WSBK To “Return to Its Roots” — Race Naked Bikes

04/01/2013 @ 12:07 am, by David Emmett25 COMMENTS

WSBK To Return to Its Roots    Race Naked Bikes ktm 690 duke track 635x423

The news that Dorna had been handed control over the World Superbike series struck terror into the hearts of WSBK fans around the globe. The fear was Dorna would use its position of controlling both World Superbikes and MotoGP to widen the technical gap between the two series in an attempt to cut costs.

With Dorna having so often complained that World Superbikes was encroaching on MotoGP territory, and with MotoGP’s technical regulations becoming ever more restrictive, the logical step would appear to be to severely restrict the level of machinery used in WSBK.

Over the winter, and during the first round of the 2013 World Superbike series, talks between Dorna, the Superbike teams, and the manufacturers involved in the series failed to make much headway. The factories could not agree among themselves what level of modification to allow, while the teams were unimpressed by Dorna’s demands that a WSBK machine should cost 250,000 euros a season, stating that the money saved in the bike would only be spent elsewhere.

Talks had continued at the IRTA test at Jerez, with Dorna’s new World Superbike boss Javier Alonso present, and engaged in private discussions with the bosses of HRC, Shuhei Nakomoto, Yamaha Motor Racing, Shigeto Kitegawa, and Ducati Corse, Bernhard Gobmeier.

We have learned that since then, further telephone discussions have taken place with Kawasaki boss Ichiro Yoda and Suzuki’s Shinichi Sahara, while Alonso had previously spoken to Aprilia Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna at the Jerez circuit, during their test there.

Under discussion is a radical set of proposals which will revolutionize the World Superbike series, we can now exclusively reveal. With sales of sport bikes slumping dramatically around the globe, WSBK is to “return to its roots” as a truly production- and sales-based series.

The fully-faired, near prototype machines which have sold so badly – some bikes, including the championship-winning Aprilia RSV4, have struggled to sell even the 2000 units required for homologation – are to be replaced by machines more like the ones which spawned Superbike racing in the late ’70s and early ’80s: big naked bikes.

With only Ducati and BMW selling serious sport bikes in any significant quantities, most of the manufacturers believe that it would be more profitable to race the bikes which they actually sell in large numbers. As the sales of sport bikes have plummeted, sales of naked bikes and roadsters have skyrocketed.

The seismic shift is in response to a number of factors, not least of all the drastic increase in draconian speed policing. With modern sport bikes capable of breaking national speed limits in 1st gear, and barely comfortable at anything under double the widely permitted maximum, bike buyers in Europe and the US have moved away from buying machines like the Yamaha YZF-R1, the Honda CBR1000RR, Suzuki’s GSX-R 1000, and Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-10R.

Taking their place in the garages of ordinary motorcyclists are bikes like Kawasaki’s Z1000 and Z750, Honda’s CBF1000, Yamaha’s XJ1300, and Suzuki’s GSF1200 Bandit. In Belgium, for example, the Z750 alone sold 336 units in 2012, while the entire sport bike segment, comprising some 15 different machines, shifted just 683 units.

Dorna are very happy with the proposal, as it represents a clear differentiation between the prototypes of MotoGP and the clearly road-going bikes of what is to be renamed the World Streetbike Championship, retaining the WSBK logo. Having two such visibly different types of bikes racing will make the two series much easier to sell as different sports to TV broadcasters.

In a throwback to the muscle bike years of the ’80s, the naked bikes and roadsters will also provide even more visual spectacle than the current crop of WSBK machinery, bringing to an end the worrying trend of smoother, tighter race bikes which has so far reached its zenith in the 250-like Aprilia RSV4.

Two serious obstacles remain however. The first, and most thorny, is the question of performance balancing. The naked bike segment is extremely varied, ranging from 170kg, 160hp stripped-down race bikes such as MV Agusta’s Brutale and Ducati’s Streetfighter S on the one hand, to bloated 1970s replicas like Honda’s stunning new CB1100, which has a modest 90hp propelling a less modest 248kg.

