World Superbike riders could regularly overlap 'MotoGP pace' next season, when attempts to curb MotoGP cornering speeds through the introduction of a single tyre rule - combined with a planned increase in WSBK performance - looks set to erode the present 2.854secs average margin between the fastest riders in the two championships.

Both MotoGP and WSBK have seen lap times decrease in recent seasons, despite MotoGP slashing its engine capacity to 800cc from 2007, but the prototype championship has responded to concerns that the cornering speed of its lighter machines are now too fast for the tracks by following in WSBK's footsteps and introducing a single tyre rule for 2009. Bridgestone, the only company to bid for the MotoGP contract, has said that it will work with organisers to bring down corner speeds through tyre design.

If successful, such grip reductions looks set to at least temporarily halt lap-time reductions in MotoGP and may even result in lap times rising next year, depending on the level of winter progress made by the MotoGP manufacturers with their 2009 machines.

By total contrast, Pirelli has stated its intentions to help the heavier, but bigger capacity, WSBK machines - which rely on acceleration and straight line speed, rather than cornering speed, to generate their lap time - circulate around 0.6secs faster in 2009, as they did in 2008. Assuming that target is met, and that MotoGP lap times remain roughly unchanged, that speed increase would place the leading WSBK riders comfortably clear of the slower MotoGP riders at two of the tracks they share, and within just a few tenths at the others.

The fastest race laps for MotoGP and WSBK at six of the seven circuits both championships raced at in 2008 (Donington Park was not included due to rain on WSBK race day) shows that on two occasions, at Phillip Island and Brno, the fastest WSBK rider was already quicker than at least one MotoGP competitor. In terms of the fastest rider in each series, the closest the two championships came was 2.457secs in MotoGP's favour at Phillip Island, although the time span between the two Australian events means that the most accurate marker is probably Brno, where WSBK raced on July 20 and MotoGP on August 17.

At Brno, the difference between the fastest race laps was 2.780secs in MotoGP's favour, but the fastest WSBK lap was nearly one second quicker than the slowest MotoGP lap.

With MotoGP and WSBK seemingly going in opposite directions, it begs the question: Will Noriyuki Haga's Xerox Ducati be as quick, if not quicker than Mika Kallio's Alice Ducati next season..?

SBK beating MotoGP is far from unprecedented - Steve Hislop took his BSB Ducati around Donington Park faster than Valentino Rossi had managed on an RC211V in the same (2002) season, for example - but there is no doubt that a major part of MotoGP's prestige is that its machines can circulate a race track faster than any other motorcycles in the world. Lose that and a significant part of MotoGP's appeal will be lost - just as would happen if a rival single-seater championship began beating F1 lap times.

Faster bikes are also usually considered more advanced than slower ones because, after all, don't they all aim to get around a track as quickly as possible?

2008 MotoGP and WSBK - fastest race laps:

Losail (MotoGP: March, WSBK: February)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Casey Stoner (Ducati) - 1min 55.153secs*Fastest '08 WSBK lap: Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki) - 1min 59.156secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: Anthony West (Kawasaki) - 1min 57.989secs*Difference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +4.003secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: +1.167secs
* Night race

Phillip Island (MotoGP: October, WSBK: March)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Nicky Hayden (Honda) - 1min 30.059Fastest '08 WSBK lap: Troy Bayliss (Ducati) - 1min 32.516secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: Marco Melandri (Ducati) - 1min 32.519secsDifference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.457secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: -0.003secs

Valencia (MotoGP: October, WSBK: April)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Casey Stoner (Ducati) - 1min 32.582secs Fastest '08 WSBK lap: Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) - 1min 35.131secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: Anthony West (Kawasaki) - 1min 34.715secsDifference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.549secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: +0.416secs

Assen (MotoGP: June, WSBK: April)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Casey Stoner (Ducati) - 1min 36.738secsFastest '08 WSBK lap: Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) - 1min 39.395secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: Marco Melandri (Ducati) - 1min 38.676secsDifference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.657secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: +0.719secs

Misano (MotoGP: August, WSBK: June)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) - 1min 34.904secsFastest '08 WSBK lap: Troy Corser (Yamaha) - 1min 37.580secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: Anthony West (Kawasaki) - 1min 36.862secsDifference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.676secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: +0.718secs

Brno (MotoGP: August, WSBK: July)Fastest '08 MotoGP lap: Casey Stoner (Ducati) - 1min 57.199secsFastest '08 WSBK lap: Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) - 1min 59.979secsSlowest '08 MotoGP lap: James Toseland (Yamaha) - 2mins 00.953secsDifference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.780secsDifference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: -0.974secs

Average difference fastest WSBK/fastest MotoGP: +2.854secsAverage difference slowest MotoGP/fastest WSBK: +0.341secs

 

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