Select Page

Updated 11 March 2024 to reflect the changes for the respective 2024 seasons.

It cannot be argued that MotoGP is the pinnacle of motorsport and is the premier class of motorcycle racing.

It brings fans the best of the best in racing on two wheels.

But it is not the only championship with high-speed action and talented riders racing on international circuits.

In this article we will look at World Superbikes (also know as WSBK) and the differences to MotoGP.

Surprisingly, there are a number of similarities but also some significant differences.

How different are the seasons?

The MotoGP season is considerably longer, almost double in fact.

Starting 10th of March in Qatar and set to end on the 17th of November in Valencia after a mammoth 21 rounds.

In The Superbike World Championship there are only 12 rounds in 2024 starting late February at Phillip Island Australia and coming to a close on 18th October in Spain.

It would seem Argentina has withdrawn from both MotoGP and World Superbikes for 2024 for economic reasons.

Are there any differences in the circuits where the races take place?

Both still race internationally, even using the same circuits in some locations such as Assen, Imola, Catalunya and Portugal.

In Britain the WSBK use Donington while MotoGP use Silverstone like F1.

Does World Superbikes match MotoGP in terms of motorcycle specifications and technology?

The Bikes

The bikes themselves are the biggest difference between the two.

MotoGP bikes are not anything the everyday person can purchase and ride around.

They are prototypes purposely built for top level racing and are not road legal in any way.

Joan Mir MotoGP

Joan Mir MotoGP Image courtesy of Box Repsol on Flickr

Superbikes are, however, built so that fans can relate them to their road bikes and are referred to as production-based bikes built for racing.

Superbikes are far more restricted in how they can tune the bikes compared to MotoGP.

These factors as well as costs are what make WSBK more accessible for teams to enter as opposed to MotoGP.

Michael Van Der Mark WSBK

Michael Van Der Mark WSBK Image courtesy of Hasan Karagülmez on Flickr

Due to this, basically every aspect of a MotoGP bike is vastly different.

Materials on MotoGP bikes include the likes of titanium and Inconel.

Cost is often not a factor so every part of the bike is manufactured at the highest level available.

Let’s have a closer look at the differences.

Electronics

MotoGP are fitted with standardised ECUs (engine control unit) and all software packages are unified and have been for a number of years now.

In WSBK this is not the case and teams are allowed to choose from a range of approved technology.

Engines

MotoGP are strictly 4 stroke 1000cc engines, that is the only bike capacity allowed in MotoGP.

Whereas in WSBK there are options and the regulations state as follows is allowed for Superbike Class

The following engine configurations comprise the Superbike class.

Over 750cc up to 1000cc 4 stroke 3- and 4-cylinder

Over 850cc up to 1200cc 4 stroke 2-cylinder

Article 2.4.2.1 of the WSBK regulations (page 85) further allows for concessions and allowances to be made for equity between the differences in such as additional rev limits and so on.

More on this later in this article.

So there is a lot more variety in Superbikes than MotoGP.

Tyres

Essentially tyre selection works the same across the two championships.

Each has a supplier they must use, teams cannot select their own tyre manufacturer.

Both have a set tyre allocation for wet and dry as well as a selection of compounds to choose from.

Let’s have a look at how each one works.

MotoGP:

Supplier Michelin

For the 2023 season every rider will have 22 slick tyres – 10 fronts, 12 rears each race weekend. Wet weather allocation is 13 tyres (six front, seven rear) with a choice of both Soft and Medium.

The front tyre allocations can be made up from selecting a maximum of five tyres from each specification: Soft, Medium, Hard.

MotoGP tyres use a colour code for this:

  • Black or no marking is the medium,
  • yellow is the harder option
  • and white is soft

The rear tyre allocation can be made up from selecting a maximum of:

  • six Softs
  • four Mediums
  • and three Hard

The two riders who progress through Q2 to Q1 receive an extra slick front from any of the soft, medium or hard compounds as well as an extra soft rear tyre

For the complete lowdown on MotoGP tyres see our blog article.

The World Superbike Championship:

Supplier: Pirelli

The number available to each rider during the event will be 21 (10 Front and 11 Rear tyres). Two sets of wet weather tyres will be made available at every round.

Pirelli makes the following compounds for riders to choose:

3 rear tyre compounds –

  • SC0 – the hardest
  • SCX – medium
  • SCQ – softest (note: the SCQ tyre is available to use only in the Superpole session and Superpole Race, but not in the two long races)

2  front tyre compounds –

  • SC1  – hard
  • SC0 – soft

As the race weekend format of WSBK is somewhat different to MotoGP, tyre allocations are further set out to account for single race events versus double race events as follows in the regulations:

For single race events: For 2023 the maximum number of tyres, of any type, available to each rider during the event will be 13 (6 front tyres – 7 rear tyres).

