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World Superbikes - official story

1st August 2003

After several weeks speculation, rumour, denial and, occasionally, fabrication, the truth about planned changes in the regulations for the World Superbike Championship (SBK) is finally available. In part, anyway.

Here is the statement made by the President of the FGSPORT Group, Maurizio Flammini:

“The agreement with Pirelli, a world leader in the manufacture of tyres, guarantees the development and the continuity of the SUPERBIKE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, which has been the primary thought behind our Group that has been committed to the organization of the Championship since 1988. Moreover, the agreement strictly adheres to the philosophy of the Championship that is to offer equal racing conditions to all participants. In this respect, we would like to thank Pirelli for the significant organizational and technological efforts that it will undertake over the next few years which, we are certain, will create the ideal conditions for new, important developments for motorcycle manufacturers, teams and riders in the Championship and in racing itself ”.

What does that actually mean? In a nutshell all tyres for the World Superbikes, Supersports and Superstock series will be supplied by Pirelli, removing the notional advantage that one tyre may have over another at certain circuits and in some conditions. In theory, this should help toward making the series more accessible to privateer teams by reducing costs. Pirelli will also be fronting a large prize fund to attract further entrants.

The implications for the sport are far from certain. Expect, though, to see a number of teams and riders walk away. When we interviewed Neil Hodgson last week, he was particularly scathing of the idea, suggesting that if it went through then he would certainly be looking to move to MotoGP as he felt that he did not belong in a production series. Indeed, he went as far as to suggest that this was just the thin end of the wedge and to wonder aloud exactly where the changes would stop. You may notice that none of the riders pictured in this article are on Pirelli tyres at present - Michelin and Dunlop rule the Superbikes roost.

It is also, of course, by no means certain whether the British domestic series will follow suit. If it does then we may well see grids swell and racing get closer as costs drop. We may also, of course, see an exodus of talent toward other, less restrictive series. If the British championship doesn't toe the line then we have probably seen the last British wildcard victories at Donnington and Brands.

There are other rule changes afoot as well, all nominally aimed at levelling the playing field further. There are strong hints of changes to the air restrictor requirements, possibilities of revised weight limits and other control requirements relating to permitted modifications. Rumours that riders will have to ride with dipped headlights, indicate before overtaking and be able to perform a feet up U-turn in the pits before entering the grid are being strenuously denied.

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