Pirelli's racing director Giorgio Barbier says now is the right time for the motorbikes of the World Superbike Championship to start bearing a closer resemblance to its road-going equivalents, beginning with this year's move to 17” tyres.
The Italian company is celebrating its tenth season as the series' control tyre supplier in 2013 by upping the size of its tyres from 16.5” to 17”, a move that is being heralded by Pirelli as a 'new era' for World Superbikes.
Introduced as part of an effort to better align World Superbikes with its production counterparts, Barbier says the discussion over the use of 17” tyres was originally started back in 2004 when it became the sole tyre supplier to the championship. However, the prospect of bikes losing 'ten seconds a lap' would rule such a move out until now.
"I can give you the full story," he told Crash.net
. "This was at first a request from Mr Flammini. From when we started to make the control tyre in 2004, he was thinking about keeping the bike as close as possible to the road tyres, so use the same size tyres and maybe a tread pattern as well.
"In the first year we said, 'please, we [World Superbike] are moving from a situation where we have had open competition, working on 16.5”, very special tyres - prototypes - and then we change to just Pirelli, go to 17” and a tread – we would lose ten seconds a lap! So we couldn't do it and asked to wait until the right time'."
Though the full extent of the change on lap times won't be apparent until official pre-season testing gets underway at Phillip Island next month, Barbier feels this is the right time for World Superbikes to start moving away from some of the more 'exotic' developments currently being used.
"Now I think the market is ready. When I say market, I mean the manufacturers start to produce for three or four years ago sport bikes with the right sizes.
"With a big, huge rear tyre, with a good front and the chassis on the bikes, it becomes really close to what we use in the race. And now it's the right time to leave some of the exotic things from Superbike and go with what is used on road bikes.
"Now we have rims that are the same size - before we had open, wide rims - now just 3.56”, the same size as we make for the market. So we thought 'let's do this [17”]. And it will be easier for the road tyre users to understand the work we do, because all the time we say we make Superbike tyres for our road users, but before they were 16.5”'."
As well as the revised tyre sizes, other more obvious changes include the introduction of 'headlight stickers', as used by Kawasaki during the second-half of the 2012 season.
Following Dorna's acquisition of the World Superbike Championship, rumours suggest the series will adopt more stock-inspired regulations from 2014 in an effort to reduce costs and improve the relation between race bikes and their road-going equivalent.