Proposals currently on the table will impose a horsepower limit of 130hp on the class, with factories and teams free to either choose to detune a powerful bike or beef up a less powerful machine, free of the many technical restrictions currently imposed.

Minimum weight, too, will be set at 220kg, with teams free to add ballast or go on radical weight-reduction programs, as they see fit. Bikini fairings will be allowed, but fairing lowers will be strictly forbidden, though belly pans will be made compulsory, to act as oil catch pans.

The second obstacle facing the proposals is the response of the two manufacturers who do sell sport bikes in large numbers. Both BMW and Ducati manage to shift sizable volumes of their top-spec sports machines, despite both being priced at the very top end of the market. The power of their two brands is very strong, and this is what is giving their bikes such selling power, while others in the same segment struggle.

But at Jerez, Javier Alonso and Shuhei Nakamoto concocted an idea which they believe will help win both BMW and Ducati over. While replacing the top racing class machines with naked bikes is an easy and obvious move, the class to replace World Supersport presents a bigger problem. We have learned that on Monday, Alonso will hold a conference call with Ducati’s Gobmeier and BMW’s Berthold Hauser to present the proposed support class: Adventure Bike Racing.

The middleweight sport bike segment has suffered almost as much as the upper end of that market segment, while in the meantime, the Adventure bike market has exploded. Having Adventure bikes – machines such as BMW’s R 1200 GS, Yamaha’s Super Ténéré XT 1200 Z, Honda’s NC700X Crosstourer, and Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 – compete over a mixed course consisting of three-quarters tarmac with smaller sections of a dirt course, using unpaved parts of the circuit infield present at every track, and combining them with excursions through some of the larger sections of gravel traps, will add even more spectacle to a race weekend, Alonso and Nakamoto believe.

With both Ducati and BMW having models which are highly popular in that market segment – BMW’s GS series has been a bestseller around the world for many years, while Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 has gained a cult following among lovers of fast but versatile machines – Alonso believes that he can persuade both Gobmeier and Hauser to accept the deal.

Offering them a class they can easily dominate should compensate them for the loss of the World Superbike class. With Ducati also believed to be working on a retro roadster in the style of the 750SS, using the engine from the Hypermotard – the 1200SS, as the bike is to be known, has been developed under cover of Ducati’s so-called maxi scooter, which is being used as a decoy for the new roadster – the Italian factory could soon also have a bike capable of racing in the new World Streetbike class as well.

If the proposals are to be accepted, however, it is crucial that both Ducati and BMW get on board. If Gobmeier and Hauser reject the Adventure bike proposal, the whole house of cards collapses. By Monday evening, April 1st, the future of WSBK should have been decided.

Photo: © 2012 Sans / KTM – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Seth trench says:

    Please lord tell me this is April fools!

  2. MajorTom says:

    Right up til the adventure bike racing bit, I was thinking that it would be a fun race series; a bit like the Triumph Speed Triple cup a few years back. Not any kind of a replacement, but still fun…

  3. TexusTim says:

    man…this is what I was afraid of…my fear is this is the start of the end for wsbk…the biggest problem is the manufactors have tried to make race street bikes like the rc8 or aprilla rsv4…there over the top for an average rider with no deisre to race…the ducatti does well as it has a large established following that have disposable cash…there also expensive and not much fun to comute on…that being said if honda would make a new litre bike that is a little more user friendly then it would come back to the way it should be….but this high end v4 yea thats cool and all but isnt it going in the wrong direction economicaly speaking ? if peopel dont want to spend on it what will happen to it as a race homologation ? it will be more expensive than the aprilla or ktm and right about the price of a ducatti…are they not fighting over the same few customers and not reaching the larger segement with anything really “new ” since 08 ? cmon there killing the series off more than anyone.
    GET BACK TO BASICS !! dumming down the series will surely kill it off….it apears thats what they want… as a racer the series no longer intrest me…not enough true competiton with manufactors making ringer bikes no one can buy but the high income earners…this is why there not selling them and consider the change…wrong direction….so sad it used to be great to watch it when all the brands were there and making new bikes every three or four years…how old is the cbr 1k lets see 08.09.10.11.12.13 maybe thats whats wrong eh?

