BSB blog: new rules under discussion

Published: 23 May 2007

So the BSB organisers have upstaged WSB promoters FG Sport yet again after confirming their 2008 British superbike regulations in May to give everyone involved in the British series plenty of time to plan ahead.

In fact the proposed rules were published this time last year, allowing everyone with a vested interest to air their views with BSB’s Race Director Stuart Higgs.

It means that 1200cc twins will run to the same regulations as the 1000cc four-cylinder bikes next season. But in a bid to curb both performance and costs engine tuning all the bikes will be restricted to the same level as current supersport regulations while virtually unrestricted chassis rules remain unchanged.

Ducati have been pushing for the 1200cc limit to cut costs. Their F06 999s might have road bike crankcases but their innards are virtually MotoGP spec in order to keep their V-twins competitive against the fours that are now of equal capacity.

Remember when superbike was invented, the fours could only run 750cc engines and the twins were always 1000cc? But ultimately the only way to keep 750s competitive was a factory bike and it became prohibitively expensive to run them. The manufacturers and teams pushed for 1000cc fours…..Interesting how the 750cc sportbike market has now virtually dried up.

So what Ducati is asking for is nothing new.  When it takes a million quid budget just for engines in superbike (see Airwaves Ducati engine feature in the May 23 issue of MCN) then something has to be done.

BSB Race Director Stuart Higgs told me: “We’ve had an 18-month process of debate and the new format has been accepted by all the teams. They fully understand that we’ve made these changes to ensure the future prosperity of the series and we’re confident that the All Japan and American domestic championship will follow our lead with very similar regulations.”

It’s not the first time BSB has taken a major decision to modify its superbike regulations to suit the changing market conditions. Let’s go back to the demise of the 750 fours. In 2004 BSB went to 1000cc fours while WSB dithered.  BSB has since gone strength to strength and boasts Honda and Ducati factory-backed teams. WSB’s indecisive nature lost them the support of the factory Japanese teams and has seen their series on a roller-coaster ride since.

Higgs added: “It didn’t surprise me when FG Sport contacted us first thing last Wednesday, looking for a reaction to our rules meeting. If the AMA and Japanese follow our lead as I expect they will, then we have America, Europe and Asia embracing the same platform while the Word series is still looking for a direction.”

From what I hear,  Ducati and potential superbike newcomers KTM have sent a joint letter to WSB organisers FG Sport demanding 1200 twins be allowed into WSB, and that a decision be made by the end of this month. If those demands are not met, Ducati will quit WSB and KTM will not bother building bikes.

But if Ducati do continue in BSB, any idea of building special and, by definition, very expensive, 1200cc versions of the current 1098 model may be tempered by a change in the homologation requirements. The new BSB rules require manufactures of over100,000 units to have registered 200 machines in the UK of they type they wish to race.

While a smaller manufacturer like Ducati who produce under 100,000 units have to register 100 machines in the UK. And by the term registered, it means registered for road use by June next year. 

Higgs said: “In our initial rules proposal we set the lower limit for homologation of 50 registered machines but we took a decision to up it to 100 to rule our purpose-built factory bikes. The aim is for everyone to build race bikes from showroom stock motorcycles that anyone can buy.”

Honda boss Neil Tuxworth was happy with the proposed new rules.

He said: “We’re happy because it allows everybody to compete at the same level and it stops people having one-off bikes built.

“I’m pleased my proposal to replace the word ‘importer’ with registered for the road’ has been accepted into the homologation regulation. It stops any manufacturer bringing bikes in just for the homologation procedure and then taking them away again. Now the bikes have to be registered for the road so it really is a true production-based class again.

“It’s also good news that British, American and Japanese series rules are all similar and now it’s up to Flammini to decided what he wants to do.”

Rizla Suzuki’s Simon Buckmaster added: “I couldn’t see any argument against the proposed rules. The teams agreed last year so it was just a case of rubber-stamping them. The rules are now unified across the States, Japan and Britain. It’s all very positive.”

Virgin Media’s Rob McElnea put in a last minute proposal to have superbike engines and supersport chassis, on the ground that the current chassis costs are prohibitive and more restrictions would not only reduced costs but also keep horsepower levels in check. His idea was thrown out on the grounds that it would have been against the ethos of reducing engine performance.

Another dissenter was MSS Discovery team boss Nick Morgan. He’s got a ton of experience managing a supersport team and this is his first year in BSB.

He said: “I’m dead against any manufacturer being given a capacity advantage, regardless of what configuration engine they have. Either we have a 100cc top limit or we don’t. I always hated the supersport rules allowing 750 twins when we all had 600 fours.”

And Jentin Yamaha team boss Bernie Toleman added: “This is a big blow to our team. They reckon it’s to save costs and help the smaller teams but it’s no help to us. We’re a small team but we’ve joined forced with Rousch Engineering and Pectel. One of the attractions for them was freedom to develop the engine side of the package.”

Airwaves Ducati team boss Colin Wright refused to comment on the new rules but said: “I’ve passed the information from the meeting to Ducati Corse but they’ve not made any comment so I’m not in a position to say anything.”

It’s not even so much what the BSB rules say, it’s whether or not FG Sport get their act together. If they’ve got any sense they’ll follow BSB’s lead and announce similar rules. That way Ducati might be encouraged to go full steam ahead with a superbike version of the 1098. And KTM might also be encouraged to follow suit.

I hope so because I can’t imagine superbike racing without the thundering V-twins. How about you?