MotoGP and World Superbike (WSBK) are both exhilarating motorcycle championships where fans watch from the edge of their seats as races are fought down to the very last turn, showcasing some of the most demanding circuits the world has to offer.
Both sports continue to produce unforgettable moments, with victors never able to get too comfortable, as hungry newcomers are always searching for their first win, so why is it that both disciplines coexist? Other than the obvious similarities, such as two wheels and a heck of a lot of power, what else sets MotoGP and WSBK apart? Let’s step further into the worlds of both racing series and find out what it takes to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of elite-level motorcycle racing.
In a nutshell, World Superbikes are consumer-spec superbikes around 1000cc, with a number of modifications and adjustments allowed by the FIM. Teams have a limited budget but have some relative freedom in terms of some of the parts and modifications that can be used. World Superbikes, therefore, look fairly similar to the roadgoing bikes they are based on.
In contrast, MotoGP is a series without a spending cap, much like F1, where teams can sink as much money as they wish on riders, development, and specialist crew members, or pay fines for breaking the rules. The bikes we see in MotoGP are high-tech prototypes, unlike anything in production, wearing materials like magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber, designed by masterminds and mad scientists to pack superior performance into a lightweight, agile chassis.
A lot of the rules regarding racing look the same across both disciplines; the race weekend structure in WSBK runs a bit differently to MotoGP, with qualifying in the form of a 25min Superpole session, with a Superpole Race and Race 2 taking place on Sunday. In MotoGP, riders have a much shorter qualifying session on Saturday, with just one race on Sunday.
Scoring works similarly in both, with the first 15 riders scoring championship points. Riders fight to score points for the Rider’s championship, all the while earning points with fellow team riders for the Constructor’s championship.
The skill needed to enter either race season is at an exceptionally high level with some riders competing hard for several years to get an opportunity to ride at the highest level. Both have produced legendary riders, from the likes of Mick Doohan and Carl Fogarty to Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
Although we have seen some fantastic riders succeed in WSBK, the action on and off-track never quite matches the adrenaline and unpredictability of MotoGP; it’s the charisma and electrifying energy of the MotoGP riders and the swarms of devoted fans that makes the action so addictive to watch
At first glance, a MotoGP bike and World Superbike look largely similar, with an aggressive stance, streamlined profile, and surfaces smoother than a baby’s bottom, but look closer and you’ll notice the MotoGP bike doesn’t resemble any bike you’ve ever seen before.
MotoGP bikes are premier-class race machines, purpose-built to go as fast as possible. Manufactured to minute tolerances, every single part has been designed and tested with a range of materials over the span of countless hours. Fuelling this never-ending quest for dominance are the multi-million dollar budgets of factory teams like Honda and Ducati.
World Superbikes, on the other hand, are based on production motorcycles available to the publisher, albeit sporting some swagger modifications to areas like suspension, ECU, and transmission to make the bike more competitive. WSBK teams have to run on a considerably lower budget. However, this is beneficial in other ways. As a result, a lot of the exotic materials and complex components you see on a MotoGP bike aren’t featured in WSBK.
In World Superbikes, teams all have a limited budget to spend on every essential part of the package – from the purchasing of bikes and equipment to the salaries of riders and staff. The restrictions serve as a way of attracting more manufacturers and privateer teams to enter, as well as maintaining a level playing field.
In stark contrast, MotoGP teams have no such spending limit; the sky truly is the limit when it comes to testing new components, hiring the best technical crew, or securing the riders they feel can pilot their team to victory.
To paint a clearer picture of just how different MotoGP and WSBK are financially, let’s take a look at the cost of purchasing either machine. While a competitive World Superbike can be bought for anywhere between $200k-350k, the cost of a factory MotoGP race bike is in the range of $2-3million
Ever wondered why you don’t see manufacturers like BMW or Kawasaki competing in MotoGP? It’s because they’re running in WSBK instead. While the likes of Yamaha, Honda, and Ducati all have the budget and resources to run competitive teams in MotoGP and WSBK, others like KTM, BMW, and Kawasaki chose to focus on just one discipline so they can dedicate their budget and manpower to one championship, with the hopes of creating a potentially title-winning machine.
As we’ve seen before, it can take several years for a team working in perfect harmony to turn a good bike into something a cut above the rest, and when you consider the cost of running a MotoGP team for one season (with two bikes, riders & crew) is roughly $10million, you can understand why some are hesitant to make the gargantuan leap from WSBK to MotoGP.
The MotoGP season features a staggering 21 rounds, with fan favorites like Phillip Island, Catalunya, and Mugello all creating classic races. The championship really is fought across the globe, with teams jetting back and forth between the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Asia. In many ways, it’s the sheer scale of MotoGP’s reach across the globe that has made it so popular by bringing the energy and passion of the sport to such a wide variety of nations worldwide.
In comparison, the WSBK race season comprises just 12 rounds, although two races are held at each. Many of the tracks featured in WSBK are also present in the MotoGP season, such as Silverstone and Le Mans. However, only 3 of the 12 rounds take place outside of Europe.
In terms of performance, the MotoGP bike should be theoretically capable of quicker lap times, with more power and bigger budgets for the research and development of more cutting-edge parts. By taking a look at current speed records for both disciplines, we can really see the difference between the two.
MotoGP Top Speed Record: 362 km/h (J. Zarco/B. Binder)
WSBK Top Speed Record: 326 km/h (M. Biaggi)
Which one should you watch?
With Johnny Rea’s 6-year winning streak over and Yamaha crowned champions again with World Superbike’s first-ever Turkish rider taking a world title, and newcomers Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo both taking their first world titles while the dominant Marc Marquez takes a very long time to get back to grips with the frantic action, everything is to play for in the 2022 season.
While it’s often MotoGP that produces our favorite action, you’ll have to watch to find out where your loyalty lies. Don’t get left behind in the action; it all kicks off soon!
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