Superbike racing

Superbike racing is a category of motorcycle racing that employs modified production motorcycles. Many countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States operate national superbike championships, and a World Superbike (WSB) championship has run since 1988.


As a production racing competition, WSB has a series of regulations laid down by the FIM managing body.

Pre-2004 regulations can be briefly summarised as follows:

  • Production Motorcycles - defined as 150 models of the entered machine, with 75 available for inspection by 31 January in the year of entry and the remainder by 30 June[1]
  • Capacity - which depended on the number of cylinders. 2cylinders up to 1000cc, 3cylinders up to 900cc, and 4cylinders up to 750cc

Pre-2004, winning in the series swung between the Honda 750s (RC30, RC45 4-cylinders), and the Ducati 916 and its derivatives (2-cylinders). After three years of Ducati winning with Carl Fogarty, Honda introduced the 2-cylinder VTR-1000 SP1/RC51 and won in 2000 with Colin Edwards. Ducati then won the crown back with Troy Bayliss on the Ducati 998, while Edwards regained the crown in 2002

2004 onwards

All the development of new machines required money, and while WSB was a Ducati racing focus, and Honda had the money, other motorcycle companies didn't. As other manufacturers dropped their support of "official factory" to support "privateer" teams, the FIM realised they needed to change the series or watch it end.

As a result, in 2002 the FIM started discussions on a new series of regulations that would allow wider manufacturer support. The first change was consistent capacity--1000cc for all entrant machines irrespective of the number of cylinders. This was a 'standard' production engine size sold worldwide, allowing manufacturers to absorb racing costs into production- machine development, and market these developments. However, as this would result in an unfair power advantage for four-cylinder machines, air-restrictors were introduced - one restrictor plate per intake port, with sizes of 50mm for twins and 32.5mm for fours[2].

The second regulation change was the use of a "control" or "spec" tyre, to be supplied to all competitors. The bid process was won by Pirelli, who supply between five and seven different compounds per race. Though top and cornering speeds have fallen, the racing has become closer and safer.

The third change was increased minimum weight for all machines, with 165 kg (363.8 lb) pre-race, and 163.5 kg (360.5 lb) post race.

The Superbike versions of the Honda CBR 1000RR, Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5, and Yamaha YZF-R1 are all capable of generating more than 200 horsepower (150 kW). The Ducati 999 F05 can generate 194 horsepower (145 kW).

Consequences of changes

There were two major consequences of the regulation changes in 2004. Firstly, Honda reduced its investment as a result of the use of "control tyres", while other manufacturers excluding Ducati increased theirs. As a result, Suzuki won their first championship with Troy Corser in 2005.

While WSB has a control Pirelli tyre, national championships do not, which means that only riders who regularly run Pirellis in their domestic series can reaslistically enter WSB rounds. Hence, although the WSB series tours the world, the number of wildcard national entries has reduced from around 20% of the entries at each race to almost none outside Italy (although England's Tommy Hill took a pole position in 2006).

Riders also find it hard to move between WSB and national series for single race entries, due to the use of restrictors, so that in combination with use of control tyres their bike doesn't race or feel like it does for the rest of the year.

1200cc for 2008

As a result of Ducati developing the 1098, the 999 machine they are racing in the 2007 World Superbike season is effectively a non-production bike -- Ducati produced only 150 limited edition 999s in 2007 to satisfy homologation requirements. Ducati have requested a rule change for the 2008 series, allowing twin cylinder bikes to race at a capacity of 1200cc, thus allowing them to race the 1098. Ducati race team manager Davide Tardozzi has argued that the twin cylinder machine produces less power, and therefore needs a capacity advantage over the four cylinder machines.

The rest of the factory teams, whom having all re-entered the championship as a result of the previous 1000cc four cylinder regulation change and won one of the past five years championships as a result, are reluctant to provide Ducati with what they see as a proposed advantage. Alstare Suzuki have gone as far as to say that if the rule change is allowed, they will enter the rival MotoGP series with rider Max Biaggi.

On 11 April Ducati racing chief Claudio Domenicali in interview with Motorcycle News and Gazzetta dello Sport explained that unless Ducati was allowed to race with an 1198cc race version of the V-twin 1098 road bike, it will quit all superbike racing at the end of the 2007s season, including the domestic series it supports. Domenicali outlined Ducati’s willingness to submit the bike to restriction and midseason re-assessment of its competitiveness in 2008[3].

The FIM, in their recently announced rule changes for 2008, have increased the displacement limit for a 2 cylinder engine to 1200cc[4], thus allowing Ducati to race a homolgated version of their 1098 in 2008.

World Superbike series

Although World Superbike is regulated by the FIM, the race series is managed and promoted by Octagon Sports, based in Milan, Italy. Octagon run the series under a company called SBK International, whose president is Paolo Flammini

During the early 1990s World Superbike racing was generally regarded by the public in general as a poor cousin to the more glamorous MotoGP championship, and to the strongest domestic motorcycle championships such as the All-Japan series and America's AMA series - riders from these championships often won WSB races in their homelands as one-off entrants. On the other hand, its followers frequently enjoyed it more than GP-bike racing because in Superbike the racing for the lead was frequently very close, and also because spectators had easy access to both the paddocks and to the racers themselves.

Since the mid-late 1990's, World Superbike racing's profile has improved considerably, withstanding considerable changes to the format, and challenging the long-time domination of the event by Ducati, ridden by the most accomplished World Superbike racer Carl Fogarty, who won four championships in the 1990s.

