Gregorio Lavilla on 2024 regulation changes: "Everyone needs to believe they can win"

Tuesday, 17 October 2023 11:03 GMT

WorldSBK’s Executive Director explains, details and looks forward to the rule changes that will come into force for the 2024 season

The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has one round remaining and the title race remains alive; however, there’s already huge news moving to 2024 and that is that major regulation changes will come into force. Some of the biggest overhauls and with new rules in place, WorldSBK’s Executive Director Gregorio Lavilla was transparent as he outlined a number of questions from a press debrief. We’ve put them in simple terms below; find out what changes for 2024 here.

How will the combined weight be calculated?

“The minimum bike weight is equal for everyone at 168kg but the difference in riders can be 30kg from the heaviest to the lightest,” began Lavilla. “It’s never been intended in our sport to add 30kg of ballast to the lightest. In motorsport, the majority of ballast which is accepted ranges from 8kg to 10kg; we understand that with the machinery which is already built to a certain weight, adding 10kg is something huge. Unanimously, all manufacturers have reached an agreement and that is going to be the minimum bike weight and a reference rider weight of 80kg with all race gear on. Whoever is below that reference will have 0.5 per kilogram added. In an average of 80kg, some of the lightest riders will have to add 5-6kg (depending how much less they are to 80kg) with the 0.5 ratio reference. This is a new way in Superbike, to not have a fixed, defined number, so that over the years, the reference for weight and what to add can be adapted accordingly, but the rule is already there. From a production-based machine, in WorldSBK, we need to have some tools in order to balance certain things. Everybody understands that close racing is best for our sport, as well as trying to cap certain performance in the future for rider safety. A restriction on fuel, the RPM limit removal, the combined weight etc… these challenges are huge and I am so happy that we have all agreed; everyone will have their own challenge but it’s the best way to go.”

With the crankshaft and balancing shaft changes, what does this actually mean?

From the current 3% change to a 20% change from next year, Lavilla explained how different marketing strategies by manufacturers has led to a freeze in racing evolution, something that he hopes will change with a widening of what can be changed, starting from next year: “What we found out is basically, there are different types of machinery in our Championship. Some of them are really following trends and making evolutions every two years, with the scope of pure performance. Some others are frozen on evolution due to other marketing strategies or interests. With the amount of power the machines already deploy, the necessity is not more power but more rideability for better tyre consumption. In the past, what the FIM and Dorna tried to achieve was that the bike should be closer to the production-based machines. What we were missing a little bit, due to a lack of information from the manufacturers, is that certain ones stopped the evolutions from 2017 or 2018. The rule has always been more of a standard machine in terms of engine and allowed certain changes on the chassis side. When evolution stopped on the engine side, it reached the point that there are more manufacturers that need more rideability and not power output. We’ve opened up the scope of allowing certain changes as well on the engine, always within the parameters of controlled cost. Don’t just think about next year but also in five years, where we could be. Maybe we’ll need to tweak something through the years but this is the concept that has been approved.”

How will changes in fuel tank capacity and fuel flow control work?

With a fuel capacity limit of 21 litres starting in 2024 and fuel flow control coming in for 2025 after data collected next year, Lavilla expressed the positives: “There are many ways to find positive of this; the first is that motorsport and society is caring more about ESG emissions. What better than to give the manufacturer the challenge to work on this? If you can put as much fuel as you want, there is no challenge. I want to give manufacturers reasons to keep investing in our Championship. The second option is that you have a fuel limit – which honestly speaking will be bigger for 2025 because next year, it will depend on circuit layout and fuel consumption and the manufacturers asked for a bit more time. If someone needs to cut RPMs to reach the end of the race, it won’t be the organisation or the rules dictating who needs to cut what. It’ll be the manufacturer deciding their strategy; if they have a strategy to make a bike that is very fast and efficient, all the others will have to congratulate them. If we’re worried about safety and we can’t ask circuits to dismantle grandstands with corners with more room – and then fans say that they don’t enjoy going to the circuit because they’re too far away as it’s the only way to be safe – then of course, by reducing fuel, you reduce performance. All these things have a positive purpose; it’s the most effective message we could send. We care about the environment and the emissions, even if a motorcycle pollutes a small amount. We’ve given a challenge to manufacturers to really invest in those areas.”

How were all manufacturers convinced, given some are faster than others with top speed?

Talking about how all parties involved reached a unanimous decision, Lavilla continued: “There’s a track and you need to brake and accelerate, so maybe you’re going faster around the track if you make a bike that accelerates more and has better rideability and more grip. You need to combine the show being done in a correct way, safely enough and one that challenges all participants. Everyone needs to wake up and think they can win. If you lose that, you lose the competition and then even the ones winning will leave the competition because there is no reward with that victory. This is the concept that everyone needed to understand. Our job was to convince the guy that only has a project in mind to make his bike better to take him out of that scope, and say, ‘think a bit about the wider’; this was the challenge. When you need to convince people, you need to take them out from their comfort zone which, for the winning ones, is to not touch anything. Any manufacturer wants to win races like they did in our last race at Portimao. If we do nothing, maybe someone will leave. If others left, then the winning ones probably would too as they’ll say the Championship has no challenge and it’s easy to win. The best way is a manufacturer wins but having difficulties; a win is more rewarding when you have to sweat it out until the last corner.”

Why haven’t all the points been defined yet?

Explaining why exact numbers haven’t been published, WorldSBK’s Executive Director said: “Basically, two reasons: firstly, all the manufacturers wanted the rule approved as soon as possible because there’ll be a private test after our last round and everyone wants to test already; some of them will test engine modifications, some with different RPMs and some will put ballast if it’s needed. We needed to approve it as soon as possible for them to prepare for the test. Everything has been approved and, probably, if you talk to some teams, they will already tell you how much weight they will have to fit depending on the rider, and how much rpm are defined because this is all approved. The reason why it’s not detailed is because the FIM request some time to put all this on paper.”

Will manufacturers have the same RPM as they have now or as they started 2023, pre-balancing?

All manufacturers will have their revs defined for next year, except one – seemingly Ducati – who will go back to how they started this season: “The majority of the manufacturers will have the same rpms as they finish in 2023, except one where we’ll go back to the start of the season’s rpm. I pushed for the ESG emissions because, currently, as you know I am worried about the maximum performance and safety on the track, and this was a nice message that I want to give manufacturers a challenge. For the others, it was a game of more ups and downs and we accepted what the majority wanted.”

Are there exceptions to RPMs not being reduced in 2024?

Clarifying the RPM reduction rule, there remains one method where they can still be reduced: “RPMs will not be reduced anymore except if some manufacturers that aren’t competitive have superconcessions. The worry of the superconcessions is that you give something extra to someone to be competitive, but no one knows, when you put a part on your machine, if you will gain 0.1 seconds or one second. What was agreed that if someone fits a part and goes faster than anyone else, but take out that part you’ll go again below, you leave the part but you level with the rpms. This is the only thing the rpms can be modified.”

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