Trackside Tuesday: Long Live World Superbike

09/25/2012 @ 8:11 pm, by Scott Jones22 COMMENTS

As the other motorcycling World Championship, World Superbike has its own amazing stories to tell, stories often very weird relative to what we are used to in MotoGP. When I went to shoot WSBK for the first time, some of my MotoGP buddies told me the same thing: don’t get spoiled, it’s a different world there. Indeed, one MotoGP veteran left Grand Prix to make his new home in WSBK and hired someone else to cover the Aliens on his behalf.

Instead of three riders on the grid fighting among themselves for the victory, WSBK saw six different winners in the first six races of the 2012 season. Instead of three manufacturers (well, two, really) fighting for wins in MotoGP, five stood atop the WSBK podium in those first six races. With one race weekend to go, nine riders have won races. Compared to MotoGP, talk about weird!

Instead of riders over 30-years-old being hounded by lightning-fast 20-somethings, riders seem to bloom around 40, enjoying second or even third winds in their careers. The lower level of technology allows rider experience to count against the raw physical talent of youth. The playing field is more even, the racing is less about having the latest parts that separate the factory teams from the satellite ones.

Tom Sykes is a motorbike racer who could be the next WSBK world champion, and a protagonist in a story remarkably different from the usual MotoGP fare. Sykes is 30.5 points behind Biaggi with one round, two races, and 50 points to go.

If you want to talk to Sykes, you don’t need to appeal to his team or personal media officer for time on his schedule, and then hope you rate well enough that you’ll be fit in among the many demands for his precious time. You just wait for Tom to change out of his leathers, and then ask if he has a few minutes.

When he says yes, you appreciate his earnest smile, his appreciation of your interest in what he has to say and what’s going on in his bid to become WSBK champ. You might be thrown off by his lack of worldly suspicion of the media, or the absent weariness with the noblesse oblige of endless interviews. You might be a bit off center yourself for the lack of supervision and the fact that there is no one there to protect Sykes from inappropriate or sensitive questions. An interview could be oddly just be like some guys chatting about motorcycle racing.

If you go to Tom’s website and click in the contact page you see this above the form: “If you would like to contact me then please fill out the contact form below. I will endevour (sic) to reply as soon as possible. Thank you for your interest.” That sounds to me like Tom just might reply himself.

Can you imagine any MotoGP title contender doing the same? And the typo is almost pleasantly human, unpolished by a top agency, the work of some regular person somewhere.

Every so often someone sounds off about the need to combine WSBK and MotoGP so that, among other reasons, there’s a single two-wheeled World Champion. But if that means losing WSBK as we know it today, the world of motorbike racing will have lost something very special.

The technology might not be as much of carbon fiber and titanium and software, but the racing is fantastic, and a guy who answers his own public contact inquires just might go on to be world champion.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Slangbuster

    Nice read and refreshing to hear.

  • Earl Shives

    Last round of WSBK at Laguna, I think it was when Chili got the win on a 999R engined 998 chassis, I met Kevin Schwantz, the Bostrom brothers and John Hopkins without even trying. Couple years before that, some buddies got in trouble with the track management for carrying on too loudly the night after the race with Edwards, Bayliss, Hodgson, etc. I’ll go to MotoGP again next year and the year after, but I am really looking forward to WSBK coming back!

  • TexusTim

    LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE “REGULAR GUY” !!….hey we also build the houses,cars and highways that everyone uses and needs so much.

  • Skeptical

    Wish WSBK could offer some online coverage like does. As much as I admire, I’m unable to follow it’s saga without going to every races. Don’t know how much it’s important the spirit of the organization but I would definitely be happier race fun than now.

  • pooch

    Great write-up Scott! You’ve captured the essence nicely. WSBK is more often than not, the race worth watching. And the lack of Prototype engines means access to Garages and the public eye gets to see so much more. And you know the (very) basic bikes on the Grid you can buy from the store… to me it has so much more to offer. I love MotoGP and shiny glitzy show… but I enjoy WSBK racing more, for all the reasons Scott already mentioned.

