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 27 March 2023 in Portugal (not the normal Qatar night GP as we are used to) and set to end 26 November in Valencia after a mammoth 21 rounds.
In The Superbike World Championship there are only 12 rounds in 2023 starting late February at Phillip Island Australia and coming to a close on 15 October in Argentina.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 220.127.116.11 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 2022 Assen MotoGP, the fastest lap time was 1:32.500 (Aleix Espargaró) with a top speed of 314.6 kmh (195.5 mph) by Jorge Martin.
At the 2022 Assen Superbike meeting, the fastest lap time was 1:33.620 (Alvaro Bautista) with a top speed of 302.5 kmh (188.0 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?
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 are one area where the two are almost a carbon copy with both utilising the following options for penalties imposed:
The penalties are:
- drop of position
- long lap penalty(ies)
- ride through
- time penalties
- grid penalty
- withdrawal of Championship points
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 2023 the team list for Superbikes officially is 17 teams compared with MotoGP that has just 11 teams in the 2023 season.
- Aprilia Racing
- CryptoDATA RNF Team
- Factory KTM Red Bull
- GasGas Factory Racing Tech 3
- Gresini Racing MotoGP
- LCR Honda
- Lenovo Ducati
- Monster Energy Yamaha
- Mooney VR46 Racing Team
- Prima Pramac Ducati
- Respol Honda
- Aruba.it Racing – Ducati
- Barni Spark Racing Team
- Max Racing
- Bonovo Action BMW
- GMT94 Yamaha
- GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team
- Kawasaki Puccetti Racing
- Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK
- Motocorsa Racing
- Orelac Racing VerdNatura
- Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK
- Petronas MIE Racing Honda Team
- ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team
- Team GoEleven
- Team HRC
- TPR by Viñales Racing
- Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team
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:
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?
The format is:
- 1st free practice
- 2nd free practice
- 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
- 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.
- Free Practice 1
- Practice (times count towards qualifying)
- Top 10 times go to Q2. 11+ go to Q1
- 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)
- 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 18.104.22.168 (page 88)
This information is reproduced below.
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
In MotoGP they are straightforward due to the limitation on the bikes appearing on the grid.
The benefits of having MotoGP concession status are as follows:
- The use of 9 (or 10) engines
- Engines are exempt from the engine approval regulations
- Teams may test with contracted riders and test riders. They can use any circuit at anytime
- Manufacturers can take advantage of 6 Wildcard riders
Concessions are gained and lost based on a points system for taking a podium as follows:
- First place = 3 concession points
- Second place = 2 concession points
- Third place = 1 concession point
These points are accrued by all riders of that manufacturer across all race conditions (wet or dry).
Points accumulate each season until a manufacturer reaches 6 (keep in mind points expire after two years) at which time their concession status is removed and they no longer have the above benefits the following season.
If manufacturer has accrued no concession points during any one season, all riders using this manufacturer’s machines will benefit from the full concessions from the following season.
WSBK concession points
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.