I must admit that I have been a little late in writing this piece. This should have been written before the commencement of the World Superbike Championship of 2013. Unfortunately other commitments have kept most of us away from doing this writing which has been the main identity that Riot Engine has acquired. So not only are we apologising for the delay, we are also claiming that maybe the delay in writing this piece has actually worked in our favour (meaning both you the readers and us the writers).
There must be some curiosity on the part of our readers as to why we have decided to start talking about World Superbike racing in 2013 while in the past we have only restricted ourselves to brief reports of the results of the races. But there is a clear reason for that, or let me say there are three clear reasons why this time around it maybe useful to discuss the World Superbike series. The first reason is that the Buddh International Circuit or BIC as it is now being referred to, will host a round of the World Superbike Races this year. Those of you who follow the series and the news about the series will be aware that the BIC was to host the second round of the the World Superbike Championships from the 8th to the 10th of March, 2013. But this date was postponed to the 17th of November (meaning the weekend starting with 15th of November and ending with the 17th of November) and this has now become the last race of the season.
Becoming the last race of the season can become a thing of advantage if the championship is going down to the wire as it did last year. But if the championship is clinched before the last round, then that would turn into a disadvantage since the race will be of academic interest only. But the question that needs to be asked here is what were the reasons behind the postponement?
Even before the postponement was formally announced various websites and motorsport magazines were carrying stories of how the Indian round of the World Superbikes was being postponed due to the interference of the now (in)famous Indian bureaucracy. Stories that went around initially were those which were claiming that the Indian round was completely cancelled. Then came the announcement that the round was postponed but the reason given was rather astounding. It was claimed that the round was being postponed mainly due the fact that marshalls did not have adequate training to deal with injured riders if in case there was a misfortune of an accident. The reason is rather strange, because the BIC has been hosting Formula 1 races for the last two years without a glitch. The reason why I am going so much into the story is that there is still one small little theory that says that the round will ultimately be cancelled and the grounds suggested are that Dorna the series promoter is extremely unhappy with the deal that Infront (the organisation that was in control of the World Superbike series) had actually reached a deal in a hurry and has surrendered the TV rights which were the main source of revenue. So the fact is that Dorna does not want the deal to go through. Last year there were rumours that Dorna was keen on bringing MotoGP to India but Infront beat them to a deal with BIC which included the retention of TV rights by BIC. After Bridgepoint the company that owns Dorna took over Infront completely they gave Dorna the responsibility of running both the MotoGP and World Superbike series. Now we have to wait and see if there is going to be a race in India.
The second reason why we are interested in writing about World Superbikes this year is again India specific. In what can only be called a stunning development the operation of the official World Supersport team of Kawasaki has gone to Mahi Racing in which Indian Cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Telugu Film superstar Nagarjuna Akkineni have invested. Mahi Racing has stunned the world by taking over the mantle of being the official Kawasaki team in the 600 cc category after Lorenzini (who represented the official Kawasaki effort) had won the championship with Kenan Sofuoglu last year. This year Mahi Racing has inherited the riders along with the official status. And they have started on the right note with Kenan Sofuoglu starting his defence of the world championship in style with a victory in Australia. In Australia one of the sponsors of the World Superbike effort of Kawasaki was Mahi Racing. The reasoning was that TV coverage is hardly given to World Supersport races and therefore it made sense to advertise Mahi Racing on the 1000 cc machines of Kawasaki run by the Spanish outfit Provec.
The third reason why we have decided to turn our attention to the World Superbike series is that which pertains to this being the last time that we will see the World Superbikes being run in this format. Right now World Superbikes allows for modifications to street going machines and this has brought the series into conflict with MotoGP. In fact, the lap time differences between MotoGP and World Superbike machines on one circuit where both series had their races, was less than 2 seconds. That was the reason why factories, especially Honda at one time threatened to pull out of MotoGP and move to World Superbikes. But with Dorna now in control, the power of factories such as Honda has been neutered. Apparently in the present form the World Superbike series sees the use of upto 39 engines per season per motorcycle by a number of teams. Dorna CEO, Carmelo Ezpeleta, has made it abundantly clear that during times of economic recession (which is now) it was extravagant to allow the use of so many engines. In MotoGP the number of engines that can be used by a factory is limited to 5.
Ezpeleta has already hinted that there will be a cap on number of engines in the series from next season on. In fact, the changes for next season include dumbing down of the series and the pointers that have emerged so far show that the series is headed towards becoming production machinery based. That means that the lap times will go up and maybe the races will not be as closely fought as they are now. Then there is the question of the format as well. The present Superbike series is really not very TV friendly. The existence of two races that are separated by the World Supersport race has meant that most TV channels are not interested in showing all the races. Last year in India, one got to see only one of the races live while the other would be delayed or sometimes not even covered. The fact that most TV channels have successfully marketed the various football leagues from around the world has meant that football gets precedence when it comes to coverage and within the motorsport caste system Formula 1 is top and gets preference over everything else and then comes MotoGP. World Superbikes is at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and so the coverage of this is left to the whims and fancies of ESPN Star Sports which have the rights of coverage for the series.
The million dollar question therefore is what form will World Superbikes take next year? Will it be totally dumbed down and become uninteresting or will it have an exciting new format one that is more TV friendly? Will it feature pit stops? This has been one of the innovations that has apparently been proposed. Rumours about the shape that the series will take have suggested that the World Supersport category will be eliminated and that the Moto2 category in MotoGP that is now restricted to Honda engines of 600 cc capacity being put in custom built chassis. If the Supersport category is abolished then engines from various manufacturers will be allowed to be put in the custom built chassis. If this happens and the abolition of the Supersport category also becomes reality then one of the formats being considered apparently is the 200 mile format where Superbikes (1000 cc) will run a race of 200 mile length with pit stops. How will TV stations receive it is the question. We will have to wait till the middle of May for some clarity to emerge about the direction that World Superbikes will take under the stewardship of Dorna.
Till then what you can do is watch whatever is shown of the series on TV and enjoy close racing between riders on machinery that includes Honda, Suzuki, BMW, Aprilia, Ducati and Kawasaki. And in the meantime also hope that from next year on it will be a more TV friendly series that will get shown just as MotoGP and Formula 1 are shown. Meanwhile we will try our best to get you as much coverage as possible from the races.