  4. dan says:

    nice 1st april story !!:-)))))

    but that is something which hopefully comes real: “With Ducati also believed to be working on a retro roadster in the style of the 750SS, using the engine from the Hypermotard…”

  5. smiler says:

    Rates quite hightly as an April fool but as it involves Dorns, I just hope A&R tell us so tomorrow!!

  6. Steve says:

    Ha, Nice April fool,

    I quite liked the idea of the ‘old’ Wes Cooley type bikes hitting the tarmac again, Perhaps we could have another race series put in to run with WSB or even MotoGP as their days at the track are very empty compared to a well run local event where you might get twenty plus races in a day. It’d make it better VFM which might get more people through the door with their money.

  7. Gutterslob says:

    Oh man, I wish this article (or half of it, at least) wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.

    If anything, it’d convince the Japs to make decent nakeds again, unlike their current overweight “tuned for torque” neutered offerings.

  8. paulus - Thailand says:

    too sensible to be anything other than an April fools day bit…. would be nice though!

  9. Alasdair says:

    Wow – really good april fools write-up. You had me up until the adventure bike support bit. I can’t say I wouldn’t love to see it though

  10. Skeptical says:

    It is good to feature motomatters’ articles but not to feature their april’s joke. Doesn’t serve the purpose, I reckon.

    no offense, Jensen…

  11. pooch says:

    I’ll give DE a C minus for that April 1 attempt. Really wasn’t plausible enough to fool anyone…

  12. mark says:

    The funny part is, none of this is actually a bad idea. Even the adventure-bike racing would actually be fun to watch — sort of supermoto on steroids. Too bad it’s an April Fools joke.

  13. G says:

    RIIIIGHT! and MotoGP is going to switch to prototype 50cc scooters because honda is selling a lot of those too. Nice try at the April fools joke.

  14. Dan says:

    Geez us…nice one! Carmelo Ezpeleta is a supreme moron so this is entirely plausible (replacing sport bikes altogether). Although, support classes such as these might be fun to watch!

  15. CTK says:

    You had me through about half the story

    I won’t lie though, with some tweaking this could actually work.

  16. L2C says:

    It was the very last sentence that let me in on the joke, but you had me until then. And, actually, I’m kind of bummed that it isn’t true because that’s the kind of creative influx that both WSBK and MotoGP need to raise more money.

    Sometimes you need to shake things up with crazy ideas to get the juices flowing. Both series could use a whole lot of that.

  17. PeteN95 says:

    Too bad, I really like the whole idea! Real superbikes again and giant Supermotos, sport bikes are kind of boring! Oh well.

  18. Uberbox says:

    I almost believed this up until the adventure bike racing thing. Too bad–I think most of the ideas in this article would make for an awesome series to watch. I personally think WSBK is more interesting to watch than MotoGP as it is, partly because of the wider variety of machines and makers.

  19. Ray says:

    I’m so glad it’s April fools day!

  20. A P R I L F O O L says:

    i guess here at a&r only 1 was fooled… go check motomaters… suckers… unbealivable

  21. Damn, you had me till the last line, good one!!

  22. mudgun says:

    Ok then. I wasn’t sure how I felt about all that stuff, so I came to the comments section to see what everybody else was thinking and what do I find? Not only are you the best at what you do, you’re the funniest too. Thanks a lot. It won’t be so easy next year!

  23. Norm G. says:

    not entirely implausible, they DO have a naked category down under in AUS-SBK which could dupe somebody into believing it.

  24. mattbnj says:

    oh thank you god – i almost vomitted in my mouth reading this.

    do not mess with the formula producing the best racing series on the planet – that is all