Have you ever wondered why it is called 'Superbike'? Or on which circuit have the most SBK races been held? And why are several races in one single Round? Here we will tell you some curiosities about WorldSBK, its origin and the races that are held.
This year the Superbike World Championship celebrates its 35th anniversary on the track, so there is no better time to learn the most curious details about its origins and riders. In addition, this year we are launching the special 'WorldSBK 35th anniversary' collection, specially designed to commemorate this milestone.
WorldSBK trivia: where do Superbikes come from?
Motorcycle racing with production bikes is as old as motorcycling itself. In fact, they date back to competitions such as the Tourist Trophy and other championships that were held in the following decades under names such as Clubman, Production, Formula 750 or Formula TT. However, the Superbike name and format would eventually shape the current WorldSBK championship, how did that happen?
The origin of the Superbike concept is in the United States, in the early 70s. In 1973 a regional championship was created in the state of California for modified series motorcycles which were called 'Superbike'. The format became very popular right away, with the public's favor and the interest of brands to promote their products.
In this way, in 1976 he made the leap to a national level, with the foundation of the AMA Superbike championship and its growth made it one of the most important championships already in the 80s. Just look at the list of winners: Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz… and legendary names like coach Pop Yoshimura.
Thus, the Superbike concept became global, especially when the FIM decided to found the Superbike World Championship in 1988. From here you already know its history.
Why do WorldSBK run several races in the same weekend?
Since its inception in 1988, WorldSBK has held several races in the same weekend. The idea originates from the 200-mile eventsa of the old Formula 750 Championship, very popular in the 1970s. Back then, they used to do two races of 100 miles each (160 km) in a two-leg format: the times from both races were added together to create a single standings and points finish. This allowed fans to see more action on the same track, although the time summation formula was confusing to follow on the track and did not necessarily translate into more thrilling action.
Inspired by this format, the Superbike World Championship opted to hold two races, but each with its own points. Thus, the pilots had two opportunities to score on the same circuit. The idea was a success, since the crowd enjoyed two races on Sunday – traditionally the first at 12 noon and the second at 3:30 p.m. – and the teams and organizers were able to reduce travel costs without giving up having a calendar with many races.
Subsequently, complementary categories also began to be added to the program to the delight of displaced fans, such as Supersport, which used to contest a single race on Sunday between the two Superbike races.
How does the WorldSBK format work?
Currently, the Superbike class disputes three days of competition, from Friday to Sunday. Throughout the three days they dispute eight track sessions, of which three are races and one is qualifying.
Free Practice 1 (50 minutes)
Free Practice 2 (50 minutes)
Free Practice 3 (30 minutes)
Superpole (20 minutes)
Race 1 (number of laps equivalent to 90 km)
Warm Up (20 minutes)
Superpole Race (10 laps)
Race 2 (number of laps equivalent to 90 km)
- It should be mentioned that the FPs do not determine the pass to the qualifying session, called Superpole, since it is disputed by all the participating pilots.
- The Superpole is a single qualifying session that determines the starting places on the grid for Race 1 on Saturday and the Superpole Race on Sunday.
- The Superpole Race is held in a sprint race format with only 10 laps.
- The Supersport and Supersport300 categories follow a similar format, but only contesting two Free Practices and not contesting the Superpole Race on Sunday, thus having only two races per Round.
Why does WorldSBK races on Saturday?
Originally, WorldSBK held its two races on Sunday, Saturday being reserved for training and qualifying. This format was maintained for a long time until in 2016 the decision was made to hold Superbike Race 1 on Saturday and Race 2 on Sunday, encouraging attendance throughout the whole weekend.
The next revolution came in 2019, with the introduction of sprint races, called the 'Superpole Race', as the third race for SBKs.
Finally, the arrival of the pandemic in 2020 led to the current format: in order to take more advantage of the (at that time limited) displacements on the calendar, the Supersport and Supersport 300 categories also became available to two races. Thus, from this crisis arose the current model that offers the spectator up to seven races in the same Round.
