World Superbike Races Split Over Saturday And Sunday, Homologation Numbers Reduced

The World Superbike championship is to undergo a radical shake up. Today, the Superbike Commission, WSBK's rule-making body, announced two major changes aimed at improving the health of the series.

The first change is the most noticeable. As predicted when the 2016 WSBK Calendar was published, World Superbike races are to be held on both Saturdays and Sundays, with Race 1 being held on Saturday, Race 2 on Sunday. This means that Superpole has now been moved to Saturday morning, rather than the afternoon. 

The move, the Superbike Commission says, is to provide a fuller experience for fans at a WSBK weekend. The move has been made after consultation with the teams, TV broadcasters and with circuit owners, which produced positive feedback. How fans will react remains to be seen: the AMA ran races on Saturday and Sunday during the DMG era, which met with a mixed reception, but that era in the US was so tainted by the DMG it is hard to know whether the issue was with the format or much wider. 

New for the schedule is a change to World Supersport qualifying. No longer will the support class use a single session of qualifying, but WSS will now also adopt the two-stage Superpole format used by World Superbikes, and taken over from MotoGP. Places in Superpole will now be decided on times set during Free Practice on Friday, for both World Supersport and World Superbike.

Much less visible, but potentially with a much bigger impact, are the changes being made to the homologation procedures. After a period during which homologation numbers were increased, causing problems for smaller manufacturers, the numbers are to be reduced again. From 2016, the minimum quantity of homologated units to be sold is now 500, down from 1000 for 2015.

This change is possibly designed to reflect the changing market conditions for sportsbikes. Sales have been consistently falling, though a thriving market for more expensive, highly specialized machines continues to exist. Yamaha have produced a special racing version of their R1, the R1M, and Honda are said to be working on two different bikes for 2017, an uprated CBR1000RR for road use, and a more extreme V4 bike for racing purposes. Production runs of 500 make much more sense in that context, rather than factories having to gamble on selling enough of a homologated machine. This will also help factories such as Ducati and Aprilia, which have struggled to be competitive on their bikes for mass production. Now, Ducati and Aprilia can produce more highly tuned versions of their Superbikes, and still expect to sell enough to make the homologation numbers. 

To ensure that costs do not spiral out of control once again, engine modifications remain limited, and the price cap for the bikes remains in place. The maximum retail price for a bike homologated for World Superbikes remains €40,000. 

A further concession has been made to manufacturers, allowing them to stagger their production schedules. It will now be possible to homologate new motorcycles mid-season, instead of having to wait until the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Suzuki is likely to be the first manufacturer to benefit from this change, the Japanese factory expecting to launch a brand new and radically revised GSX-R1000 in the middle of 2016. Though no one will be racing Suzukis in the World Superbike class next year, the bike could be homologated and developed in the Superstock 1000 class during 2016, ready for Suzuki's expected return to WSBK in 2017.

Below is the press release containing the changes and the revised schedule from the FIM:

Motul FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Changes to Regulations for 2016 (and beyond)

The Superbike Commission composed of Messrs Javier Alonso (DWO Executive Director), Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA Representative), Rezsö Bulcsu (FIM CCR Director) met at Madrid, at the Dorna HQ, on 10 December 2015 in the presence of of MM Corrado Cecchinelli, Gregorio Lavilla, (Dorna), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Charles Hennekam, Scott Smart and Paul Duparc (FIM Representatives).

The following changes have been decided in the 2015 FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championships and Superstock 1000 Cup Regulations:

New time schedule and Introduction of a Superpole in the Supersport category.

For 2016, the FIM and Dorna WorldSBK Organization (DWO) are proud to unveil a new era for the well-awaited Motul FIM Superbike World Championship Race Schedule, marking a turning point in WorldSBK history.

