Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 304: Argentina WorldSBK Review And Pondering Weight Limits

After Alvaro Bautista put one hand on the WorldSBK title in Argentina, Steve English, Charlie Hiscott, and Gordon Ritchie look back at the racing from San Juan Villicum, and have a very long debate over the merits and disadvantages of introducing minimum combined rider/bike weights. Steve, Charlie, and Gordo dive into whether a weight limit will fix this, finding other ways to penalize racers, and compare WorldSBK with Touring Car championships. They also ask how to make WorldSBK's other riders more competitive.

Then, Steve sits down with Ducati's Michael Ruben Rinaldi for a Renthal Street Session interview.

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...banging on about AB19's weigh!!

Did you guys ask Rinaldi what is the difference between himself and Bautista?? Aren't they the same weight??

With modern electronics is it possible for a team/ manufacturer to nobble a teammates bike, slightly, to ensure that the said team/manufacturer is not too successful as to warrant performance restrictions during a championship?

And Bautista, Toprak and Rea are outliers, performing noticeably better than their colleagues on the same brands of motorcycles. If you want to gather data to inform sensible discussion of the equalisation of performance of each brand then surely it makes more sense to compare the relative performance of the midfield riders of each marque rather than the very best or the very worst.

... this wasn't so much a review as a one hour moan about AB,s size/weight.  I enjoy the WSB podcasts but there's been a constant theme in the last few.  After reading the previous piece about the weight limit issue by DE it's clear there is no one perfect quick fix.

What made me realise just adding weight to a bike is an issue was when Whitham on Eurosport coverage said; 'is it fair to have the lightest rider on the grid riding the heaviest bike?'.  made me think revs would be the way to go.

They are discussing Bautista because it has become a joke. He can pass at will on long straights and not take risks anywhere else. The flip side is he is small and that is beneficial and he should benefit from that, and Ducati has built a great bike and should reap the rewards of that. How you balance this is worthy of discussion. 

If we start penalising a rider for a specific physical advantage, then where does this lead? Should we also penalise a rider who has a high IQ? It has very good eyesight? The riders need to work with what they are blessed with...

Couldn’t agree more.

It’d be like asking tall football players not to jump when they’re dueling with a small adversary.

Being a bit taller has its advantages too (weight transfers, wet riding,…)

And yes (sorry Baz (love ya) or Redding (get on with it damnit)), perhaps one can be too tall/heavy. Gotta learn to live with it in my opinion.

The only exception I might stomach, is series with equal machinery (moto2 for example). But even then I’m not convinced…

If AB wasn’t sitting on a rocket, this discussion would be non existent…

In all this discussion about his weight and size and the Ducati's power nobody seems to want to discuss that there might be a simple reason as to AB19's current dominance - that as well as his current machinery advantage maybe he's also a damn good rider. None of the commentary seems to want to acknowledge the possibility that Bautista is as good or even possibly better than Rea or Razgatlıoğlu. It seems to be all about how unfair it is on those two that they can't race Bautista with the implication being that they should be beating him but they can't. Baustista is a grand prix world champion, has 16 GP wins and 49 podiums - including on that rolling HRC test bench Gresini ahead of Rea on a factory Repsol. He was used to wrangling near 300hp beasts with much more rudimentary electronics than WSBK run while trying to save his tyres, no wonder he can get the power down earlier and harder out of corners than everyone else and keep up the relentless pace all race long.


I haven't heard a single discussion of this NOT mention Bautista’s talent. But that doesn’t change the fact that he can pass anyone else at will on long straights, or that he was not competitive on the Honda. All points that make for a complicated discussion. 

... was shite. I strongly agree that much of the conversation about this matter tends to under-rate Bautista's talent. You don't see the other Ducati riders walking away from Rea or Razgatlioglu, and neither Rinaldi nor Bassani are much bigger than Bautista, as far as I know. I only saw Bautista ride once, on the Suzuki Moto GP bike at Indianapolis, way back in 2011. My buddy and I, both racers at the time (him a lot more talented than I) were astounded watching him through Turns 2 and 3; he was absolutely violent with the bike, noticeably faster than anyone else. That would include people like Stoner, Rossi, Dovi, Lorenzo ... so yeah, I'd say his talent is why he's so fast, not just the fact he's got a great bike.

….the issue is the their fan boy Rea is not winning, and they blame it on the Ducatis. Of course, to top it off Toprak is getting his breakfast handed to him as well. That doesn’t look good since all 3 of them have pitched him as a front runner in MotoGP, if he was to move up, when in the reality he probably would be a midpack runner at best. 