How was the Supersport class born?
The Supersport category has its origin in the European Championship. In 1990, this category was created for 600cc motorcycles, taking up the spirit of the old Formula TT 2 for motorcycles derived from the medium displacement series.
At the beginning of the 90s, the market for mid-capacity sportbikes experienced a veritable expansion, with sales records higher than the Superbikes themselves. Thus, in 1991 the European Supersport Championship began to share a calendar with the World Superbike, being one more race on the program in the 'Old Continent'. The category became so popular that even in 1995 a parallel championship was created, called the Thunderbike Trophy for these bikes, which was held within the framework of the GGPP.
In 1997 the FIM decided to unify the category and granted the status of World Series to the Supersport Championship. As of 1999 it is already designated World Championship, being the French Stéphane Chambon its first champion.
What is and how does WorldSBK Superpole work?
Superpole is the final classification system for the WorldSBK grid. But why does it bear this name? The first time the term Superpole was used was in 1998. Until then, the drivers had two timed sessions to set their best lap and this was how the grid was configured. But in 1998, WorldSBK decided to create an extra session on Saturday where each rider had a single lap launched to complete the grid time.
Perhaps the inspiration for this 'all-or-nothing' system was taken from the Suzuka 8 Hours, which in 1994 created the Top 10 Trial, also one lap thrown to decide the starting grid. The single lap format remained in WorldSBK until 2009, when Superpole adapted a new format: three timed sessions, with a knockout system. This was done to make the session more dynamic for TV beats.
In the following years, the Superpole was modifying its format, in number of minutes and sessions until the current format, which rescues the original spirit of a single opportunity, in this case in a single timed session of 20 minutes.
Origin of sprint races: how they got into WorldSBK
In 2019, WorldSBK decided to bet on a new format for each weekend: add a sprint race, of only 10 laps, to the racing program of each Round. Under the name of Superpole Race, this sprint race has become in a short time one of the novelties most loved by fans. Its popularity has led even F1 and MotoGP to join the formula, offering more spectacle per weekend.
Interestingly, the first motorcycling championship to adopt the sprint race format was the Sidecar World Championship. These three-wheeled devices used to accompany MotoGP and WorldSBK in some of their events, but from 2004 they began to have their own calendar. In order to have a more complete racing program, they organized up to three races per weekend, under the names of 'Match', 'Sprint' and 'Gold', each one scoring and with different lengths.
What was the first WorldSBK race?
The first race in WorldSBK history was held at Donington Park in 1988. This British circuit is 'the spiritual home' of the Superbike World Championship; The United Kingdom is also one of the countries where SBK has achieved the most success, both in terms of titles and popularity.
As of 2023, Donington Park has hosted WorldSBK up to 30 times, but it is not the circuit that has hosted the series motorcycle world championship the most times. This honor falls to Phillip Island, where the Australian Round has been held 32 times. They are followed by Assen with 31 tests and the aforementioned Donington Park and Misano with 30 events hosted in the history of the championship.
In which country have the most WorldSBK races been held?
Up to 2023, Italy is the country where the most WorldSBK Rounds have been held: up to 76 times an appointment has been held in the transalpine country, sometimes under various names and circuits: Italian Round, San Marino Round, Emiglia-Romagna Round... curiously, Italy It did not have a Round in that inaugural season, but since 1989 it has not failed to host the World Championship.
The United Kingdom ranks second on this list, with a total of 56 Rounds held in Great Britain. Only the 2020 pandemic prevented it from being the only country that has always had an appointment on the calendar since the creation of the championship.
The third country with the most Rounds held is Spain, with 48, and holds the 'record' of different circuits that have hosted SBK with up to seven different ones: Jerez, Jarama, Albacete, Cheste, Motorland Aragón, Navarra and Barcelona-Catalunya.