Things MotoGP Should Learn From World Superbikes
The United Kingdom is hosting two motorcycle racing world championships this summer. One is the British round of the World Superbike Championship hosted by Donington Park this weekend. The other is MotoGP resuming summer break at Silverstone in the first week of August.
Although these two championships differ in several ways, there are lessons that Dorna needs to apply for its premier category. MotoGP has gotten a little boring lately, with fewer overtakes and races defined by overtaking and qualifying positions. However, the production motorcycle class is undergoing a renaissance and is in stark contrast to MotoGP in the series' spiritual home.
Driving in Donington all weekend is never a dull moment, even with World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu driving his way to victory. After all, Turkey's Alvaro Bautista could have put Bautista in the lead for a long time, but behind him, it's closer than ever.
The podium for the weekend's opening race on Saturday afternoon was decided only when Bautista crashed, preventing us from seeing what happened in Race 2 for epic clashes with six-time World Champions Jonathan Rea and Scott Reading, who snatched his first BMW podium just after a fierce battle with Alex Lowes.
It is like the final lap fight, a multiple-track, braking maneuver race that a few seasons ago had to be tied to MotoGP. However, the races have not become relatively processional since WSB dominated completely by Rea has begun showcasing some signs of new beginnings.
This is partly due to the nature of the bikes that make up the WSB grid and how different the two halves of Donington Park are. The V4 Ducati versus stock Yamaha and Kawasaki means different bikes are stronger in different places – something that is no longer seen in the largely homogeneous world of MotoGP.
Finally, next year, with the departure of Suzuki and the loss of the Yamaha satellite team, there will only be two bikes on the grid that don't have the exact same engine configuration. It is an enormous opportunity from Honda's early 990s V5, Aprilias inline triple class, and even the occasional 500cc. 2 strokes mixed with V4 and inline-fours.
But, the main reason for this is partly information that is very clear and hardly new to fanatical MotoGP viewers. The proliferation of increasingly sophisticated ride height meters and aerodynamics have conspired to change the complete nature of the series.
Although WSB has had several wings these days (ironically, the traditionally shaped wings have been banned from MotoGP for safety reasons, instead of the storied structure that has become the norm there), they had to follow the line of production models. This way, they tend to allow rapid development and prevent complicated design as it should also be efficient on your morning commute if you opt for the Ducati V4R.
Moreover, the WSB doesn't have the hated height kit either, which makes sense considering they're completely useless on the road.
With wings and tricks removed, it is easy to imagine MotoGP racing going back to how it used to be. There is even more reason to give WSB a much-needed boost these days. The fan experience at Donington Park is almost unique in world-class motorsport, as regular weekend passes give you full access to the pits and the incredible Live Fan Zone right in the paddock.
It may not be feasible for MotoGP, given the larger crowds that congregate at many of their races and given the paddock there requires more space to set up. But it is hard not to feel that you get more value for money tickets at Donington than at Silverstone in a few weeks.
The overarching thing that brings it all together is better racing, more traditional-looking bikes, great event experience. It is because, at WSB, these days is still mainly what goes on the track, where this year's storyline has quickly become a developing epic.
Another new factor is not knowing who will win at any given weekend, something that happens in part because of the equivalence of the different factories and bikes each factory represents.