven times. I can't find a way to keep from it being filled with common sense, which is hugely offensive to emotional "green" arguments, as well as the politically liberal among us, so I've deleted 90% of my post for the last time. I'll just say that fuel limits are maddeningly pointless. They send the cost of participation through the sky, they make the "spectacle" anything BUT a spectacle, and they ruin my favorite motorsport. Oil is the very antithesis of scarce, and as far as the whole "green" thing...I've already deleted all that I had to say about that. So that's all I'll say.

Nicky had this to say today about the state of racing, BTW...

MotoGP has given a perfect blueprint of how NOT to implement supposed performance and/or cost reducing strategies - laptimes have continued to tumble, costs have increased exponentially, and the racing has become so dull as to disillusion all but the most obsessive fans.

If I understand it right, WSBK does not let the manufacturers dictate the rules, and the Flamini bros have their finger on the racing pulse, continually adjusting the category to retain excitement and relevance.

Let's hope they don't allow their series to be taken down this garden path by this clique of manufacturers who monopolise the technology required to compete effectively under such limitations.

are Prototypes in all but name. They are currently refining their machines to mimick the scalextric 800's. MM controlled wheels in line, high corner speed, precise line racing.

In a series of posts I was writing about Ducati's withdrawal from factory participation in World Superbikes it became clear to me that World Superbikes is headed towards World Senior Supersport like most of the domestic Superbike series these days.

If you want a model for what will happen to Superbike grids in 2012, look know further than the Moto2 vs World Supersport experience this year.

Ducati News, Reviews and Opinion or Tweet me @ducatinewstoday