After positive feedback and input from the WorldSBK Series Promotors, Circuits, Manufacturers, Sponsors, and TV Broadcasters, DWO has worked tirelessly to bring forward a new, revamped WorldSBK race weekend schedule. Traditionally held on Sunday morning, Race 1 will now take place on Saturday afternoons, with definitive timetable changes aimed at creating a flexible time schedule for fan experiences to enjoy a more complete and exciting WorldSBK experience from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon

In this new format, Saturday is aimed at offering increased fan attendance and especially the chance to feel the adrenaline of WorldSBK racing during the 3 day event. In addition, Organisers and Sponsors will be able to offer an even bigger selection of special events and shows, allowing fans to enjoy both on and off track action in a way never previously possible. These fundamental timetable changes will prove pivotal in getting WorldSBK fans closer to the action, both those in the grandstands and the millions watching live TV around the world. With more flexibility afforded to the schedule, the new time slots will ensure that each and every fan is able to enjoy the best of the WorldSBK paddock, either at the track or at home. Athletes and Teams will be more available with less timing constraints, whilst the new time slots will give more flexibility to Organizers to actively design and dedicate activities within each and every event, ensuring the proximity and engagement of Fans attending.

Free practice sessions and those timed for qualifying will now take place on Friday, an addition for 2016 will see also the FIM Supersport World Championship adopting the Superpole sessions format as like WorldSBK, which will take place on Saturday mornings, before the lights go out for the first WorldSBK Race 1 in the afternoon. Sunday morning will be dedicated to Warm Up sessions before WorldSSP and WorldSBK kick off the racing action for the second time over the weekend giving fans a further opportunity to experience one of the most exciting and exhilarating motorcycle racing championships in the world.

08:45 10:15 1:30 WorldSBK Technical/Sporting Checks
09:15 10:00 0:45 STK1000 Free Practice 1
10:15 11:15 1:00 WorldSBK Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying
11:30 12:30 1:00 WorldSSP Free Practice 1 Timed for Qualifying
13:30 14:30 1:00 WorldSBK Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying
14:45 15:45 1:00 WorldSSP Free Practice 2 Timed for Qualifying
16:00 16:45 0:45 STK1000 Free Practice 2
17:00 17:30 0:30 European Jr Cup Free Practice
08:45 09:00 0:15 WorldSBK Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying
09:15 09:30 0:15 WorldSSP Free Practice 3 Not Timed for Qualifying
09:45 10:15 0:30 European Jr Cup Qualifying 1
10:30 10:45 0:15 WorldSBK Superpole 1
10:55 11:10 0:15 WorldSBK Superpole 2
11:30 11:45 0:15 WorldSSP Superpole 1
11:55 12:10 0:15 WorldSSP Superpole 2
13:00   WorldSBK RACE 1
14:15 14:45 0:30 STK1000 Qualifying
15:00 15:30 0:30 European Jr Cup Qualifying 2
15.45     Pit Walk - Spectator activities
09:00 09:15 0:15 WorldSSP Warm Up
09:25 09:40 0:15 WorldSBK Warm Up
09:50 10:05 0:15 STK1000 Warm Up
10:15 11:00 0:45 MKT  Alfa Romeo Laps Experience
10:15 11:00 0:45 Pit Walk Pit Walk
11:20   WorldSSP RACE
13:00   WorldSBK RACE 2
14:20   STK1000 RACE
15:15   European Jr Cup RACE
16.00     Spectator activities

Additional Sporting, Technical and Medical Regulations

Slight changes to the Regulations have been decided:

  • Clarification of practice restrictions: the principle being to give to the teams/riders a lumpsum of testing days for events other than at the WorldSBK. A waiver will be granted by the WorldSBK Race Direction if the teams/riders participate really to the other events with the machine conforming to the technical requirements of this distinct Championship.
  • SBK Class: race distance and new parameters for restarted have been reviewed.
  • The homologation rules have been updated to allow for the homologation of new motorcycle models, part way through the season and to allow these to compete during the same season. The minimum production requirement has been reduced to 500 machines (units).
  • Revised Medical Regulations were adopted.

The 2016 sporting, technical, disciplinary and medical regulations will be available on the FIM website shortly.

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Probably '15 is the last year I visited the WSBK. What attracted me most was a full day of proper racing on Sunday....