For double race events: For 2023 the maximum number of tyres, of any type, available to each rider during the event will be 15 (7 front tyres – 8 rear tyres).

One other difference as far as tyres go, MotoGP now requires all bikes be fitted with Tyre Sensors to monitor pressure and temperatures and log the data.

Exhausts

MotoGP are able to choose their exhaust supplier. However, the majority of the field choose Akrapovic.

The same applies in Superbikes, the teams can select their own exhaust provider and names such as Akrapovic and SC-Project feature on both grids.

Lots more information about MotoGP exhausts is available in our article here.

Which is the fastest?

MotoGP is faster.

To give you an example.

At the 2023 Misano MotoGP, the fastest lap time was 1:31.791 by Francesco Bagnaia with a top speed of 303.3 Km/h (188.46 mph) by Dani Pedrosa.

At the 2023 Misano Superbike meeting, the fastest lap time was 1:33.901 (Alvaro Bautista) with a top speed of 278.4 kmh (173.0 mph) also by Bautista.

You must remember that MotoGP bikes are custom built with advanced electronics and the very latest lightweight materials with seemingly no expense spared. Superbikes are essentially standard production machines, finely tuned with some modified parts.

What about the Governing Bodies and Penalties?

Governing Bodies

Both series are governed by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and both series conform to different sets of technical regulations set by Dorna, the FIM ruling body.

Each then has Race Direction and stewards overseeing the race.

Penalties

Penalties are one area where the two are almost a carbon copy with both utilising the following options for penalties imposed:

The penalties are:

  • warnings
  • fines
  • drop of position
  • long lap penalty(ies)
  • ride through
  • time penalties
  • grid penalty
  • disqualification
  • withdrawal of Championship points
  • suspension
  • exclusion

The reasons for penalties being imposed are also nearly identical in both sports with both technical, racing and behavioural penalties being available.

The bodies which oversee the imposition of penalties are the stewards panel, the appeal panel and the court of appeal for both and their appeals processes are also the same.

More detailed information about MotoGP infringements and penalties is available in our article here.

Which championship attracts more manufacturers and teams?

WSBK and MotoGP share many of the same manufacturers, with a few additional ones like BMW and Kawasaki.

In 2024 the team list for Superbikes is officially 15, down from 17 last year, while MotoGP has 11 teams for 2024.

The official grid line ups for 2024:

MOTOGP

motogp riders and teams 2024 season

World Superbikes

world superbikes teams and riders 2024 season

How about Budget?

One other main difference between the two is team budget, with MotoGP having seemingly unlimited funds especially for the factory teams, Superbikes do not enjoy this luxury even for factory teams.

Are there any variations in the age and experience of the riders in the two championships?

It was thought riders from MotoGP crossed over to WSBK towards the end of their career as it was easier, with less power and less pressure on you to perform at that elite level.

However, in recent times this is not always the case with some such as Bautista, the current Superbikes champion, shifting because he wanted the change and it suited his family life better.

And while it may be a step out of the spotlight it is still racing at an elite level.

In 2023 we see Remy Gardner take up a seat with GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team following his exit from MotoGP at the end of 2022.

WSBK also now have the talent of Scott Redding from MotoGP riding for BMW Motorrad:

Scott Redding WSBK

Scott Redding WSBK Image courtesy of Hasan Karagülmez on Flickr

Iker Lecuona who spent two years riding with KTM Tech 3 in MotoGP and Danilo Petrucci all making the move to WSBK.

Are the rider ages similar?

Both Superbikes and MotoGP have age limits of 18 to begin racing.

This changed recently from 16 following some rather nasty accidents and deaths of young riders in the junior levels and WSBK.

The only exemption is if you started in 2022 aged 16 you are allowed to continue even though those riders would not be 18 yet in some cases.

Both codes also have a maximum age of 50 for MotoGP class and Superbike class.

They also have maximum ages of 25 to start racing the lower classes of both championships.

Do the championship classes differ?

The two championships essentially work the same with two feeder classes into the main class or as MotoGP call it Premier class.

In MotoGP the classes are as follows

  • Moto3 250cc
  • Moto2 750cc
  • MotoGP 1000cc

Superbike classes have a little more variety within them and are as follows

  • Superbike (SBK) 750cc to 1000cc
  • Supersport (SSP300) – 300cc class
  • Supersport (SSP) for a range of bikes within the technical regulations from 600cc to 950cc

While many believe Superbikes is less power and capacity this is not the case. The limitations on speed and power come from the imposed restrictions on the engines.

What are the major differences in terms of race formats between the two championships?

