2010 BSB rules debate: MCN’s view

Published: 24 August 2009

There’s no doubt that BSB needs to cut costs. Show me a business in the UK that isn’t experiencing financial difficulties. 

This year we’ve already seen HM Plant Honda cut staff, Worx Suzuki down to one rider, Airwaves Yamaha with only two full-spec bikes, SMT park their superbike, Rob McElnea’s team lose its NW200 backing but re-brand with Node4.

It’s not desperate, but you have to wonder what might happen when teams go looking for sponsors to fuel their 2010 budgets. 

So what are the possibilities for the future?    

Superbike Rules
Changing the rules isn’t the answer.  Change costs and the teams can’t afford to shell out any more. BSB Race Director Stuart Higgs knows this. The teams need stability.

One bike per rider
The one-bike-per-rider option is a serious one. Several BSB teams already operate this policy. It has its drawbacks, especially if a rider crashes in warm-up or race one but it’s the same for every one.  And, arguably you can run smaller staffing levels with only one bike per rider.
There’s the argument that the teams will have a spare – un-built - bike in the truck. But there’s also the argument if they can run two bikes per rider there’s still a spare bike in the truck and an even bigger stack of wheels, tyres, spares to service so many bikes.

Control or kit ECUs
There’s no doubt the cost of complex engine management systems, with traction control, wheelie control, launch control etc etc, is huge. And it’s not just the hardware or the software, it’s having people in the team to analyse all the data.
The teams have already made the investment in the kit and the data technicians are integrated into their team set-ups. So it would be a big step by MSVR to ban fancy electronics but it’s a time for bold decisions.
Such a call would mean regulating electronics. For one thing, road bikes come with pretty complex electronics as standard. So is it right to ban it from racing? You could argue, probably not as superbike racing is essentially production-based racing.
But a control ECU is one way to reduce costs. The problem is, even though we only currently have four Japanese manufacturers in BSB (and a token MV Agusta), each manufacturer’s engines work in different ways so it’s going to take a fair amount of development to ensure the control ECU works for everyone. It’s no overnight solution.
And what happens if BMW and Aprilia come to BSB in future? Even more complications.
Not insurmountable, but will take time.
The good thing about a control ECU would be eliminating – or certainly reducing -some of the electronic rider aid elements. You could also limit rpm, which in turn, would help preserve the longevity of the engines.
There’s bound to be a safety lobby against losing electronic rider aids – but if you limited rpm (as Nick Morgan suggested) it might reduce the need for electronic aids.
Specifying race kit ECUs just don’t work. How on earth do you police it?

Two-day meetings
Virtually every team boss I’ve spoken to is up for cutting back BSB meetings to two days. At the moment the teams have to arrive at the circuit on Thursday to set up and don’t leave till very late on Sunday.
Three days meetings may not such an issue for the well-financed teams but a large portion of the BSB paddock is made up of amateur teams who have to work for a living.
Two-day meetings would cut hotel bills, hospitality bills, and, more important,  reduce machine mileage.

Ten-round series
BSB could easily be reduced to 10 rounds. I’m a big fan of Mallory. I love the close proximity of the action. But let’s face it, superbikes have outgrown the track and BSB has outgrown the paddock.
And why go to Oulton Park twice? It wouldn’t be so bad if BSB ran one round on the short circuit (turning right at Cascades instead of left). But there’s no other circuit on the schedule that gets used twice (Brands gets two meeting but on different courses).

Scrap testing
GSE Racing used to reckon they did half a season’s mileage in pre-season testing but this year, through circumstances outside their control, went into the series with no testing at all on the Airwaves Yamahas. Of course they did so with factory bikes and tech support but even so, it shows that huge pre-season testing mileages aren’t vital.
If a 10-round series kicked off on the May Bank Holiday weekend, there could then be one official pre-season testing weekend (three days) in the UK two weeks before and then a ban on all testing for the remainder of the year.

Reduce hospitality
For some time now BSB has thought itself as a world championship – rightly so with so many factory bikes and international riders in the paddock. Living up to the image, teams invested heavily in huge hospitality units and expensive catering.  Million-pound sponsorship deals demanded it but the days of the blue chip sponsor in BSB are numbered  - you only have to look at the amount of BSB teams now relying on several smaller backers to finance their racing. Maybe it’s time to scale back the hospitality budgets to suit.