World Superbikes are back again and even though there is no longer an official factory presence from BMW Motorrad, there will, however, be several private RRs on the grid when this year’s series kicks off at Phillip Island in Australia on February 23. Here’s a brief summary of who to watch and what to expect from the 2014 season.
It’s all change in the Superbike World Championship, with maximum engine usage caps and restrictions on braking and suspension parts in the SBK category, as well as the introduction of a new ‘EVO’ class to run alongside the SBK class. The regulation changes are to help keep costs down for teams, and the introduction of the Superbike EVO category will see motorcycles with specification similar to Superstock machines, taking part in the same races as the Superbikes, albeit as a sub-class – or championship within a championship.
These changes have swelled the numbers on the grid for 2014, with 27 permanent riders representing eight manufacturers confirmed on the latest provisional entry list. Among them are several BMW S1000RR riders hoping to make their mark on this prestigious race series.
Two times FIM Superstock 1000 Cup Champion Sylvain Barrier will be racing an EVO-spec version of the BMW S1000RR in 2014 (see separate story). The Frenchman was unstoppable in the support series in 2012 and 2013, and gets his wish to ride against the top Superbike riders in the world as part of the established BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team.
Having already tested this year at Portimão in Portugal, the successful squad is well placed to challenge for the EVO title, as it will be the fourth year Sylvain has ridden for the team, which includes a wealth of experience in personnel such as Sporting and Technical Director Gerardo Acocella, and Crew Chief Rossano Innocenti, who has won six STK1000 titles in the past seven years.
Also using RR power to launch their 2014 season WSBK aspirations is the BMW Team Toth, who are fielding a two-rider line-up, with Imre Toth in the SBK class and Peter Sebestyen contesting the EVO championship. The Hungarian squad has been competing in the Supersport World Championship since 2010 and before that was present in the MotoGP series, in both the 125cc and 250cc classes.
According to Alex Varga, Team Manager, the decision to step up to SBK on BMW bikes is an important one, on many levels: “We are going to have an expert from BMW Motorrad Motorsport following our team at each racing event and test, and are really looking forward to a successful year, full of results. However, we are aware of the fact that our boys will compete against really great riders.”
Spearheading the team’s assault in the SBK class is Imre Toth, who graduates to this class from Supersport and is looking forward to the big bike action, “The new season has finally arrived, and I am so excited about it,” says the 28-year-old from Budapest. “Last year I had a difficult season, especially after my collarbone operation, however I managed to finish the entire season. Now, that we have changed category I really look forward to the first race in Phillip Island, especially as this is one of my favorite tracks. I know that changing to a bigger class is not always easy and it needs a lot of work and concentration, but I will do everything possible to achieve great results for myself and for my team.”
This was a view shared by 19-year-old Peter Sebestyen, also from Budapest, who comments, “Wow, I am really grateful to the team to offer me this possibility to ride in the EVO class, especially on a BMW. This will be an enormous experience for me. I am sure that this will not be easy, but I want to show everyone what I am capable of, and will not let down the team that believes in me.”
The 2014 series kicks off on February 23, 2014 at Philip Island before traveling to circuits across the world in many different countries including Spain, The Netherlands, Italy, UK, Malaysia, Portugal, USA, Russia, France and South Africa.