On Saturday at Vallelunga it was officially confirmed that, from 2009, the World Superbike Championship will change the format of its Superpole qualifying session from a one lap shootout for the top 16 riders, to a three-part F1-style knockout format featuring the top 20 riders. BSB also switched to knockout qualifying midway through the 2008 season.
The new rule, together with other changes - including the introduction of MotoGP-style flag to flag races - were unanimously backed by the Superbike Commission, composed of Paolo Flammini (FGSport), Claude Danis (FIM) and Giulio Bardi (Team representative).
First qualifying (60 minutes) and second qualifying (45 minutes) will continue to be held on Friday and Saturday respectively, with the top 20 riders then advancing to the new Superpole format on Saturday afternoon - which will run as follows:
- The first 20 riders of the qualifying practice on the track - session of 12 minutes.
Interval of 7 minutes
- The best 16 riders of the preceding session on the track - session of 12 minutes.
Interval of 7 minutes
- The best 8 riders of the preceding session on the track - session of 12 minutes.
- 1st row: the best 4 riders of the 3rd session,
- 2nd row: the 5th,6th,7th and 8th rider of the 3rd session,
- 3rd row: the 9th,10th,11th and 12th rider of the 2nd session,
- 4th row: the 13th,14th,15th and 16th rider of the 2nd session,
- 5th row: the 17th,18th,19th and 20th rider of the 1st session,
- other rows: based on the results of qualifying (first and second combined).
Meanwhile, an equally significant change will be the introduction of flag to flag racing, which means that races "will not be interrupted for climatic reasons, and riders will be allowed to change machine during the race."
Presently, if rain falls during a dry race then the race is stopped and (if a minimum distance has not been reached) restarted. Aggregate times are then used to decide the final classification. This can cause delays in the race day schedule and confusion amongst casual fans.
MotoGP has used flag to flag racing, without any major problems, since 2005 (pictured). The full details of the new rules will be published at the end of the season, but it is assumed that - like MotoGP - if a rider pulls into the pitlane to change to a spare bike during a race then he must rejoin on a different type of tyre (dry, wet or intermediate).
Among the other more minor changes agreed was the removal of a proposed age limit for the Supersport class from 2010.