Superbikes

The format is:

Friday

  • 1st free practice
  • 2nd free practice

Saturday

  • 3rd free practice
  • Superpole: this is a single 15 minute qualifying session (for each class) and it sets the starting positions for Race 1 and the Superpole Race (to qualify for the race, riders must record a lap time no longer than 105% of the time recorded by the pole-position rider)
  • Race 1 – full length race with full points on offer 25 points for a win down to one point for 15th

Sunday

  • Warm-up
  • Superpole Race – 10 laps regardless of circuit length
  • Race 2 – full length (Top nine from Superpole Race start in that position for Race 2; positions from 10th onwards set from Saturday’s Superpole). Full points on offer 25 points for a win down to one point for 15th

The results of the Superpole race decide the first 9 positions on the grid for Race 2 and the rest from 10th onwards will be decided by their qualifying times (Superpole results).

Race 1 and 2 are full length races with full points on offer 25 points for a win down to one point for 15th.

Thus, Superbikes has three opportunities each race weekend to score championship points.

MotoGP

Friday

  • Free Practice 1
  • Practice (times count towards qualifying)
  • Top 10 times go to Q2. 11+ go to Q1

Saturday

  • Free Practice 2
  • Qualifying (Q1)  Top 2 got into Q2
  • Qualifying (Q2)
  • Race Grid: Top 12 from Q2. 13+ from Q1. Same grid for sprint race and grand prix
  • Sprint race (half distance and half points for positions up to 9th)

Sunday

  • Grand Prix

There have been major changes to MotoGP formats for their weekends in 2023 to make way for the new sprint race (and tweaked from the British MotoGP onwards).

For the complete lowdown on the new weekend format, check out our blog article detailing all the changes to the MotoGP weekend

This new format is the biggest change in MotoGP since the introduction of 4 stroke engines that replaced 500cc two strokes in 2003.

Is that correct that WSBK can alter the relative performance of the bikes during the season?

Yes that’s correct.

Another notable difference between MotoGP and WSBK is the WSBK Rev Limit rules or Balancing Rules.

These are designed to level the playing field across the WSBK grid.

In order to achieve this an algorithm is used to balance the relative performance of the bikes.

At the start of the season a rev limit is given for each manufacturer as per article 2.4.2.3 (page 88)

The 2024 information is reproduced below.

wsbk initial rev limits 2024

After the third race the algorithm is used which factors in variables such as Lap time relative to all other competitors, Speed traps, Number of riders per brand, Anticipated individual rider performance.

If changes are needed, the rev limit for each manufacturer can be adjusted in increments of 250 rpm (up or down) after every further third round only upon calculation of the concession points.

Due to this rule, after the third race in the 2023 season at Assen, Ducati lost 250rpm from the fourth race at Catalunya and Kawasaki opted to use concession points to gain 250rpm.

How do the concession points in MotoGP and WSBK compare?

MotoGP concession points

Following approval by the Grand Prix Commission ahead of the Valencia GP 2023 a major change to concession points in MotoGP was rolled out and now mean teams will be divided into 4 ranks – A, B, C or D depending on Constructor Points awarded.

The rankings will be determined on the percentage of the possible maximum points they have accrued in each window.

The two windows are as follows:

Window 1: From the first event to the last event of the season.

Window 2: From the first event after the summer test ban to the last event before the summer test ban begins in the following season.

Manufacturers will be ranked based on the percentage of points scored in the Constructors championship. The regulation states this as follows:

That is, points scored divided by the maximum points awarded (25 x the number of GP Races held, plus 12 x the number of Sprints held)

Not only have they changed how the concessions are worked out it will have an impact on things like the number of tyres allocated at testing, aerodynamic updates, engine approval processes, and whether they have access to Wild Card Riders.

For a full outline of this new system see our article Ultimate Guide to MotoGP Engines

WSBK concessions are certainly more complex than MotoGP in order to deal with the variations allowed in WSBK. But a brief overview of the main points are as follows:

The points in WSBK will be awarded during Superbike Races 1 and 2 (excluding Superpole Race)

  • First place = 5 concession points
  • Second place = 4 concession points
  • Third place = 3 concession points
  • Fourth place = 2 concession points
  • Fifth place = 1 concession point

There are many notable differences in WSBK concession points.

They only apply to dry races.

Points restart at the start of each season and are calculated every three races after which teams can opt to use concession parts (see article 2. 3.16 of the regulations page 80) and make development updates to their bike.

Depending on how far behind the leader a team is, they may earn the chance to use what is called a token and update a part for the following season.

This is rather than points carrying over as they do in MotoGP it would seem.

To see more on how this works see article 2.4.3 of the WSBK regulations (page 88).

Where can you see the racing on TV?

And one final difference which leaves this fan a little confused in Australia. I can watch Superbikes for free on free to air tv, the entire weekend.

However, MotoGP cancelled its free to air in 2022 and we now must pay to see it or watch a free online version which is never as good.

It’s the same in the UK.

So, if you happen to be an Aussie or a Brit reading this, tune in on free to air and support the Superbikes.

 

Related Posts