2014 World Superbike Season Preview
Since its inception in 1988, the World Superbike Championship has highlighted the fastest production-based motorcycles ever built, from Japanese inline fours to Italian twins.
The manufacturer that’s synonymous with the SBK series is without a doubt Ducati; the Borgo Panigale-based company has won 17 manufacture titles – one of two titles awarded in a season (Rider, manufacturer) . The closest is Honda, which has three titles.
Ducati’s final manufacturer title arrived in 2011. That year, Carlos Checa also took the rider title aboard the 1198R. But since, things have settled down for Ducati, and Aprilia took the 2012 and 2013 manufacturer titles. As for rider titles, Max Biaggi completed the feat in 2012 aboard the Aprilia RSV4, and Tom Sykes in 2013 aboard the Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja.
And when the 2014 World Superbike Championship gets underway this weekend at Phillip Island in Australia, all eyes will be on Sykes, who was the second rider in World SBK history to take a title for Kawasaki. The only other rider was Scott Russel, who won in 1993 aboard the ZXR750R.
The British rider Sykes, who lost the 2012 title by a mere half-point to Biaggi, is already on a tear. He led most of the preseason tests, and will be looking to garner a third title for Kawasaki. But there will be many challenges for Sykes, considering not only the talent of other riders talent, but the many rule changes.
2014 World Superbike Rule Changes
To garner more teams and keep costs lower, the Superbike EVO class was introduced for 2014 WSBK. The EVO class utilizes is a road-based Superbike machine like the others, but its has tougher engine and chassis regulations. The biggest difference is engines; the standard SBK class can use eight engines per season, the EVO class just three.
For 2014, 10 riders will be on EVO spec bikes. As for 2015, all riders will use EVO-spec motorcycles.
For the 11th straight year, all motorcycles will use Pirelli tires. The Italian-based tire company has worked closely with the EVO-spec class to develop solutions that will balance the performances of the grid.
The Tissot Superpole format has also changed, and is now similar to MotoGP’s qualifying. Free practice will play a larger role in the battle for pole position.
Following practice, the top 20 riders will battle in two, 15-minute Superpole sessions. The top 10 of those riders will go directly to Superpole 2. The other 10 will battle in Superpole 1, with the top two riders of that session heading to Superpole 2.
Those 12 riders will then battle for the top 12 qualifying positions, and the remaining grid will line up as they qualified based on their best times in Superpole 1 and free practice.
Regarding manufacturers, there will be eight in 2014, including MV Agusta (F4 RR), which returns to the series, and newbie Erik Buell Racing (1190RX). These two join the others: Aprilia (RSV4), BMW (S1000RR), Ducati (Panigale R), Honda (CBR1000RR), Kawasaki (ZX-10R), and Suzuki (GSX-R1000). Yamaha will likely show up in some wildcard appearances. Biomata did not make homologation, but hopes to compete mid season.
After being revealed last year, in 2014 each and every race in calendar will be opened by the sighting lap of the new Official Safety Car of the Superbike World Championship, the stunning Alfa Romeo “4C”.
And it all gets underway this weekend at Phillip Island for round 1 of 14 in 2014 World Superbike. This will be the 24th time World Superbike visited the Phillip Island circuit, making it the most visited track in World SBK history. Last year, Aprilia Racing Team dominated the round; Sylvain Guintoli won race one, and Eugene Laverty – now on a Suzuki – won race two.
Following is a breakdown of 2014 World Superbike teams and riders from WorldSBK.com:
Reigning Champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) is more motivated than ever to begin his title defense campaign after an encouraging winter testing schedule, that helped him improving his feeling with the ZX-10R and evaluating new parts and solutions developed by the team for the upcoming season.
Sykes has though never accomplished at Phillip Island the type of results he had on other tracks, having scored so far only one podium finish in 2012, in Race 2. Last year he was twice fifth, in a weekend that was fully dominated by Aprilia and their official riders. With Loris Baz once again alongside the Englishman and David Salom selected to develop and race the EVO version of the ZX-10R, the Spanish-based factory effort by Kawasaki is looking to build on the success of 2013.
The Aprilia Racing Team has changed half of its rider line-up with the arrival of WSBK multiple race winner and former 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri. The 31 year old Italian has joined confirmed Sylvain Guintoli, who is still not 100% following a recent right shoulder surgery he underwent last month. The Frenchman joined back the team for a two-day private test last week at Jerez and showed some good signs of improvement. Not even Melandri is fully fit, but the right ankle problem did not bother him on-board the RSV4 in the last outing. On the privateer side of Aprilia, Team Red Devils Roma will continue the fruitful partnership started last September with former Moto2 Champion Toni Elias.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki embarks in its 2014 WSBK campaign with a new main sponsor and a brand-new duo of riders that already showed some great speed in private testing. 2013 runner-up Eugene Laverty and reigning BSB Champion Alex Lowes are both hungry for results and the 2014 GSX-R 1000 appears to be on a different level than its predecessor, thanks to the massive effort put in by the Verwood-based squad over the winter.
Big changes also on the WSBK effort by Ducati, as Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano are the ones chosen to race the Ducati Superbike Team’s 1199 Panigale R machines. Ducati will also be represented in the EVO class by Althea Racing Team and its sole rider Niccolò Canepa.
No differences on the Pata Honda side, with Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam riding the new CBR1000RR SP and hoping for a drastic change in results from a difficult 2013.
Following the realignment of BMW official support in World Superbike, the BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team is back to its roots and will field an EVO-spec BMW S 1000 RR for two-time and reigning STK1000 Champion Sylvain Barrier.
Two new manufacturers will enter the series in 2014, making an impressive total of 8 marques, and will make their debut at the first Round in Australia: the Iconic MV Agusta is back to international racing with factory support to last year’s World Supersport Championship winning team, Yakhnich Motorsport, still headed by Claudio Corsetti with Natalia Lyubimova as Team Manager. The MV Agusta Reparto Corse – Yakhnich Motorsport team will be contesting this year’s WSBK edition with former MotoGP rider Claudio Corti on-board a full-Superbike spec MV Agusta F4 RR.
After several years of commitment in the American Superbike Championship, the Hero EBR Team lands on the international stage with all-American rider line-up consisting of Geoff May and Aaron Yates, riding the brand-new Erik Buell Racing 1190RX. The US brand’s European headquarter is located in Northern Italy and the team managed by Claudio Quintarelli and Giulio Bardi.
2014 Phillip Island World Superbike on TV
beIN will provide live coverage of Phillip Island World Superbike late on Saturday, February 22. Race 1 will air at 7:30 p.m. EST, and Race 2 at 10 p.m.
You can also get live coverage from the new SBK Live Experience App, which is available at Worldsbk.com.