James Whitham: What changes are needed in WorldSBK, BSB and MotoGP for 2020…| James Whitham | WorldSBK
Here I am, desperately trying to enjoy a much needed holiday aboard a boat on the Thames – just moored up next to Windsor Castle. Girlfriend, family, kids and the sun is shining. What more? Then somebody rings up to ask me what’s gonna happen, or rather what should happen, in motorbike racing next year. It’s a hard life but here goes:
This does not need a lot doing to it and if you watched Thruxton on Sunday you wouldn’t want to see much change. It was fantastic. And a record crowd enjoyed every second of it, even with the occasional shower. However, there is a lot of effort going into the smaller classes.
The British Talent Cup takes over from Motostar next year and as everybody’s going to be on the same bike that will be a great starter class at BSB level. The only losers in this change are the teams that have invested heavily in Moto3 machinery and now have nowhere to race them.
But in the middleweight class of Supersport something is going to have to happen because manufacturers aren’t making road going 600s any more and you aren’t going to be able to buy one to make into a Supersport racer. At BSB and WSB level it’s dominated by Yamaha because they are the only manufacturer producing them. And yet it generally gives fantastic racing so something has to be done.
At the moment you do have the odd GP2 or ex-Moto2 bikes mixed in so this is likely to be the future with bikes built by independent constructors like Messrs Harris Performance or Tony Scott. (Great ride by Kyle Ryde at Thruxton on the RS Racing Kalex to win overall by the way)
The regulations for Superbikes achieve a good degree of parity but I do think there may be further balancing penalties put on the Ducatis at the end of this year, maybe another rev cut. If you average out what the Ducatis and their riders, Brookes, Redding and Bridewell, are able to do then you might conclude that they have a bit of a machine advantage. But that is not to deny they are great riders, and from two top-class teams.
Ironically, the bikes with most horsepower faced a bigger tyre problem at high corner speed Thruxton and the shortened race meant that everyone could just pull the pin instead of thinking about tyre conservation. Josh Brookes pulled his pin the best. But I think Stuart Higgs may have a look at the parity rules at the end of this year.
But this year the championship has undoubtedly been made by the arrival of Scott Redding. I didn’t think it would happen but it did and it has been brilliant. However, if - and it’s looking increasingly likely - he wins the championship he is going to get offers from teams in WorldSBK.
Is there a next big thing? The series benefits from the introduction of exotic – if that’s the right term – riders who’ve been successful overseas and never had to take on our circuits before. And I don’t ignore Xavi Fores who, if he stays, could be a real contender next year when he knows what he’s doing with the British tracks.
But that’s the only thing that really needs to be done and it might even be someone like Leon Camier, who’s had a bad time in WSB with accidents often through having to try too hard with an uncompetitive Honda. He’s won a championship here before and, as Redding has proved, returning to home territory is not necessarily a bad career move.
While on the subject of Honda, wasn’t it great to see the UK team get a win after a really lean period? That, and especially with young Andy Irwin as the rider, was the highlight of the year for me. He’s a happy kid, isn’t afraid of getting stuck in as his shenanigans with Peter Hickman proved, but doesn’t fall off that often.
He may not win again this year but he can certainly end up in the Showdown, and if he does he’s the kind of bloke to go all in and chuck the kitchen sink at it. He will be trying.
Whatever we may think about it, and I have expressed my views before, I think you’ve got to be careful with any sort of knee jerk regulation changes. The organisers have got people like the manufacturers to keep happy because it needs world championship credibility and without their support it would probably not exist.
People say why not simply use BSB regulations but it is not the entirely the answer.The variety of winners here is a lot due to the variety of circuits which you just don’t get in the world championship. And regulations should not be changed simply because one rider seems to be dominating. Remember, three months ago we were all saying that Alvaro Bautista and Ducati were too dominant and something had to be done about it. Look what’s happened now.
The current rules for WorldSBK are not too far from what could create a fairly level playing field and radical change may not necessary. But for me I do think it would at least be better with something more basic in terms of electronics. I have put the argument for something more like a Superstock series and I do think that getting rid of the Superstock class was a big mistake. It is a cracking class, as it is here and involves every manufacturer at a fairly competitive level.
But the organisers think that ‘dumbing down’ Superbikes would not be approved by the manufacturers and they will have talked to them. I would question that. There is surely an argument for throwing regulations at them which ensure every bike make is reasonably competitive Then let’s see whether the manufacturers want to get behind it because I think they would. You could make a championship which is exciting, popular and they could all compete at that level. And it would be a lot cheaper under Superstock regs.
But revolution rather than evolution? I think there’s an argument for that but they would say, with some justification, they run the only road-based racing class which the manufacturers like because they develop their road bikes from it. But road bikes are so technically advanced now what’s wrong with running all this on their race bikes. They all need traction control etc to be road legal in Europe now anyway.
When you look at Superstock in Britain it is a competitive championship, a brilliant championship. So why wouldn’t it work? I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers but I don’t think WorldsBK has too much to lose at the minute. And the average spectator cannot tell the difference between a rider going round on a Superbike at 1’36s or Superstock at 1’38s. If you’ve got four or five people dicing at the front then the lap time doesn’t make any difference.
It’s taken a little bit of a backward step at the minute with Marquez being so dominant but racing series are like that. We have seen, over the last few years, unbelievably good racing at that level. MotoGP is a highly regulated championship with, it seems like, new rules being introduced every year. But it has worked, the crowds have come and so they haven’t done too much wrong.
And, as I say in WorldSBK, you don’t want to punish a manufacturer for having a rider who is exceptional good. I am sure every team would like to have Marquez if they could afford him. But, to be honest, my level of expertise in MotoGP is not sufficiently high to make any comment worth listening to.