Superbike: High Stakes
Since its takeover by Dorna Sport, the Superbike World World Championship has undergone changes in regulations, both sporting and technical. The objective is to differentiate this competition from the MotoGP as much as possible while making it more accessible in financial terms. After going through the Evo class which allowed the promoters of the championship to expand the line-up in 2014, they reached an agreement with the various manufacturers engaged in the Superbike World World.
On the chassis side, the frame has to be the original factory version while the swing-arm and suspensions are specific. On the engine side, the short-block and the crankshaft must be standard, but modifications are allowed to the cylinder head (camshafts, intake and exhaust ducts) and the connecting rods (which must be of similar material and identical in weight).
The valves, pistons and other major parts must be the original factory versions. As for the gearbox, only one choice of gears is allowed throughout the season. The handicaps on motorcycles that are too powerful now involve flanges on the air intakes. Electronics, the third key factor in bike performance, consists of a kit enabling each factory team to continue to develop its own programs, but they must be provided to private teams three times during the season.
The price of the kit (€ 8,000) includes all the necessary equipment for the system to work properly. Finally, motorcycles without Ride-By-Wire technology in their road versions still can be fitted with it, provided that the system installed is available to the teams that have entered the WSBK or other FIM championships.
On the sports side, the Kawasaki KRT Elf factory team remains the benchmark, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes having ridden their ZX-RRs to the first two places in last year's overall standings. Which means this season the two Brits will once again be favourites for the title of world champion. They will have to be wary, however, of the Ducatis ridden by Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri, the latter making his return to competition after an absence lasting almost two years.
The Yamaha riders will also need watching carefully, Michael van der Mark backing Alex Lowes this year. There have been changes at Honda as well, with the arrival of Stefan Bradl alongside Nicky Hayden.
In Supersport, this year twenty-six riders have entered the 600 cc the category, against twenty in Superbike. Now five-time world champion Kenan Sofuoglu will still be the man to beat, even though the Kawasaki rider had to give up the first two races of the season due to an injury during training.
For contenders, the Turk rider will have to count with the Yamahas of Lucas Mahias and Federico Caricasulo, the MV Agustas of PJ Jacobsen and Roberto Rolfo, as well as the Hondas of Jules Cluzel and Kyle Smith. Sofuoglu will also need to keep an eye out for the other Kawasaki ZX-6Rs piloted by Kyle Ryde or Kazuki Watanabe.