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Anthony Gobert and the Bimota SB8R: Can Miracles Happen?

This year’s World Superbike championship will be more competitive than ever (see MD’s article dated January 23, 2000). As everyone knows by now, wildman Anthony Gobert will be riding for the Bimota World Superbike team on the 1000cc V-twin SB8R.

The SB8R is all new, and has never been raced before (at least at the World Championship level). Although the street version has received some excellent reviews, and praise for its handling, World Superbike championship competition is an entirely different level.

WSB teams work hard to set up their bikes for each circuit in the Championship series. Even the new bikes, such as Honda’s new V-twin, receive extensive testing and fine tuning of chassis and suspension settings before the first round of the series. What about Bimota? Has Bimota done significant testing? Has Gobert even ridden the bike?

Bimota is missing from this week’s World Superbike tests in Australia (the only WSB team missing from the tests). It is beginning to look more and more like Anthony Gobert will be riding the motorcycle with the least amount of testing and set-up in the entire World Superbike paddock. Moreover, the SB8R is powered by Suzuki’s V-twin (based on the Suzuki streetbike — the TL1000R). This V-twin has never been used in World Superbike competition. Although it was used for two seasons in AMA Superbike competition, most reports indicate the engine was never fully developed (having, certainly for a twin, a fairly narrow and revvy powerband). How can Gobert be competitive this year on this bike?

Gobert actually won WSB races many years ago aboard an otherwise uncompetitive Kawasaki ZX-7R Superbike. Gobert has huge talent, and he can sometimes ride a motorcycle beyond its apparent capabilities. But can Gobert really win, or even run at the front of the pack, on a bike this new and untested?

Gobert certainly knows how to ride a V-twin, having proved that in AMA Superbike competition aboard the Ducati. He won several races, and, at times, dominated a fast group of AMA Superbike competitors. The Ducati he rode, of course, was the culmination of years of development. The Bimota will be entirely different, and, we feel, even Anthony Gobert’s huge talent will not put the Bimota on a WSB podium this year. We’ll see.