Spa 24hr EWC race to pave way for WorldSBK future?

Endurance Superbikes will accelerating up Eau Rouge in 2022... could the World Superbike Championship follow suit?
Spa 24hr EWC race to pave way for WorldSBK future?

The iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit is to feature international Superbike racing for the first time in almost two decades after it was confirmed to be joining the Endurance World Championship in a pioneering 24-hour event.

Though rarely used for two-wheel competition at a high level now, Spa-Francorchamps has previously had a long-standing association with Endurance racing, featuring on its schedule for three decades between 1973 and 2003.

For its return in June 2022 - as part of the 2021-2022 season – the Belgian venue will host the series’ third 24-hour event to sit alongside the round-the-clock Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours&24 Heures Motos at Le Mans, plus the 8 Hours of Suzuka and the winter 8 Hours of Sepang round.

Unusually, this event – which coincides with Spa-Francorchamps’ two-wheel racing centenary - will start as the sun dips beyond the horizon with a scheduled 10pm start-end time meaning the first portion of the race will be conducted in the small hours. With the race running from Friday into Saturday, the circuit will then be opened up to 10,000 supporters who can spend the day sampling the famed circuit for themselves.

“This is a great day for the FIM Endurance World Championship. Racing at Spa-Francorchamps is one of the finest sporting challenges we can offer our riders and teams,” revealed Head of Eurosport Events, Francois Ribeiro. “Tradition will go hand in hand with innovation as they push their skills to the limits on this legendary track over a 24-hour duration, starting after nightfall at 10pm on the Friday to finish on the Saturday evening with a firework and a party atmosphere.”

Though EWC has dispensation to compete on circuits with an A, B or C licence – unlike WorldSBK venues which require at least a ‘B’ licence to host an event – Spa-Francorchamps will need to undergo changes to accommodate motorcycle racing. However, promoters insist it will remain faithful to a current layout famed for bends like Eau Rouge, Les Combes and the La Source.

“It will be a huge challenge to adapt the world’s most beautiful circuit to the FIM’s safety standards without compromising the current track layout while respecting FIA Formula One requirements, in conjunction with the two international federations,” he continued.

Such changes means it stands to reason that Spa-Francorchamps could well be upgraded to secure a ‘B’ licence, thus making it an option for WorldSBK going forward too. The venue has previously held a single round of WorldSBK since the series debuted in 1986, featuring on the 1992 schedule, Rob Phillis and Doug Polen sharing the spoils on that day.

Spa-Francorchamps 500GP

Talks about Spa-Francorchamps hosting MotoGP have surfaced intermittently over the years but it was considered too compromising to balance requirements for the premier class, which can only compete on circuits holding an ‘A’ licence. The venue hosted grand prix racing between 1949 and 1979, and then again between 1981 until the most recent ‘Belgian GP’ in 1990.