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.
After wrapping up the 2013 World Supersport title, Sam Lowes is heading for Moto2. In a brief statement on the Yakhnich Motorsport website, posted on Sunday night, Yaknich announced that they would be stepping up to compete in both the World Superbike and World Supersport classes in 2014, and that Lowes would not be joining them. Instead, Lowes has signed a two-year deal to race in Moto2, though the statement did not mention who Lowes had signed with.
The announcement comes after weeks of negotiation between the Yakhnich team and Lowes. Lowes had originally signed a deal with the team to race for another two years, stepping up to World Superbikes for 2014. But the decision by Yakhnich to switch to MV Agusta in both classes left Lowes worried that the bike would not be competitive, and that he would not be able to challenge for a WSBK title to go with this WSS championship. At first, Lowes looked like being stuck with Yakhnich unless he paid a hefty penalty, but an agreement has been reached which will release Lowes from his contract, while retaining a promotional role with the team.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the French round at Magny-Cours:
Three World Championship races at Magny-Cours and three red flags within spitting distance of the chequered flags, some downed riders were classified while others were not, in spite of their causing the flags with downed bikes on the racing line.
“At the time the red flag is displayed, riders who are not actively competing in the race will not be classified.”
2013 FIM Superbike & Supersport World Championship and Superstock Cup Regulations, rule 1.27.1 exception 3.
Clouds loomed over a dry race at Magny-Cours as the last Superbike race of the weekend was started.
Sam Lowes started the 22 lap race, again declared a dry race, needing just two points to win the title. Kenan Sofuoglu, the only man with a chance of delying him the title, started from pole position.
World Superbike race one at Magny-Cours started dry, and was planned for 23 laps.
Weather once again dictated a portion of the weekend’s events, ensuring that nobody would have an easy time of it. Two riders in World Supersport ended their weekend yesterday and only one of them was replaced, while World Superbike had replacements for riders injured weeks ago. Fabrizio Lai was in for Max Neukirchner, Davide Salom kept Loris Baz’s bike warm and eight time endurance world champion Vincent Philippe sat in for Leon Camier. Lorenzo Lanzi even turned up on an old Ducati 1098R, still carrying its extra homologation weight, much like its rider.
The future of the World Superbike series is about to undergo a radical change. The EVO class to be introduced from next year onwards is to be the standard for all World Superbike machines from the 2015 season onwards.
As the WSBK grids have dwindled over the past four years, World Superbikes have been looking around at ways to stop the decline of the series. Former owners Infront were unsuccessful at stopping the rot, and now that the series is in the hands of Dorna, the Spanish series organizer has sat down with the manufacturers - previously excluded - and tried to find a way to cut costs drastically and increase participation. In August, they agreed that a new subclass would be created, to be called EVO, which can be summarized as having Superbike chassis rules (which allows extensive modification) and Superstock engine rules (which does not allow much modification).
Kenan Sofuoglu crashed out, walking away from his destroyed Kawasaki, ending the session a few minutes short. Drying conditions kept the times to within a second or two of yesterday's times and just off previous records.
Unsurprisingly, Magny-Cours was raining and we were given a wet Superpole, with two twenty minute sessions, losing six of the fifteen after the first session. As the rain looked like it would be getting heavier as time went on, an early time could strategically play out as the conditions worsened and the track slowed down.
Davide Giugliano showed that he has the pace in wet conditions, along with Ayrton Badovini, ahead of the four title contenders. Giugliano set the fastest time on his second lap out and then beat his own time four times. The session was red-flagged with a couple of minutes left and abandoned after Vincent Philippe crashed out, uninjured.
Kenan Sofuoglu was once again the quickest man on track while Sam Lowes sat the wet session out.