New bikes and new components: the technological innovations and dilemmas facing teams and manufacturers in WorldSBK
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is coming with a whole host of changes. There have been changes to the line-ups from the teams, the rider line-up and new bikes entered into the Championship. Both Kawasaki and BMW have brought new machines as they search for glory, but Ducati, Honda and Yamaha have not rested on their laurels either, bringing a heap of upgrades and changes as they look to secure the ultimate prize.
With Kawasaki bringing the new ZX-10RR for 2021 and BMW launching the M 1000 RR, two manufacturers on the grid will come with a different look, partially in the form of winglets. Searching for aerodynamic performance gains that will help avoid the bike wheeling out of corners as well as the stability of the bike.
Hidden away in each of the new bikes is a new engine as they search for ultimate top speed performance as well. With the aim of securing pole positions, wins and, ultimately, the Championship, the new engine on the bikes combined with the new winglets and other new changes to the chassis could make the difference in such a tightly contested field. BMW also added a swingarm to the list of new components as they looked to move up the order.
Talking about the new ZX-10RR after it had been launched, Pere Riba (Jonathan Rea’s Crew Chief) said: “I’m quite confident that when we put it all together in terms of aerodynamics, in terms of engine, it feels positive for the next year to have a little bit more of a strong package to keep fighting with the other manufacturers.”
Marc Bongers (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director) discussed the new bike, saying: “We’ve worked a lot on the bike, specified a lot of the parts new and on top of that, we have two satellite teams which will support us in the further development on our way to the top. It is a considerable step; we have titanium conrods, two-ring pistons, we have a higher RPM, so these ingredients definitely help us to improve the engine power, which we’ve done considerably over winter. Furthermore, we have the winglets, an aerodynamic advantage, which helps us with the stability of the bike and the anti-wheelie function.
Yamaha and Kawasaki have both brought modified fairings into the Championship for 2021, with Yamaha’s coming on the existing YZF R1 as opposed to a new bike, while Kawasaki also have new items on the tail of the bike as well as a swingarm; with the majority of manufacturers trying new swingarms throughout the offseason. Other changes made include new callipers from Brembo, something which manufacturers had been trying throughout the offseason.
For Yamaha, it was a case of extracting the best performance possible with modifications allowed within the rules which included finding better aerodynamic, braking and engine performances. Part of this was the introduction of a new fairing as well as Brembo’s new brake callipers while there have also been updates to the engine.
Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK Team Manager Paul Denning said at the Supported Test: “It’s an increasing challenge for Yamaha’s engineers to extract more performance but they’ve done a great job over the winter, finding within the regulations slightly better aerodynamic performance, slightly better engine performance, better braking performance, everything is being tweaked all the time. So, incredibly positive work by a dedicated group of engineers in Milan and with additional support from Yamaha in Japan.”
Ducati brought changes to their Panigale V4 R as well as they looked to claim the Riders’ and Manufacturers’ title, having missed out on the latter by a single point in 2020. Both Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati) and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi were able to try out a new swingarm on top of Brembo’s callipers, while Motocorsa Racing have a new exhaust for 2021.
Ducati Corse’s Marco Zembenedetti, technical co-ordinator, explained how Ducati hopes to beat Kawasaki in 2021: “Especially during the winter test, we have tested many new parts in all the areas. There are no particular areas where we are in difficulty, as we improved a little bit on the engine and torque delivery. We are improving on the chassis side, especially on the rear suspension and the swingarm. The new swingarm has been tested and we have also worked a lot in the braking area with the new Brembo front brake callipers and in the higher temperatures, I think we can gain something more. We have many improvements with the electronics and also in general with the aerodynamics and rider ergonomics.”
There was lots of intrigue at Team HRC as they showed off a new swingarm, seat units for Leon Haslam and Alvaro Bautista, exhaust and a torque sensor during the Catalunya Tes.t Discussing the changes for 2021, Team Manager Leon Camier said: “Definitely made some progression this year with the bike. There’s a lot more to come as well and time on track for us is really crucial at this time. We had a lot of new parts come over the winter so a lot of our time on track has been spent understanding these parts, trying to put the package together to actually go faster. There were quite a few upgrades but a lot of it is trial and error sort of thing, just to understand that we are in the right direction.”
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