    I truly hope Dorna’s plans for the continued dumbing down of MotoGP don’t kill the series.

  • Westward

    I’m curious, since Moto2 and Moto3 are not prototype bike in the same sense as MotoGP, would they be considered closer to WSBK bikes, and if so, does their paddock experience mirror that of MotoGP or WSBK..?

    I’m under the impression that in MGP the pilots are paid to ride, however, in Moto2, Moto3, & WSBK some if not most are paying to ride in their respective series. Hence why some pilots have to bring their own sponsors to the series. worse case scenario, they are paying out of their own pocket…

    As for accessibility to the pilots themselves, I heard that Simoncelli was very approachable as well as Abraham in the MGP paddock. Stoner and Pedrosa’s lack of approachability seems more to do with their individual personalities. Although Rossi is seemingly a carefree person, his lack of accessibility would be more related to circumstance, as would Checa in WSBK and Biaggi as well. Edwards seems to not care at all, and will talk to anyone that show a genuine interest.

    Which also begs the question, how accessible is Melandri in WSBK ? Not that I really care, but the possibility of being able to chat with Manuela Raffaetà and snap a pic would be on the top of my list at a WSBK race…

  • Damo


    I am extremely eager to get back to California to see the WSBK race next season as well.


    When I was at Laguna Seca this year Karel Abraham seemed to be about the most approachable person on planet earth. He stopped and talked with anyone, signed autographs ad nauseam and posed for pictures with all the fans. His English was perfect too, which helped a bit.

    Colin Edwards was amazing as well, but he would get swarmed as soon as he stepped out of the pits. The Texan still has a huge fanbase (as well he should).

  • JoeD

    WSB needs better coverage-Speed TV programming is horrid. We had to wait until yesterday to see the Portugal round while Bubba Redneck Hey ya’ll watch this crap is aired. As much as I dislike AMA/DMG racing, even that waits until late night to be shown. Hopefully, some retired racers could start their own network. I would gladly pay extra for that. WSB is the best overall.

  • Mears

    WSBK definitely is tops, but is in serious need of a better video feed. Everything I see here in the US is very lo-fi, when even AMA racing is HD.


    AMA/DMG racing is off the charts this year. DSB is always exciting, and SBK is not far off.


  • Isn’t that the correct spelling of ‘endeavor ‘ in the UK?

    Anyway, the controlled media environment in MotoGP is why I have only an academic interest in it. If I could only watch one kind of racing, it would be ‘real roads’ stuff, but if I got to pick two, SBK is preferred to MotoGP. I’m still gloating over Bayliss, Valencia, 2006!

  • DareN

    No comparison. Still remember meeting Bayliss at Laguna on the way to Portable John (him, not me).After brief conversation he had to excuse himself (I really have to go to the bathroom..). Brilliant!Also met Kenny Roberts Sr.,Edwards (at SBK back then) and, Nori Haga.
    At 10+ Moto GPs the only truly amazing experience was meeting Simoncelli walking around Gasoline Alley at Indy.

  • Westward

    @ Mark Gardiner

    You would be correct save for the fact that it is missing the letter “a”, as in endeavour…

  • Mark B

    I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in both MGP and SBK. I did two years in MGP, which was ok, and over a decade in SBK, which was great, and i’m glad to see MGP people waking up to this wonderful series. And it IS a wonderful series, on so many levels, as Scott outlined above.

    But please, don’t think these are just dumb street bikes with race pipes, their traction and launch systems are very closely related, if not actually equal to MGP stuff.

    I honestly believe that everyone involved in MGP goes there believing it to be the best, most important, most significant series, then they get there and realise – it isn’t.

    They cannot admit they’ve made a mistake, that the races are dull, that Dorna are weird, that it’s a financial dead end, that there’s too many rules and regulations and PR and it stifles the fun element,. They can’t admit they made a mistake, or they’d look like fools.

