Teams snap back at Ezpeleta for labelling WorldSBK ‘second division'

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta's description of WorldSBK as 'second division' compared to MotoGP hasn't gone down terribly well with some teams

WorldSBK, Start

BMW Motorrad racing director Marc Bongers says it is ‘not correct’ for Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to dismiss his own WorldSBK Championship as the ‘second division’ of motorcycle racing when compared with MotoGP.

In a wide-ranging interview with GPOne last month, Ezpeleta – while discussing the possibility of Kawasaki wild-carding in MotoGP with its ZX-10RR – rather pointedly referred to the series as ‘second division’ when stacked up against the prototype class.

Dorna acquired the rights to WorldSBK in 2013 to join MotoGP in its motorcycle racing portfolio. It was a move many felt prompted by its growing concern that MotoGP’s status was being threatened by WorldSBK, which at the time is boasted larger grids, more manufacturers and an increasing number of high profile names like Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri.

Since then WorldSBK’s regulations have been tweaked help differentiate it from MotoGP in terms of raw speed and it currently competes with five manufacturers to MotoGP’s six, though three of them – Ducati, Honda and Yamaha – race in both series.

Of the two that don’t, Kawasaki – who competed between 2002 and 2008 – says it won’t return full-time until costs are reduced, while BMW has repeatedly refused to join up saying it bears little relation to its ultimate objective of selling motorcycles.

With this in mind, Bongers – who runs the recently revived BMW factory effort in WorldSBK – says the series should be correctly regarded as an alternative and not dismissed.

“In my opinion, I do not think that the Superbike is the B Series of motorcycling, also because I do not think that it is correct to make a classification. I think it is an alternative to MotoGP and these two realities should not be compared, as they are two separate things. I think the WorldSBK Championship is representative of production motorcycles and especially of fans."

Though his team competes in both series’, it was a view shared by Ducati’s Serafino Foti, who says WorldSBK is of the ‘highest importance’.

“The Superbike is a Championship of the highest importance, developing road motorcycles, from which development then follows. This point is I believe a decisive aspect in the value of the Championship, plus the passionate factor in that people can enter the paddock freely, live in close contact with the dynamics of the weekend and meet motorcycles and riders . In MotoGP it's a little different.”

Even Alvaro Bautista – who made it fairly clear at the start of his WorldSBK endeavour in 2019 that he was only racing because he’d run out of MotoGP options - admits they should be viewed separately

“Before arriving in this paddock, I had the same idea as Ezepelta,” he said. “In fact, that's what I thought. Then I realised that these are two different championships. It is not possible to compare them because they are different.”