"I only saw Bautista ride once, on the Suzuki Moto GP bike at Indianapolis, way back in 2011. My buddy and I, both racers at the time (him a lot more talented than I) were astounded watching him through Turns 2 and 3; he was absolutely violent with the bike, noticeably faster than anyone else. That would include people like Stoner, Rossi, Dovi, Lorenzo ... so yeah, I'd say his talent is why he's so fast, not just the fact he's got a great bike."

This is equivalent to watching Stoner in Turn 3 at Phillip Island.

Or when I saw Mat Mladin do a wildcard at Eastern Creek in Sydney during an Australian Superbike race weekend - the way he came over Corporate Hill and tipped into turn 8 was quite literally frightening from trackside.

Alvaro is just an absolutely top shelf racer, he showed his wares in WSB 2020 and for whatever reason the wheels fell off that year. Now we get to see just how good he is.

WSBK is a balance of performance series in which one rider is gaining a 50m advantage on every straight. Bautista’s talent is only involved insofar as he’s able to ride whatever setup they are using to get the power down.

The issue isn’t really about Bautista. The issue is whether a motorcycle in a BoP production bike series should be blowing by people. The obvious answer is no. Some of the riders are using the situation to argue for minimum combined weight. It’s curious that some fans want to tortured arguments about fairness when it has so little to do with the underlying issue.

….if you are being blown by maybe you as a manufacturer needs to step up the game, just how Ducati did with their Panigale, or what Honda did with RC51?

The world is not that simple, particularly not in production racing series. When SBK moved to BoP, they also moved back to the 500 unit homologation concept, the purpose of which is to allow people to purchase a bike that is competition ready, or as close as possible. The SBK commission felt safe that this maneuver would not degenerate into a 2-horse race between the rule-bending Italians and the Japanese mega-Corp, Honda, because the sport would now be using BoP.

Fortunately, WSBK is not a two-horse race (yet), but it’s obvious that Ducati have still found a way to game the system. BoP and price controls limit Ducati’s ability to use exotic materials and performance to create an advantage, but they have found a workaround by designing the bike to optimize performance for WSBK tires and BoP algorithms.

Ducati have done a great job cracking the code over the last 4-5 years, but other manufacturers cannot retool their entire series production manufacturing to design the motorcycle around Pirelli tires and around the setup demands of their current riders.

This is why the SBK Commission moved to BoP, to have rules that respond to manufacturers gaming the system, exploiting production advantages or utilizing loopholes. The rules are supposed to respond to obvious performance advantages that threaten the underlying technical concepts.

As I mentioned, some people want the SBK Commission to move to combined bike-rider minimum weight. Obviously, some of the bigger riders, Redding particularly, feel this would be more fair for them.

That’s it. Bautista is not really involved, and neither is Redding for that matter. This is about the technical concept and business model for WSBK.

….explaining the issue, however it doesn’t change the fact that each manufacturer has the option to do exactly what what Ducati did. 

Having been a fan of Bautista since he stepped up to 250cc (15 years ago?) what I am seeing is a slew of race fans who simply don’t understand how good the guy is. He’d be doing the same if he was on Rea or Toprak’s bike, and if you put him on a GP23 next year he’d be a top five title contender.

Maybe Ducati should send him and his WSB squad to Valencia as a wildcard next week :)

Thanks v4racer good points.

I reckon A.B.19 should get that wildcard ride! (this weekend, before Mandalika)

…should Bautista and Ducati be punished with fixed weight attached to the bike when the heavier riders have the same weight that they can move around while they move on the bike? Mika Kallio pointed this out while he was riding in Moto2. He even tried to compensate by using a heavier suit made from cow hide instead of hide from the Giant Australian Rat  

Also they brought up minimum weights in smaller classes like it’s a good thing? Yeah, it’s good thing if you are a fan of pack racing and riders getting run over. 

They changed the entire concept of the technical regulations halfway through Johnny’s reign. What do you find to be more significant? The moaning of fans? Or the SBK Commission instituting a new concept for the technical regs that is designed explicitly to stop one manufacturer from dominating?

With a glint of mischief in my eye can I also throw in this: Rea, Toprak and Scott’s team-mates all look a bit smaller than them - surely this logic says they should be in front? Because everything else is clearly equal. Ah, but talent comes into play. It does indeed.

The title’s been won fair and square in my book. Every champs run comes to an end at some point, for JR that was 2 seasons ago; Toprak could have won again this year if Yamaha built faster bikes.