By: Byron Wilson
With the 2013 World Superbike season opener at Phillip Island just days away, motorcycle road racing fans the world over are gearing up for a championship that promises to be as enthralling and competitive as any in recent memory. There have been some dramatic shifts since the end of 2012 including roster changes, administrative shake-ups, and the inclusion of a stop in India, a first for the country and the series. Familiar faces will return, including Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa alongside a group of premier-class rookies looking to prove their skill in the big show.
Administrative and Regulation Changes
One of the most notable changes since 2012 is the fact that World Superbike is now under the auspices of Dorna, rights holder of MotoGP. One of the most conspicuous results of this union is the introduction of a number of regulations in WorldSBK to increase its standing as a “production” race series. For 2013, teams are required to add true-to-life headlight decals for their particular models in order to better represent the bikes as they might be seen on showroom floors. Another change is the move from 16.5-inch tires to 17-inch, again, in an effort to give additional credence to WorldSBK’s “production” series claims.
Pirelli developed new Diablo tires for World Superbike in 2013, which have been part of the testing program for many teams during off-season testing. They’re claimed to “ensure a reduction in movement and (offer) improved stability and handling in turns, as well as the ability to maintain performance throughout the race.” Pirelli goes on to state that “the compound range was also redesigned from scratch based on the new structure of the 17-inch tires and now the new blends are softer, more versatile and higher performance.”
Some of the changes have moved the two race series closer together though, such as the switch to a GP-like three-rider echelon grid rather than the four riders per row traditionally used in SBK. The weight limit of twin-cylinder bikes has been reduced as well, equalling the minimum weights of its four-cylinder rivals, an issue that may help Ducati return to the top step in 2013.
After rounds like Monza in 2012, where changing conditions mid-race forced officials to stop competition, a rule has been passed that says if weather conditions suddenly take a turn for the worse during a race, officials will no longer suspend competition to allow riders to change tires. Riders now must enter the pits as the race continues and change tires mid-competition. Should a rider need to change tires mid-race, they must stop in front of their garage, turn the engine off and dismount the bike entirely. They’re strictly forbidden any refueling during pit stops.
WorldSBK in India
In addition to a return to Moscow Raceway, which WorldSBK first visited in 2012, Round 2 of 2013 takes the series to the newly built Buddh Circuit in India. Located near Delhi, Buddh was designed by Hermann Tilke (the German engineer and racer who also designed Sepang, the Valencia Street Circuit and the new Circuit of the Americas, just to list a few) and is slated to host WorldSBK through 2016. India becomes the 27th country in WorldSBK’s 26-year history to host an event.
Another big change is Max Biaggi, who won’t be around to defend his 2012 championship title. The Roman stepped down after racing competitively for over 20 years, earning two SBK titles and a swath of GP titles during that time.
Among those new to the premier class are Jules Cluzel and Vittorio Iannuzzo, both having moved up from World Supersport following the 2012 season. Cluzel joins Leon Camier on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki squad, while Iannuzzo will pilot a BMW S1000RR for the Grillini Dentalmatic SBK Team.
Others, such as Chaz Davies and Sylvain Guintoli, made the move from satellite teams to full factory-backed crews. Davies is now part of the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK effort, while Guintoli steps into Biaggi’s previous post alongside Eugene Laverty on the Aprilia Racing Team. Loris Baz, who rode as replacement for Joan Lascorz with Kawasaki Racing in 2012, returns to contest a full premier-class season aboard the ZX-10R beside teammate, Tom Sykes.
Davide Giugliano remains with Althea Racing as a stand-alone rider, but is now pilot of an Aprilia RSV4 rather than the Ducati 1098R used in 2012. His former teammate, Checa, holds steady with Ducati but is now with Team Alstare and will work the 1199 Panigale through its inaugural season along with Ayrton Badovini. The Alstare name has a long history in World Superbike, putting in 14 years with Suzuki, but in 2012 took a break from racing after failing to reach a deal with the brand. Francis Batta remains at the helm of Team Alstare and aims to give the 1199 a memorable first-season in WorldSBK.
Former BMW Motorrad rider Leon Haslamjoins Jonathan Reaon the Honda Factory effort, which has a new title sponsor in Pata, an Italian snack manufacturer. Ronald ten Kate continues to manage the squad and is excited about the team’s chances at scoring some big results in 2013. Hiroshi Aoyama, Rea’s teammate in 2012, opted to return to MotoGP and will contest the prototype series with the Avintia Blusens CRT effort.
Official testing has already been underway, with two official days at Phillip Island in the books ahead of the season opener which runs February 22-24. Some riders have already encountered trouble, with Sykes now riding with a cracked bone in his left hand, Melandri suffering from persistent shoulder pain and a number of others hit the pavement during the proceedings, forcing them to seek medical attention. There’s no telling what the 2013 season will bring, but there’s no doubt that it will be exciting.
The following pages go into further detail on the different manufacturers fielding WorldSBK entires in 2013.
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