  • David

    I love WSBk, it is far more exiting to watch as a sport and you have so many more people to
    root for. I agree that the coverage needs to be better, I would gladly pay to watch it online or anything
    Like that.

  • Tim M

    I’m seriously dating myself here but the last time I saw SBK at Laguna Eddie Lawson was racing his Kawi. I am elated WSBK is back at Monterey, especially if Ducati returns. I read that after SBK races people pull out the lawn chairs, BBQ, and hang out together. Haga’s kids used to terrorize everyone on their bikes. GP? They disappear into their motorhomes. It’s gotten so that I just watch the last 5 minutes of a GP race. But with WSBK, if you stop watching for a few minutes you’ll miss some superb passing and lead changes. In GP, a lead change is newsworthy. @ Mark B, WSBK bikes are modded to the legal limit and probably close to a CRT engine. Johnny Rea’s Ten Kate bike is using MotoGP Ohlins TRSP25 forks and an RSP40 shock, not those “common” twelve thousand dollar FGR200 SBK forks and TTX shock.

  • gsp75

    WSBK has and will always be the people’s CHAMPIONSHIP , were commom folk like Edwards, Bayliss and Sykes can do wonders and amaze us all with there talent. It seems more family orientated and family friendly were ther riders are always glad to meet and talk. Me and my kids meet Biaggi 2yrs @ the Dainese store and he was so humble signed a ton of stuff chatted the kids just a great guy all around.

  • Grant Madden

    Concise Oxford dictionary;Endeavour(-dever),v.t.&i.,& n.1.Try(to do):strive after.2.n.Attempt(to do,at doing).
    For your infomation,because when it comes to spelling Americans cant!
    Not the only word they dont seem to have been able to copy down properly.Just saying.

  • “Wish WSBK could offer some online coverage like does.”

    Exactly. I pay good bucks for my MotoGP subscription and would be happy to do the same for full-coverage access to WSBK. I’d love to watch the likes of Biaggi, Checa and Melandri racing again!

  • I’m usually content to let readers here carry on with their comments, and about the above article I’ve been generally pleased with the commentary in support of WSBK and my point that it is indeed something worth watching and holding onto as a series.

    But I confess I’m quite amused at the responses to my assumption that Tom’s website contains a simple typo. In fact I did check two sources of British spelling to see if he’d used a spelling different from the American English, and each gave ‘endeavor’ without mentioning ‘endevour.’

    I still think it is a simple typo, which supports my initial idea that his website is one in which such a thing can happen and remain unchanged, part of what I like about it. I have now, however, just consulted my copy of the 1971 OED and find that in fact it does list endevour as a variant, along with endevoyre, endover, endower, endevoir, endever, endevur(e), endevyr, (each of which my spell checker, admittedly American, has attempted to correct to endeavor) et cetera, et cetera.

    So perhaps I should change my initial thesis to say that, in spite of being a humble, tradesman motorbike racer on the verge of a world title, he is also a very sophisticated speller, fond of substituting unusual but perfectly acceptable variants of common words. Or perhaps my Internet sources of British spelling were incomplete, and Tom’s British spell checker accepted endevour without objection.

    I leave it to the readers to choose which version of Tom Sykes they prefer to live in their imaginations. I still think it’s just a typo, of which we are all guilty on occasion, even those who offer to correct others while ignoring the space bar and misspelling “don’t” and “can’t.” ;-)

  • Westward

    @ Grant Madden

    Actually, It was Tom Sykes, or whoever did his website that spelled the word incorrect. So in the interest of fairness, I doubt an American was at fault…

  • Me

    I also wish WSBK would get with the times and offer an online streaming subscription. F1 too while we’re at it then I can finally ditch my satellite provider.

  • Singletrack

    I’m not sure why people are slamming SpeedTV coverage of the races. I think this years HD broadcasts on SpeedTV are great, video wise at least. The audio is another story…

    I hadn’t watched WSBK much the last few years because of lack of HD. But it’s great this year.
    I can’t wait for the final round this weekend. Hopefully its a barnburner.