With World Superbike grids currently suffering the same shrinking numbers that MotoGP experienced just five years ago, it was clear that some measures were needed before it was too late. The FIM, WSBK rightsholders Dorna, and the MSMA (Motor Sports Manufacturers Association, basically representing the OEMs) held a series of meetings to hammer out some changes in the rules and regulations in order to attract more participation from teams, and now the preliminary changes starting in with the 2014 season have been released.
Following MotoGP’s (and before them, F1) example, a restriction will be imposed on the total number of engines available for use in a season, with each rider now only allowed eight engines. Although surely fueled in part by the rumor that former World Champion Max Biaggi used more than 30 engines in his Aprilia during his championship season, there’s no doubt that the factory-supported teams go through a good number of powerplants over the course of the year (during Ben Spies’ title-winning season in 2009, there were at least five new engines in crates in the Yamaha garage at the Miller Motorsports Park round). Considering the amount of engine blowups we’ve seen this year (the more visible being Tom Sykes’ Kawasaki engine exploding in Race One at Moscow, and Chaz Davies’ BMW giving up the ghost at Silverstone), it’s pretty obvious that the current engines are tuned to the edge of their working lifespans, so there will surely be some detuning to keep them together longer.
Another restriction is the number of gear ratios available. With most superbikes now using extractable cassette gearboxes that can be removed without splitting the cases, the number of combinations for gear ratios can be almost limitless with deep enough pockets. The actual number of gear ratios available will probably be announced on August 26 when the technical rules are officially published to the FIM website. There will also be a price cap on brakes and suspension components.
If that isn’t enough to help boost grid numbers, the MSMA also agreed “to provide, on request, a complete motorcycle package at a fixed price, for the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. The motorcycle packages supplied will be the same as those used by the manufacturer and will receive certain updates and maintenance from the manufacturers during the season.” For those teams without the benefit of a race shop for R&D, the package deal would probably be an inviting option—depending on the asking price, of course.
In another similar move to another racing series (this time the British Superbike Championship), a new “EVO” class will be created. Although the technical rules for chassis, suspension, and brakes for the EVO class will be identical to their WSBK brethren, the engine modifications will be much more restrictive, with the present FIM Superstock class rules being announced as the model.