At long last, the FIM and Dorna have released a calendar for the World Superbike and World Supersport classes for 2014. The calendar features fourteen World Superbike events, but it is still very much a provisional list, with three of the fourteen still subject to contract, and the final race still marked as to be confirmed, with neither the location nor the country known.
The season kicks off as always in Australia, the World Superbike and World Supersport classes headed to the Phillip Island circuit for the opener on 23rd of February. There follows another WSBK tradition: the interminable wait for round 2. In 2014, there are seven weeks between the first and second rounds, with the second event taking place at the Motorland Aragon circuit just outside of Alcañiz. The WSBK circus then takes off for a tour through Europe, heading to Assen, Imola and Donington Park, before heading overseas again to Sepang, and a Malaysian round. Two rounds in Europ follow, at Misano and Portimao, before the World Superbike class heads to Laguna Seca, taking the slot vacated by the MotoGP class.
Press releases from some of the World Superbike teams after the test at Jerez:
While the Moto2 and Moto3 riders are busy in Almeria, the World Superbike teams are busy at Jerez. As usual, Tom Sykes is dominating proceedings, the newly-crowned WSBK champion circulating well under pole record pace at the Spanish circuit. Sykes lapped six tenths quicker than his teammate Loris Baz, and nine tenths faster than Marco Melandri, the Italian now riding the factory Aprilia.
Alex Lowes made a very strong debut, lapping Jerez at the same pace as Melandri on his first run out on the Voltcom Suzuki machine, while Jonathan Rea was the fastest of the Honda men. The teammates of Rea and Lowes were less fortunate: Leon Haslam's test was interrupted when his Pata Honda CBR1000RR caught fire, while Eugene Laverty only managed a handful of laps as the Voltcom Suzuki team worked to set up the Suzuki GSX-R1000.
The Jerez test also saw a large contingent of EVO class entries testing, giving a chance to compare the new bikes - basically, Superstock engines in WSBK-spec chassis - against the existing WSBK machines. Salom was fastest of the lot, 2.3 seconds behind Sykes, but only four tenths off the pace of Haslam, and ahead of Eugene Laverty and Claudio Corti, both of whom did not spend much time on track.
On Wednesday, the World Superbike riders will be joined by some of the MotoGP riders racing as Open entries.
It's been a busy time for motorcycle racing in the south of Spain. With the winter test ban about to commence, and now in force for both MotoGP and World Superbikes, the teams are heading south to get some development work done while they still can. For the World Superbike and MotoGP Open class teams, their destination is Jerez, while Moto2 and Moto3 are at Almeria, in Spain's southeastern corner.
At Jerez, Suzuki has just wrapped up a test, and Yakhnich Motorsport are taking the MV Agusta F4RR out for its first spin. The Jerez test was Eugene Laverty's first opportunity to ride the GSX-R1000, after the Irishman had signed for the Crescent Suzuki team, who have swapped title sponsors from Fixi to Voltcom. The move is a step down from the full factory Aprilia team for Laverty, but it is a long-term investment for the Irishman. Speaking to German language website Speedweek.com, Laverty explained that he believed that it was easier to move development on a project forward with a smaller group of people than inside a large organization.
Testing has concluded for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams who headed south to Jerez after the final round at Valencia, the picture on the second day is very similar to that on the first day. Thomas Luthi continues to top the timesheets in the Moto2 class, destroying the pole record by seven tenths of a second, and proving he is very much in form. Tito Rabat grabbed second spot, the Spaniard drafted in to replace Scott Redding already proving to be a smart move by Marc VDS Racing, while Jordi Torres was third.
Sam Lowes confirmed his promise from the first day of testing, ending day 2 in seventh once again, and under a second off the blistering pace set by Luthi. After dominating Moto3, both Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom are finding it much tougher going in the Moto2 category, the step up from a 100 kg single to a 140kg four cylinder proving to be a major difference. Sandwiched between the two former Moto3 men is AMA champion Josh Herrin, all three men over two seconds off the pace of Luthi.
In the Moto3 class, Jack Miller continues to dominate the small group who gathered at Jerez. Miller ended the test four tenths up on Danny Kent, the young British rider finding his feet on his return to the Moto3 class. Karel Hanika is less than a tenth off the pace of Kent, demonstrating his readiness to make the leap from the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
While the MotoGP teams have packed up and finished for the year - with the exception of a couple of Open class teams, who will be testing at Jerez at the end of the month - the Moto2 and Moto3 have headed to Jerez for the first test of their 2014 season. The first test sees a host of new faces making their debuts. A gaggle of champions enter Moto2, with World Supersport champ Sam Lowes, Moto3 champion Maverick Viñales and AMA Superbike champion Josh Herrin entering the fray. In Moto3, Red Bull Rookies Cup winner Karel Hanika makes his first appearance in the world championship.
At the end of the first day, Thomas Luthi led the Moto2 class, though it was tight as ever at the front, with just over a tenth of a second covering the top three of Luthi, Jordi Torres and Mika Kallio. Sam Lowes made a very impressive debut, just four tenths off the time of Luthi. Herrin had a little more trouble adapting, ending the day 2.2 seconds slower than the fastest man of the day. Moto3 champion Viñales ended his first session under two seconds behind Luthi, but well ahead of the man he spent the year fighting the Moto3 championship with, Luis Salom, who was 3.4 seconds off the pace of Luthi.
Race Director Mike Webb Interview, Part 1: On Penalty Points, Precedent, Jerez, Sepang And Whether Motorcycle Racing Is A Contact Sport
It has been a busy year for MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb. Since taking on the job of ensuring that MotoGP events take place safely and efficiently, stepping into the shoes vacated by Paul Butler at the start of the 2012 season, Webb has faced some tough decisions and unusual situations, his second year in the job even more eventful than the first.
In response to criticism over the warning system in 2012, a new penalty points system was introduced to allow for harsher penalties for persistent offenders. There were several high-profile incidents involving Marc Marquez in his rookie season, including a clash with Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez, a touch which severed the traction control sensor of teammate Dani Pedrosa's Honda and caused Pedrosa to crash, and the situation at Phillip Island, where the new asphalt at the circuit caused the tires to degrade much more than the two spec tire manufacturers had expected, requiring last-minute adjustments to the race schedule on the fly.
We spoke with Mike Webb extensively at Valencia, on the Thursday evening before the race, covering the above subjects and more, and reviewing his second year as Race Director. In the first part of the interview, Webb talks of whether motorcycle racing is a contact sport, how the penalty system has worked out, explains why Marc Marquez was not given points at Jerez, why Jorge Lorenzo wasn't penalized for the touch at Sepang, and of changing perceptions.
Q: You're at the end of your second year in the job of Race Director. Was it easier than the first?
2013’s World Superbike season is done and dusted. All the appeals are settled and the points are final. The racing at Jerez was nearly touched by the weather, but luckily for the series, it stayed dry for the world championship races.
World Superbike race two at Jerez would end in the traditional Spanish fireworks being lit by the world champion, but would they be lit on the track? With Marco Melandri sitting it out due to an injured foot, hurt at home, not on the track, a major catalyst for action would be missing.
Sam Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu came to Jerez with five race wins a piece this year and a score to settle.
Twenty one laps of a dry race at Jerez, after a damp Superstock race, would not be the most exciting race for the most part, but moments of absolute brilliance shone through.
In the second timed qualifying, Federico Sandi either didn’t see or ignored a black flag with orange circle and was fined €500 by Race Direction. As he qualified for Superpole in that session, it’s unlikely he will be complaining much.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams, as well as the EJC, after qualfying on Saturday at Jerez: