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 Superbike
Partner of the KRT team, the Elf brand benefits from a field of experimentation that is different from that of MotoGP. As technical coordinator of the TotalEnergies Company’s competition department points out, “Firstly, the regulations are more restrictive and we can’t make changes to the fuel during the season. In addition, in Superbike, with a fuel tank limited to twenty-four litres and shorter races, we are much less limited in terms of consumption. We can therefore make maximising performance a priority.”
Elf and Kawasaki also offer extremely technical products for clients of the Japanese brand. Since the end of the 2000s, a green coloured lubricant associated with Kawasaki’s branding has been specially developed. A new range of ‘lubes’ has also been brought out. In addition to their fluorescent ‘lime green’ colour, these products use synthetic technology to meet the most demanding homologation criteria. The Vent Vert range of products is today proving popular with new markets, such as Thailand, where certain Kawasaki models are assembled.
The 2022 stakes
After having taken six world titles on the trot, Jonathan Rea was finally defeated last year by Toprak Razgatlioglu. Beaten by the Turk during a season where the two rivals gave as good as they got, the Kawasaki rider will be looking to wrest his crown back in 2022. In the quest for his seventh title, Jonathan Rea will be able to count on the progress made this winter by the KRT team. The main improvements to the bike have been in terms of the chassis and electronics. And winter tests carried out in Spain and Portugal confirm the progress made with the Kawasaki ZX-RR. “We have tried to have a bike that is more efficient with worn tyres,” commented Rea. “The goal is to be able to make the difference at the end of the race.” While Toprak Razgatlioglu and his Yamaha will once again be serious rivals, he won’t be the only one challenging the six times world champion. Honda will be lining up a brand new team with two riders freshly arrived from Grands Prix: Iker Lecuona who raced last year in MotoGP with Tech 3 and Xavi Vierge who was competing in Moto2. Alvaro Bautista returns to the Ducati team alongside Michael Rinaldi. Another Moto2 championship rider arriving in WSBK is Hafizh Syahrin.
The Malaysian will also be Honda mounted. The BMW camp will be strengthened by the presence of Loris Baz, back from the USA and the recruitment of Scott Redding. The Frenchman will team up with Eugene Laverty, while the Brit will be alongside Michael Van der Mark. The Pucetti team will once again be relying on Lucas Mahias. The 2022 calendar will be made up of twelve rounds. The season will start on 10 April in Spain at the Alcaniz circuit and the finish is planned for Australia at the end of November.