Pata Yamaha boss Paul Denning has come out in favour of the new race-two grid formation in WorldSBK as it will add interest to a series that has been struggling in recent years and cites the British Superbike Showdown system as an example of how tinkering with grids makes a show stronger.
Denning believes measures have to be taken in order to progress the championship so it doesn’t wither in the shadow of MotoGP and trying to get closer racing with more riders in a position to challenge for the podium can only be a good thing.
“A primary point is that this regulation is absolutely the same for everyone. Unlike a technical regulation imposed to make the racing closer, which inevitably affects some machines more than others, this simply makes race two 2 more difficult for the race one podium finishers and adds excitement and unpredictability to the result,” Denning said.
“However, to provide some context, in the restarted 2016 Qatar race two, Jonathan Rea started in ninth position on the grid. He was fifth at the end of lap one, third at the end of lap two and second by the end of lap five. Only an inspired Chaz Davies stopped JR winning the race – and the starting position made no difference to the result.
“The new race two grid also adds opportunity for exposure and sponsorship value to teams not usually on the front row – whatever your view on this point, all the teams need to be able to grow in a sustainable way in order to develop a stronger series.
“There are cries of ‘gimmickry’ or ‘artificialism’ but is this effort to spice up the racing really so different to that of motorcycling’s premier MotoGP series – for fully unrestricted prototype machines which now use standard ‘one fits all’ ECU software and the same tyres for all competitors – all of course in the interests of the ‘show’ (indeed pretty successful in that aim)?
“BSB has surely the most artificial ingredient of all – a full season of investment, effort and team work distilled down to three events at the end of the season to decide the title – but the show is strong, crowd attendance looks healthy, sponsorship looks quite positive and the complaints have dispersed. Promoters have to protect and develop their sporting properties, while finding the right balance and demonstrating respect for the sport’s history and integrity.
“WorldSBK has been through a challenging couple of years and Dorna must also (I assume) have struggled to find the correct levels of internal resource and investment to grow the series – it must be difficult to truly love, embrace and develop a series you have been at war with for 20 years…! However, the two-day race format has been a success in terms of TV audience and in some countries live attendance (even if the time schedule has proved challenging for the teams) and 2017 sees the best strength in depth for many years – our guys on a significantly improved YZF-R1, Kawasaki and Ducati as strong as ever, increased effort from Aprilia, a new Honda, and the very significant additions of Melandri, Laverty and Bradl to the series. In addition, there are very competitive MV and BMW entries, so there is plenty of diversity (seven competitive manufacturers) and opportunities for fans to support their brand.
“The factories with the most consistent recent programmes and technical investments are doing the current winning, as is expected. The best bike and rider combinations will continue to win, but the new Race 2 grid will create a bigger fight to get to the front, and a real challenge and opportunity for those on the front row to try and stay there.
“Less predictability will always increase the interest levels and this can only be positive for the series. And whether you love or hate this concept, right now WorldSBK is being talked about – and that can also only be a good thing.”