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
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
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
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.