England’s Motorcycle News is reporting that next year’s British superbike championship will face a host of new rules, some of which may mimic the rumored WSB rule changes. Basically, a “superbike” may soon have little to no relationship with a 750cc in-line, four-cylinder motorcycle. Indeed, with WSB poised to adopt an 825cc capacity limit for four-cylinder machines, National superbike series, such as the AMA and BSB may follow, as well.
The problem with all of this is the lack of a tie to a stock motorcycle. Traditionally, “superbikes” have been homologated machines. This means they are based closely on production motorcycles that sell in certain minimum quantities. When is the last time you saw an 825cc production motorcycle? Probably, never. WSB appears ready to abandon a key relationship with production motorcycles, i.e., engine size.
This could remove one of the main attractions of WSB for race fans. Although WSB superbikes are dramatically different internally (both engine and chassis), the frames and bodywork directly relate to production machinery, as does the engine size. A fan could cheer for “his bike”, and imagine that it is faster than a Ducati, Honda, etc. If the bike being raced, however, lacks an identity with the engine size of the race fan’s own machine, this aspect of the race fan’s entertainment is lost.
WSB has enough problems currently (including a concern about competition with four-stroke GP next year and beyond). It seems to us that the 825cc limit proposed for four-cylinder machines is a stop-gap measure, at best. WSB needs to come up with a formula better than this, and remain closely tied to production machinery, if it wants to continue to thrive and enjoy the level of fan support it has in the past. The same goes for National superbike series.