World Superbike Homologation Numbers Halved As Sports Bike Sales Fall

The continuing worldwide decline in sports bike sales has forced the Superbike Commission to reduce the minimum number of motorcycles to be produced for homologation, to be allowed to take part in the World Superbike series. As of now, manufacturers wishing to race a particular motorcycle must have sold 250 bikes by the end of their first year of racing in WSBK, and 1000 bikes by the end of the second year, half the requirements previously on the books. But manufacturers will still have to have produced 125 bikes before they can even embark on the homologation procedure.

The sales numbers have been reduced in response to the continuing decline in sales of large and middleweight sports bikes around the world, under pressure from increasing speed restrictions and monitoring on public roads. Even Honda is reportedly having problems selling the required numbers of the CBR1000RR SP, despite the popularity of the bike. The declining sports bike market is rumored to have persuaded Honda to shelve its V4 sports bike, which has already been postponed once. Smaller manufacturers have faced similar problems, with Aprilia struggling to sell the RSV4, despite the bike having won two world championships and consistently been a championship contender. 

The decrease in minimum homologation numbers reverses the previous trend. The last change to homologation numbers was to increase it, to prevent manufacturers from producing so-called homologation specials, high price-tag bikes aimed purely at racing. That move was said to have been aimed at reining in Ducati, in particular, which was producing ever more exotic versions of its superbike contender in very small quantities. As sports bike sales have stagnated, it is no longer commercially viable to produce such small-run specials, making it easier to reduce the minimum sales numbers. 

The minimum quantity of 1000 bikes is still thought to be too large for smaller, specialist builders to achieve. Italian builder Bimota has signed with the Francis Batta of Alstare to campaign the BMW-powered BB3 in World Superbikes, but even selling 1000 bikes in two years could be beyond their reach. Whether the Superbike Commission will find agreement on a solution for 'micro-manufacturers' like Bimota remains to be seen. This reduction was only passed by a majority vote, rather than unanimously. Which of the participants - teams, FIM, Dorna and the manufacturers - voted against the reduction is not known.

Below is the press release from the FIM announcing the new homologation numbers:

FIM Superbike World Championship

New homologation procedure

The FIM is pleased to announce that a new homologation procedure has been approved by a majority within the Superbike Commission.

It is a common intention to bring the homologation requirements in line with the current situation of the motorcycle industry and markets worldwide.

The major impact of the new regulation is related to the total required number of units to be produced:

  • The minimum number of units to start the homologation procedure will be 125.
  • At the end of the first year of participation, manufacturers will have to reach 250 units.
  • At the end of the second year of participation, manufacturers will have to reach 1000 units.

The Superbike Commission will follow closely the production plan of each manufacturer in order to control the minimum number of units produced as above and guarantee the fairness of competition.

The Superbike Commission are still considering further improvements to the new rules and discussions will be held in Phillip Island, Australia, during the first Round of the WSBK Championship (21-23 February).

A full description will be included inside the WSBK technical regulations 2014 that will be updated on the FIM website in the following days.

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make the homologation requirement a function or percentage of overall motorcycle production. that way the number scales up for big guys like honda, middle-guys like yam/suz/kaw, and little guys like aprilia and tiny guys like bimota.

.... Petronas FP1's are still sitting in that warehouse gathering dust ?

I fully understand the whole homologation idea but I fear these numbers may need cutting back even more. The fact is, nobody has any money anywhere in the world.

Wages are poor, unemployment is at an all time high & a luxury like a 1000cc "toy" is becoming out of many peoples grasp.

Fingers crossed things change for the better (on all accounts) soon enough as it would be a shame to loose team's & riders out of the championship due a number chosen by a suit.

That there is a company such as Bimota ready and willing to participate in WSBK but disallowed due to a rule that was intended to stop much larger companies from 'gaming' the system, is a crying shame.

Surely some accomodation needs to be worked out. 1000 bikes in two years appears to be more bikes than Bimota have ever produced, from what little information seems to exist.

I think it would be unlikely that mv could sell enough of its gorgeous F4 in that two year period. I would do my part, but the banking industry will not cooperate.

Once upon a time I can remember watching orthodox looking Japanese factory I-4s racing against privateer Ducati & Moto Guzzi V-twins, BMW Boxer twins, Yamaha OW31s, Laverda's V-6, Mead & Tompkinson's Laverda I-3 Nessie, JapAuto Hondas, Honda I-6s, Gold Wing flat 4s and sundry other exotica in the Bol d'Or and other World Endurance Championship races.
Now it's just I-4s, the Ducati and Buell V twins and the Aprilia V-4s.
A good part of the old spectacle was the diverse machinery and varied sounds, and you'd think DORNA would want to encourage such diversity. IMO I doubt homologation restrictions will help achieve this, and rules that encourage close racing and lower costs are far more desirable.
After all, who wouldn't want to see some Triumph I-3s enriching the field and competing as contenders?

So much for race on Sunday, sell on Monday.

I don't think the recession is the only reason for the decline in sportbike sales.

BMW had an increase in overall sales led by their adventure tourer last year. People might just be more interested in other types. Standards have been coming more in vogue the past few years anyway, as manufacturers have been introducing more New models in that category.

Perhaps it's true though that sportbike's traditional consumer base, young adults, just don't have the $$ or access to credit to drive the segment anymore.

But let's face it, sportbikes are uncomfortable, and for one specific reason, to reduce air drag at very high speeds, ie to race.

Maybe people aren't interested in wearing high heels everyday when they really just need tennis shoes.

I love racing but have 0 interest in buying a sportbike.

