World Superbike and its developmental series will have a drastically different look in 2014, based on details starting to trickle from a meeting in December between Dorna and representatives of World Superbike and World Supersport teams.
Dorna reportedly wants to trim Superbike to three classes: Superbike (1000cc), Supersport (600cc) and a new class based on 250cc machinery. The 1000cc and 600cc Superstock classes will vanish. It's uncertain whether production bikes or the existing Moto3 spec will be used in the new 250 class in WSBK.
The proposed WSBK classes read almost like an identical blueprint to the current MotoGP (1000cc), Moto2 (600cc) and Moto3 (250cc) setup in Grand Prix racing. As many expected when Bridgepoint assigned promotional duties for MotoGP and WSBK to Dorna last October, Dorna reportedly will try to eliminate technical overlap and market confusion between MotoGP and WSBK by reducing WSBK machinery to nearly stock status.
Superbike machines in 2014 will resemble current Stock 1000 machines, according to Italian media. Supersport also will have very little room for development with its four-cylinder 600cc engines.
Italian media reported Dorna's future path for World Superbike has two goals.
One, streamlining the series to just three classes helps Dorna sell TV packaging more easily since fans can follow three classes easier than four.
Two, paring WSBK, Supersport and the new 250cc class to nearly stock specifications reduces costs and creates an even tighter link between those machines and their showroom counterparts. There's also a chance that the rules created for the WSBK, Supersport and 250cc class will be identical or very similar to those used in European domestic championships, increasing the opportunity for teams to climb from the domestic to the international level without breaking the bank.
Noble ideals. But don't forget that Dorna always was threatened by the larger grids and more exciting races of World Superbike in recent seasons, and the dumbing-down of WSBK will let Dorna firmly cement MotoGP as the unthreatened pinnacle of worldwide motorcycle road racing without spending a penny in promotion or engaging in a costly PR war with the Flammini brothers.
Also, pinning WSBK's future specs to those found on bikes in dealerships may not be a clever idea in these trying economic times. Motorcycle production was down more than 30 percent in Spain during the first 10 months of 2012, for example.
Maybe the logic is that connecting the race bikes more directly to the road bikes will increase road bike sales. But will a dumbed-down WSBK create anything more than just a global version of a domestic series? Will that compel anyone to head to the dealership to buy a bike?
Finally, is Dorna looking in the wrong places to save money for WSBK teams? PTR Honda World Supersport Team Manager Simon Buckmasterwho never lacks for an opinionwas quoted in an interesting, revealing team press release this week that reducing the price of logistics (travel, shipping, staff) and increasing team sponsorship are better routes to health for the entire WSBK series than emasculating the machinery.
As Buckmaster said, even a spec ECU still needs a team engineer/technician to interpret the data. That costs money.