With Ducati having elected to switch to racing as an Open entry in the MotoGP class, it is time for a quick refresher course on the rules. Below is a primer on the key differences between racing as an Open entry and racing as a Factory Option entry, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
After an announcement in early January that Milwaukee Power Tools had withdrawn its support of Shaun Muir’s Yamaha team, due to a major rule changes that restricted the use of aftermarket ECUs, it looked as though Ian Hutchinson and Josh Brookes might have had to sit out this year’s Isle of Man TT; and had the team been forced to run factory ECUs, it would have placed them at a serious disadvantage and left them unable to be competitive.
Although there is no word on exactly how the team managed to negotiate an exception to the new rule change, the Isle of Man TT Press Office has confirmed that Ian Hutchinson and Josh Brookes will be riding for the Milwaukee Yamaha Team in this year’s TT. Both riders are scheduled to compete in the Dainese Superbike TT, two Monster Energy Supersport TT races, and the Pokerstars Senior TT event.
The continuing worldwide decline in sports bike sales has forced the Superbike Commission to reduce the minimum number of motorcycles to be produced for homologation, to be allowed to take part in the World Superbike series.
As of now, manufacturers wishing to race a particular motorcycle must have sold 250 bikes by the end of their first year of racing in WSBK, and 1,000 bikes by the end of the second year, half the requirements previously on the books. But manufacturers will still have to have produced 125 bikes before they can even embark on the homologation procedure.
The sales numbers have been reduced in response to the continuing decline in sales of large and middleweight sports bikes around the world, under pressure from increasing speed restrictions and monitoring on public roads. Even Honda is reportedly having problems selling the required numbers of the CBR1000RR SP, despite the popularity of the bike.
The World Superbike racing season is rapidly approaching with its season-opener at Phillip Island on February 23rd, and with a bevy of OEMs set to enter World Superbike, the FIM has made house calls to make sure that the OEMs have met their first production volume requirements for homologation.
With MV Agusta’s volumes of the F4 not at issue, the crux of the FIM’s work centered around Erik Buell Racing and Bimota. Confirming that Erik Buell Racing has met its 125 unit obligation, before the first WSBK race, the FIM however could not say the same about Bimota.
Bimota’s inability to produce the requisite 125 units of the Bimota BB3 is perhaps unsurprising, as the boutique Italian brand has only recently been acquired, and the new superbike model was just unveiled at the 2013 EICMA show. Despite the World Superbike’s announcement that the FIM would bend the rules regarding homologation, it would be seem that is not the case.
With the recent announcement that Alstare and Bimota are to join forces, and headed to go race in the World Superbike Championship, many wondered how the boutique Italian brand would meet the homologation requirements, established for WSBK racing, with the Bimota BB3 superbike.
A similar eyebrow was raised when Erik Buell Racing announced its intention to switch from AMA Pro Road Racing to World Superbike, as the OEM clearly didn’t have the manufacturing capacity to produce the requisite number of motorcycles according to the FIM’s timetable.
Well those questions seemed to have been answered, as the FIM has released a statement — well more a statement promising a future statement — that hints at future rule changes for homologation requirments.
At its final meeting of 2013, the MotoGP Grand Prix Commission has agreed changes to the regulations for the three Grand Prix classes, mostly minor, but a couple with much wider implications.
Changes were agreed to the penalty points system, to the procedure for restarting interrupted races, for protests, and for wild cards. But the biggest changes made were to the Moto3 class, and the loophole which allowed manufacturers to charge what they wanted for chassis has been closed, capping prices in Moto3 even further.
AMA Pro Racing announced today that by 2015 it will overhaul the racing class structure and rules for the AMA Pro Road Racing series. The changes are designed to make America’s premier road racing series more cost-effective, and to bring AMA Pro Road Racing inline with other national and international racing divisions.
Perhaps the most important change to the racing structure, AMA Pro Racing says that the Superbike class will see incremental changes made to the technical rules package over the next two seasons “in the interest of rule commonality, performance parity, and cost containment.”
This likely means that AMA Pro Superbike will adopt rules similar to the rules progression seen in World Superbike, with EVO-spec bikes that more akin to Superstock series motorcycles being the mode du jour from 2015 and onward.
The World Superbike championship remains in a state of flux, despite the good news emerging today about the 2014 grid (Feelracing taking on the Ducati factory team, MV Agusta expanding into World Superbikes, and Michel Fabrizio joining Grillini).
The Superbike Commission met at Valencia to agree further rule changes to the series for 2014, as part of the push to revitalize the series. Some of the rules are cost-cutting measures, others are aimed at making the series a more attractive TV package, while some are aimed at providing a more homogenous set of basic rules between the World Superbike and MotoGP series.
The biggest change – and the change that will be mourned the most – is the loss of the current three-stage Superpole qualifying format. Instead of having three Superpole sessions, with the slowest riders being dropped after each session, World Superbikes is to adopt a system similar to MotoGP, where the fastest riders in free practice go straight through to the second and decisive qualifying session, the rest having a second chance in a first qualifying session.
There is only one word which everyone would agree accurately describes the 2013 Tissot Australian Grand Prix, and that word is ‘eventful’. There are an awful lot of other words being used to describe it, some fit for publication, some less so, but nobody would argue with the fact that the entire weekend at Phillip Island was packed with action, controversy, surprises, and even the odd spot of excitement.
The tire issues suffered by both Dunlop and Bridgestone caused the Moto2 and MotoGP races to be shortened, and the MotoGP riders forced to make a compulsory pit stop. The pit stops certainly added an element of suspense, and even surprise, but they split opinion among fans, riders and paddock followers straight down the middle: half viewed the whole thing as a farce, the other half thought it made for a thrilling spectacle. The arguments between the two sides are likely to go on for a long time.
There should have been plenty to talk about after qualifying at Phillip Island. Jorge Lorenzo’s stunning fast lap, Marc Marquez getting on the front row for the 11th time in his rookie season, Valentino Rossi’s return to the front row, and his excellent race pace, Scott Redding’s fractured wrist ending his title hopes, so much to talk about, and more.
But one subject dominates MotoGP right now: tires, the incompetence of the tire suppliers, and the stopgap solutions put in place to deal with it.