Maybe they need to change the rules to allow other models based on the same engine and chassis as the models they race, allowing for changes in subframes for adaptations as standards to make it easier for companies to hit numbers and cross market the appeal from track to street a bit better.

I blame climate change. 

No, wait, hear me out, don't run away. Please come back.

We've had rubbish summers in the UK for two years, and Superbikes are a summer luxury. If we have wet summers, adventure bikes sell.

See? Climate change.

I'll get my coat.

But I like to base my opinions more on the fact that I love motorcycles than on science.

Still, it's hard for me to ignore that less predictable weather, among other things, has basically run the largest, most well-established, motorcycle track day organization in my area out of business. It's got to have some effect.

I'll get my coat too

In the ten years that have passed since I bought My 2004 CBR 1000RR the price of the bike has risen 50% or so. My wages haven't. I would love to go out and buy a brand new sportbike but at MSRP's starting a $15k I barely bother thinking about it. The CBR especially has hardly even changed much since 2008 besides the price. Also, sport bike insurance in the U.S. has gotten so completely ridiculous that no one under the age of 75 can finance a 1000cc bike.

How can EBR expect to sell 1000 copies of their bike at $50k when it can't even keep up with the Super Sport lap times?

I am in the same boat. I get to ride all the new literbikes, and they're wonderful, but there simply isn't $15,000 worth of difference between the riding experience they deliver and the experience my 2002 R1 delivers.

I see a lot of inexpensive bikes hitting the U.S. showrooms nowadays. I think - and hope - that it's a good sign.

I still enjoy watching racing but the appeal of owning a sports bike is lower now than ever, for me. Ignore my aching bones that don't want to contort into odd shapes, my driving forces (sorry) are; keeping my licence and my life!

In the UK get caught at 30 over a limit and it is an automatic licence ban. It might only be for a few weeks but you then have to explain that to your insurance company. Their reply can vary from "lots of £ please" to "No thank you we'd rather not insure you".

On top of that our roads are just getting very congested and tearing around at break-neck speed is quite likely to end - erm, badly!

I can see the appeal of a bike that doesn't have to hurtle around the place flat out whether that be that an adventure, a naked/standard or a tourer - they can all be quick machines too just, not so single minded.

Where that leaves the sports bike market I'm not so sure - at the top of a slippery slope I think.

The Japanese had a dream of racing mass-produced superbikes and supersports, but they had the wrong dream. Governments are fighting the proliferation of sportsbikes with regulation. Consumers lack purchasing power.

Put the homologation quantity at 250 units. Establish basic homologation rules for materials, engineering sophistication, and electronics. Simplify the technical regulations to Supersport or similar. Let the manufacturers figure out the best way to sell premium motorcycles. Let the manufacturers decide pricing strategy, produce lifecycle, etc.

The D16RR sold nearly 1500 units at $72,500 each, yet the D16RR was not built to compete in any series. Do the math. Ducati earned over $108M in sales revenue from the D16RR. That's how SBK should be run. Premium bikes sold in low-quantities. They will hold their value of decades, and they will be special to fans and road-riders.

As a person who has sold several,many hundreds of motorcycles over time(of virtually every brand and type),I can say confidently that Sportbikes (and cruiser) sales are down because they are dependent upon beginner and weekend returning riders with lots of credit who will follow the greatest sales philosophy contrived since the U.S. auto industries planned obsolescence "tail fin" era of the whit...sell a 600cc limited use,pain in the ass motorcycle and accompanying accessories(exhaust,w/s,lowering kits,t/s eliminators,huggers,chrome this and that etc. etc...)...wait 6 months and when the poor saps (now grown tired and bored of "cruising" or "sporting" around on their uncomfortable and unusable as everyday machines) come wobbling back in and express their inform them the problem is actually that they have outgrown their beloved steed and they simply need a bigger version of the same pile of limited use junk(in a practical sense)....and repeat the process on the 750/900/1000 version....and then wait a year for the depreciation to be absorbed a bit better and sell them a 1200/1300/1400/1500/1600 and so on......This worked to the tune of many millions of dollars and tens of thousands of motorcycles sold throughout the 2000's till the day it didn't when the credit train broke down...and now the only people really buying bikes are buying them to ride wherever and whenever they want,carrying whatever they want...going faster than all the cars,cruisers and baggy pant stunt boy yimyaps while doing so.....the bikes are better than ever,but a retro tractor peg grinder or an engineering marvel of a sportbike capable of offering seemingly unlimited performance in exchange for high insurance and low usability just doesn't have the same ring to it that it once did....naked standards/sports and the "adventure" bikes can bust most anything in the ass in the mountains and still take you around the country/world or simply to work,with a grocery stop on the way home(without the inanity of a backpack).......exceptions? of course..we all know one/are one.... and no point in reciting them......but exceptions are not what sales and profits(or homologation numbers) are made of and these numbers do not lie.....

Thank you for the most succint analysis of the stupid 'sport' bike craze. Some of us had sated our 'need for speed' with 250 km/h Kawasaki and Suzuki 750s in the 1990s and whilst being impressed (very) with the 1000cc bikes, they could only be 'used' on the race track. There are very few places you can ride these things. I guess it also shows that only Harley-Davidson has a clue as to what is going on. The Japanese are in the woods.

Perhaps the answer - for racing - is to require Open class MotoGP bike engines to be based on Superbike motors.

And perhaps the answer for Superbike is to replace the rules with a revised set of the old FIM Formula 750 or TT Formula One regs. Modified street bike (sorry, 'sport' bike) engines in any chassis you want to bring to the party.

That may get rid of those crappy, cast alloy frames too.

Then in time, absorb Superbike into MotoGP.