World Superbike and Grand Prix, long rivals as the two premier road racing world championships, came under singular ownership – with the long-term ramifications still uncertain as the 2013 season begins. Rumblings of what would eventually come to pass came in 2011 when Bridgepoint, owner of Dorna Sports (organizer of MotoGP), acquired Infront Sports & Media (organizer of World Superbike). It was speculated that, at the time, much of the move came from the fact that Infront Sports & Media also owns media rights to FIFA (soccer), a savvy business move from Bridgepoint’s point of view, considering the world-wide popularity of the sport. During the acquisition MotoUSA contributor, Mark Gardiner, opined that since “Dorna represents about 5% of Bridgepoint’s portfolio…I doubt that more than a minute was spent discussing SBK.”
Just over a year later, in October of 2012, new information was released announcing that MotoGP and WorldSBK would be consolidated under one umbrella organization, “integrated within the Dorna Sports group by managed as separate events with a view to enhancing the two distinct championships,” according to PR released at the time.
As yet the implications of the merger haven’t been fully realized, but it is understood that Dorna will update regulations and operations for both series. One of main points of contention between SBK and GP before the ownership change were controversial rules introduced by Dorna to Grand Prix. In particular, MotoGP’s introduction of CRT bikes blurred the line between prototype racing, the traditional domain of Grand Prix, and production racing, the contractual right of World Superbike.
FIM President Vito Ippolito commented on October 2, 2012 regarding the reorganization efforts, “I welcome Bridgepoint’s decision to bring the two championships together within a single organization. We shall shortly be holding a meeting of all the stakeholders in order to reposition the two championships and look into the technical and operational implications. We shall then be able to adapt the regulations to ensure that they have a distinct identity in future.”
To date, changes have been announced in both series that reflect the move to “ensure that they (MotoGP and WorldSBK) have a distinct identity in the future.” For example WorldSBK now requires all bikes to display decal headlights, mimicking production model appearance and have moved to 17-inch rear tires. MotoGP has announced moves aimed at cutting costs, including ECUs for 2014 and a price cap for brakes and suspension components by 2015, presumably in an effort to attract more teams and expand the pool of prototype machines. Current apprehension in WSB surrounds how far Dorna will go to impose new restrictions on the SBK class, with some fearing the mighty Superbikes will be gelded to Superstock levels.
Only time can tell how the two race series will be further differentiated, (or possibly be brought together?) but 2012 marked the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a new era in professional motorcycle racing.
Want to get in on the 2013 World Superbike action? Play Motorcycle USA’s Fantasy Superbike for a chance to win prizes like a VIP trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and $50 gift cards from Motorcycle-Superstore.com. Get in on the action before it’s too late, Round 1 at Phillip Island is set for February 24th!