So that’s the 2014 MotoGP championship dusted, best talk about something else…
We’re going to talk about rules, not MotoGP rules, World Superbike rules, and not so much the rules themselves, but the breaking of those rules. There’s been quite a lot of that going on in WSB during recent years, if paddock whispers are to be believed.
Race-winning and title-winning factory teams have been running cheater frames, trying to find an edge over their rivals. It’s got to the stage where pretty everyone is doing it, but all that’s about to change.
The FIM – who still have a say in WSB, unlike MotoGP, which they fully sold off to Dorna – want to get on top of the problem. The man in charge of doing that is racer Scott Smart, recently inducted as the FIM’s World Superbike technical director.
The word has already gone out to teams that cheater frames will no longer be tolerated and, in theory, they should already have disappeared from the grids. The legality scrutineering has yet to start in earnest because Smart has to devise a method of checking the frames, not merely for geometry, but also for thickness of different frame sections and so on.
If anyone can do it, Smart can. The 38-year-old has a degree in physics and has raced in WSB, BSB, 500 GPs and 250 GPs. He has also run his own team, worked as a MotoGP crew chief, built engines, made wiring looms and played a major role in the writing of BSB’s Evo rules.
“I’m the new sheriff in town, so you’ve got to stamp your mark a bit,” grins Smart, son of former factory Triumph, Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki rider Paul. “I’m used to a fairly formal technical structure in BSB, so that’s what we’re trying to bring into WSB.
“Frames are WSB’s elephant in the room, that’s for sure. There are plenty of ways to check that frames are legal, but if you want to do it properly, it’s not a two minute job. It takes time to get it ship-shape and there’s no point in a half-arsed effort, so that when you go to court with it, it won’t stand up.”
British Superbikes also had cheater frame concerns a few years ago, funnily enough with factory WSB frames that had filtered down into the British series, but the organisers were quick to get on top of the problem. Smart expects to start his crusade in earnest this summer, once he has the correct measuring equipment in place.
Currently WSB rules allow certain aspects of the standard frame to be modified. Teams are allowed to move the headstock 6mm forward or back and move the swingarm pivot. The steering head adjustment is usually achieved by using different bearing collars.
Also high on Smart’s agenda is to help the FIM introduce one set of Superbike rules that will be implemented into WSB and national championships around the world, which will make it much easier for riders to move between series. Right now he is involved in establishing WSB’s new lower-cost rules for 2015, thrashing out the regulations paragraph by paragraph with the factories, the FIM, the teams and series owners Dorna.
“I remember not so long ago, whether you were riding 250s or Superbikes, the rules were the same, wherever you were. Over the last few years it’s got to the point where no country has the same set of rules, so it would be very nice to get back to a certain uniformity.”
Back to MotoGP… What Marc Márquez and his Repsol Honda RC213V are proving is a well-known racing fact: that the best rider on the best bike is a very difficult combination to beat. Older readers may recall a similar situation in the 1990s when everyone awoke on Sunday mornings wondering who was going to finish second behind Mick Doohan and his Repsol Honda NSR500.
Remarkably, Doohan copped a fair bit of stick for being so damned good and thus making the racing a bit boring. When asked what he thought of the situation, his reply was a classic Mighty Mick comeback: “What do you want me to do, slow down?”
I wonder what that is in Spanish?