Just a detail, but the R1M is not a 'special racing version', it is the road bike with a different suspension system, with electronically adjustable and adaptive damping, and it comes with a cool datalogging system as standard. Plus a nicer looking clear finish on the swing arm and fuel tank and some carbon fiber bits. It's a good thing to have different versions available though, it's something that Ducati, Aprilia and MV Agusta have been doing successfully forever. Well, actually almost all European manufacturers I think. All Japanese manufacturers should do it too, would be cool. Honda has an Öhlins-shod SP version since some time now, which is nice if you are a Fireblade man (or woman). It's a relatively easy to add version to the range, I'd think.

What I meant by calling the R1M a "special racing version" was the version of the bike intended to be homologated for racing. The R1M has a few parts which could otherwise not be changed for WSBK. So yes, it is a road bike, but it is the version of Yamaha's road bike they sell to people intending to turn it into a race bike, in the same way that Ducati sells the Panigale R to people who intend to go racing. It doesn't mean that you can't use it as a road bike (you have to be able to, otherwise it doesn't qualify for WSBK), just that you won't see too many of them on the street.

I'm not sure this is the best idea. I understand Saturday attendance is low compared to GP, but WSBK isn't what it was five years ago. This will more than likely just hurt Sunday attendance rather than increase the attendance on Saturday.

I can't think of a better way of completely killing off World Super Bikes as a series!

Does anybody coming up with these schemes ever part with there own money and time to attend any of these events?

Well that's quiet a workload on saturday for the WSBK riders. Imagine yourself being focused for saturday Q1-Q2 to determine a good starting grid for yourself, and then bringing the same energy and intent to get the best position you can in the race, roughly two hours later. Tha'ts on top of a free practice as well.

There is no doubt that WSBK is on life support systems. So it is a matter of time before it breathes its last and Dorna is playing the role of a Physician who assists in killing a terminally ill patient who can't take the pain anymore. For me at least, the best thing to do would be to merge the two series MotoGP and World Superbikes and take the strengths of both and provide a proper viewing experience for those who spectate. The Moto2 category which has been bearing the brunt of people's ire since most seem to believe that it is a farce. How about replacing it with the WSBK. Then the manufacturers also can concentrate on synergies and riders also will be better prepared to go from the Superbike to MotoGP since both use 1000 cc engines. Moto3 can give way to the Supersports class and what is now Moto3 can be run along with the red bull rookies. Increase the maximum age for participation in the Supersport class to 18. Moto3 should be used as a ground for building up and unearthing talent in the different national categories. It can even replace the Red Bull Rookies.

The combination of the two series and the synergies will bring down development costs for factories. That way more factories can participate. As of now WSBK is meaningless. In India, Star Sports used to telecast WSBK races. Now they have stopped it and prefer showing cricket matches that were played some decades ago or just run repeats of football matches played in the EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and even matches from the Scottish and Irish league. The other sports channel that now shows MotoGP prefers subjecting its viewers to WWE rather than do a live transmission of the WSBK. Please note that the Star TV network and the Ten sports network have 4 to 6 channels and some of them in HD. So its not the problem of too many things and just one channel. In India all the big manufacturers have set shop. Apart from the Japanese 4, Ducati, MV Agusta, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Benelli, Harley Davidson, Polaris with its Indian Motorcycles, Triumph etc are all there. Unlike in Europe the market for big bikes is showing greater growth in India. Dorna seems to be playing deaf, dumb and blind. Well then so be it.

I don't see this being good for riders who want to get to MotoGP. From what I've read, a Moto2 bike has a much stiffer chassis, with more adjustments that need to be correct in order to be competitive on Sunday. So I'm thinking that learning how to set up a Moto2 chassis is better preparations for MotoGP more than the similarity in displacement and power. I believe this was the same thing that was said about learning on 250 GP machines as opposed to production race bikes.

There's been a lot more Moto2 graduates who are now competing in MotoGP compared to Superbike racers from the various national series. I'm going to claim that's because they were better prepared by their Moto2 experience, but I do acknowledge the long standing bias against Superbike riders in the MotoGP paddock.

Echo what everyone else has said.

I still don't understand what caused the massive drop in attendance a few years ago, but this won't help. With this and the loss of the European Stock 600 class altogether, the package of races (as with MotoGP or BSB) which would be the selling point of WSB coverage has been completely ripped up.

I want WSB to succeed (sometimes my posts here are critical of it against BSB), but sometimes it really doesn't help itself.