World Superbike racing machines may not look that much different to the spectators, but there are a considerable number of major technical changes being introduced in the name of cost containment.
Basically, the “two class” structure that ran in 2014, with the so-called EVO bikes running a lower technical spec (sort of half-way between Superstock and Superbike) has been scrapped. There will be one class only in 2015 with the rules more or less based on the EVO concept, leading to big changes in engine and electronics.
On the engine side, camshafts may be changed, ditto for cylinder head porting, and connecting rods can be changed but must weigh the same as stock. All other major components from valves to crankshaft, including the crankcases themselves, must remain stock, and only one set of gearbox ratios is allowed for the season.
On the electronics side, “ride by wire” kits must be available for purchase to any team in any FIM championship, for a maximum price of €2,500 (about $3,500 Cdn). Only the manufacturer or one supplier will be allowed to produce kits for each bike. Also, while manufacturers can continue developing their own control systems, in like manner these software systems must be available for a maximum cost of €8,000 (about $11,300 Cdn), and any software updates must be provided to all teams at three specified points during the season.
“I think we reached a good compromise,” said Ducati’s WSBK Project Director Ernesto Marinelli. “It will reduce costs and help level the competition. [the electronics] will cost a third of the current figures, and require [fewer] personnel. Same goes with the engine, less sophistication means less costs.”
Other teams, notably Aprilia and Kawasaki, aren’t as pleased as Ducati. Aprilia’s racing boss Romano Albesiano said, “Our bike was born with ride-by-wire technology, an adjustable frame, and an extractable gearbox to succeed in WSBK. Little by little, some of these items were either banned or granted to those who didn’t have them. It tastes a bit bitter. That said, I think the new regulations lay a good foundation for the future, but still require some interpretation.”
As usual, the devil will be in the details of that interpretation.
There’s been lots of swapping of seats in the paddock this season; in fact, only the factory Ducati team hasn’t changed at least one rider. Here’s how it looks at the end of 2014:
Kawasaki Racing – 2013 champ Tom Sykes is joined by Jonathon Rea
PATA Honda – 2014 champ Sylvain Guintoli joins Michael van der Mark (both new)
Ducati Superbike Team – Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano return
Crescent Suzuki – Alex Lowes is joined by Randy de Puniet
Althea Ducati – Nico Terol and Matteo Baiocco (both new)
Red Devils Roma Aprilia – Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres (both new)
Barni Ducati – Leandro Mercado (new team)
MV Agusta – Leon Camier returns full-time
JR Racing BMW – Toni Elias and Ayrton Badovini
Grillini Kawasaki – Christophe Ponsson and Santiago Barragon
Team Toth BMW – Imre Toth
BMW Italia – Sylvain Barrier
Pedercini Kawasaki – David Salom
Erik Buell Racing – Niccolo Canepa and Larry Pegram
GO Eleven Kawasaki – (not confirmed) Michel Fabrizio, Jeremy Guarnoni, Claudio Corti
3C Ducati – no rider announced, expected as an occasional wild card entry
Yamaha – British Superbike team Milwaukee Yamaha may have some wild card entries, works team expected in 2016