At first, with the introduction of the control tyre in 2004 the lap times slowed, but the quality of racing has improved and the viewership has increased. For a brief period in the early 2000's, the majority of Japanese official factory teams had pulled out of the World Superbike Championship. But as of 2005, official or quasi-official factory teams from all of the major Japanese manufacturers (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha) re-entered the World Superbike Championship, once again lining up against the long-standing factory teams from Ducati, as well as the Petronas team.

Well-known riders of this period include 2004 champion James Toseland, Régis Laconi, Andrew Pitt, Karl Muggeridge, 1996 and 2005 champion Troy Corser and his team-mate Yukio Kagayama, fan favourites Noriyuki Haga and (41-year old) Pierfrancesco Chili, ex-GP riders Alex Barros, Norick Abe, Garry McCoy, promising youngsters such as Chris Vermeulen (who moved to MotoGP in 2006), returning World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss, and many more with devoted fans both world-wide and in their respective countries.

National Superbike series

National Superbike series vary greatly in challenge and popularity, the most popular being in Britain and North America. Most European riders graduate to MotoGP via national 125 and 250cc series. Both Japan and Australia have well supported national superbikes series, though they only run for short, 10-race seasons.

British Superbike

Main article: British Superbike

This series is controlled by Dorna Sports, the promoter of MotoGP, is considered the premier national superbike series. This is due to the variation in the circuits used in the series, which tests the rider technically. Ducati, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha have all consistently ran factory teams, with Honda upping its involvement in 2004 (winning the 2006 title with Ryuichi Kiyonari). Riders such as Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, Neil Hodgson, Chris Walker and James Ellison all built their reputations through this series.

AMA Superbike (United States)

Main article: AMA Superbike

The American series is the longest running superbike championship starting in 1976. The series runs from late spring to late summer. Not as well supported, the tracks used are wider but less well used and maintained, resulting in less technical but more difficult racing conditions. To create greater public support, AMA allows for substantial modification of the machine, including modifying elements of the engine block. Except for 2002, when American Nicky Hayden was crowned champion, Mat Mladin of Australia has dominated the AMA Superbike championship since 1999 but in 2006 he came in second in the championships, giving way to a new champion, the Texan Ben Spies, riding for the same Yoshimura Suzuki team. Ducati have supported it strongly, but pulled their factory support at the end of 2006.

All Japan Superbike Championship

Parts Canada Superbike

The Parts Canada Superbike Championship is the Canadian national Superbike series. The series runs from May to September and consists of six to eight rounds per season. Riders from the Canadian series often compete in the AMA circuit during the Canadian off-season. Frequently, certain tracks are often duplicated as a "double-round" and count as two rounds of the Championship. Current circuits visited include Mont-Tremblant, Mosport, Shannonville, Calgary Race City, and Atlantic Motorsport Park. The 2006 Champion was Jordan Szoke.

World Superbike champions

A list of World Superbike champions[5]

Year Champion Country Manufacturer Bike Runner Up Third Place Notes
1988 Fred Merkel Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Honda Honda RC30 Fabrizio Pirovano Davide Tardozzi
1989 Fred Merkel Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Honda Honda RC30 Stephane Mertens Raymond Roche
1990 Raymond Roche Flag of France France Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 851 Fabrizio Pirovano Stephane Mertens
1991 Doug Polen Flag of the United States United States Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 888 Raymond Roche Rob Phillis
1992 Doug Polen Flag of the United States United States Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 888 Raymond Roche Rob Phillis
1993 Scott Russell Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Kawasaki Kawasaki Ninja ZX-7RR Carl Fogarty Aaron Slight
1994 Carl Fogarty Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 916 Scott Russell Aaron Slight
1995 Carl Fogarty Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 916 Troy Corser Aaron Slight
1996 Troy Corser Flag of Australia Australia Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 916 Aaron Slight John Kocinski
1997 John Kocinski Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Honda Honda RC45 Carl Fogarty Aaron Slight
1998 Carl Fogarty Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 916 Aaron Slight Troy Corser
1999 Carl Fogarty Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 996 Colin Edwards Troy Corser
2000 Colin Edwards Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Honda VTR-1000 SP1/RC51 Noriyuki Haga Troy Corser
2001 Troy Bayliss Flag of Australia Australia Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 998 Colin Edwards Ben Bostrom Bayliss replaced Fogarty after his accident at Phillip Island in 2000
2002 Colin Edwards Flag of the United States United States Flag of Japan Honda VTR-1000 SP1/RC51 Troy Bayliss Neil Hodgson Honda withdrew from the series after this, leaving Edwards rideless
2003 Neil Hodgson Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 999 Ruben Xaus James Toseland Hodgson and Xaus dominated, each scoring multiple wins and podium finishes
2004 James Toseland Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 999 Régis Laconi Noriyuki Haga Ducati were backing Laconi to win, Toseland performed consistently to win
2005 Troy Corser Flag of Australia Australia Flag of Japan Suzuki GSX-R 1000 Chris Vermeulen Noriyuki Haga After having struggled on the Petronas team, Corser gave Suzuki its first WSBK crown
2006 Troy Bayliss Flag of Australia Australia Flag of Italy Ducati Ducati 999 James Toseland Noriyuki Haga Defending champ Corser struggled while Bayliss dominated the year

List of World Superbike riders



External links

World Superbike seasons

1988 | 1989 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007


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