Production based machines
Created in the United States, the Superbike world championship uses 4-stroke production-based machines. Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz all learned their craft in this class in the 80s before going on to become 500 world champions. In 1988, encouraged by the manufacturers, who quickly realised its effectiveness in promoting their production models, the Superbike series acquired world championship status. It was the American Fred Merkel who was the first to be crowned world champion. In over twenty years the discipline has produced a number of stars: Carl Fogarty, Scott Russell, John Kocinski, Colin Edwards, Troy Bayliss, Ben Spies and most recently Jonathan Rea, six times world champion with Kawasaki. With the disappearance of the 500 category, Superbikes has become, over the years, the major category in many national championships. The highest-level national championship today is the British series - BSB for the initiated. Carl Fogarty is in large part responsible for the popularity of the discipline in the UK. Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and today Cal Crutchlow all enjoyed success in Superbikes before moving to MotoGP. For the manufacturers, this world championship allows them to showcase their production bikes at a reasonable cost with a good chance of being competitive. The 2021 Superbike world championship counts twelve rounds. Each round is run over two races of approximately 100 kilometres, at the end of which the first 15 mark points towards the championship rankings. A third, shorter race, called a Sprint, is run on the Sunday morning between the two ‘classic’ races, held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon. Only the first ten on the Sprint score points, half of what is distributed during the other two races. As for Moto2 in Grands Prix, the Supersport world championship plays the role of the support class for World Superbikes. This race series uses 600 cc machines that are also derived from production models. Unlike in Superbikes, each round is made up of just one race. Since 2018, 300 Supersport has been added to the programme. This new class is designed for young riders and is run only at European rounds.
Elf and the Superbike World Championship
For more than twenty years now, the engineers of the TotalEnergies Company have been working hand in hand with the engine designers at Kawasaki to develop fuels and lubricants. This collaboration began in MotoGP before moving onto World Superbikes when the Japanese manufacturer decided to review their competition strategy. As a partner of the KRT team, the Elf brand benefits from a different field of experimentation in Superbike than in MotoGP. “First of all, the regulations are more restrictive and we can't change the fuel during the season," explains Romain Aubry, the multi-energy technical manager of the TotalEnergies Company’s competition department. “Moreover, in Superbike, with a twenty-four litre tank and shorter races, we are much less on the limit in terms of consumption, so we can focus on performance.”
Elf and Kawasaki also offer very specialised products for customers of the Japanese brand. Since the end of the 2000s, a green coloured lubricant associated with Kawasaki’s brand image has been specifically developed. These synthetic technology products meet the most demanding homologation criteria with the added bonus of having a neon ‘lime green’ colour. This range of ELF Vent Vert products is now attracting new markets.
The 2023 stakes
After winning six consecutive world championships between 2015 and 2020, Jonathan Rea has been challenged by increasingly determined competitors over the last two seasons. Beaten by Toprak Razgatliglu in 2021, then by Alvaro Bautista in 2022, the Kawasaki rider has set his sights on retaking ‘his’ throne. In his quest for a seventh crown, Jonathan Rea should be able to take advantage of the work undertaken by the KRT team this winter. The British rider is aiming to improve his speed at the end of races and to this end has brought in two new technicians: Sander Donkers and Christophe Lambert.As was the case during the last two seasons, Alvaro Bautista and his Ducati and Toprak Razgatlioglu and his Yamaha will be the two most serious opponents of the six-time world champion this year. But a serious challenge could also come from Michael Ruben Rinaldi who intends to pick up the pace riding for the world championship winning Italian team Aruba Ducati.
Still teamed up with Alex Lowes, Jonatha Rea will also have to keep an eye on Remy Gardner, the 2021 Moto2 World Champion who joins the World Superbike this season with the Yamaha GYTR GRT team. Other podium candidates include Dominique Aegerter, the reigning World Supersport champion, and Danilo Petrucci, the former MotoGP rider who raced last year in the MotoAmerica series. Also note the return of Tom Sykes with the Kawasaki Pucetti team, also with ELF colors. The 2023 calendar will feature twelve events, with the season getting underway on February 26 in Australia, at Phillip Island.