World Superbike technical director Scott Smart has his say on the Jonathan Rea factor, the pros and cons of the shaken-up race weekend format and the changes at Honda.

Smart, nephew of the legendary Barry Sheene, oversees the technical rules and developments in World Superbikes as representative for the FIM. While his role gives him intimate technical knowledge of all World Superbike machines, he provides his take on the current rules and what can be done in the future to improve the spectacle.

Find Part 1 of the exclusive Scott Smart interview here

You mention 240bhp, is that what the top bikes are making?

Scott Smart:

The top bikes are probably in the 230 range, they were 240 before we reduced the technical level a bit but they’re now creeping back up again.

Just to make it clear, how much of the engine internal can you now change?

Scott Smart:

It’s actually quite limited now as things become more standard. You can change the camshaft, a few bits and pieces in the valve train. You can also port the cylinder head and that’s pretty much it with the exception that the gearbox is more or less free. You can’t use non-standard conrods and pistons like you could before.

Do you think that too much panic change is being initiated by Johnny Rea’s dominance?

Scott Smart:

The changes have not been made because of that. It was important to make the high-tech parts available and affordable for the private teams so that for example a private Kawasaki teams could use the kind of parts that Johnny was using so successfully.

It means that the rider sitting on the grid knows that they have a high level of equipment under them which helps with their motivation. It’s hard to be fully motivated if you know you can’t win.

It was really important to spread the equipment down the grid. In MotoGP, the manufacturers have to provide full bikes whereas here it is more about components. The electronics, suspension, brakes and engine components will be the same all the way down the grid. They won’t have the same rider, budget or technicians but they’ll be close.

On top of that, these kind of changes have made the bikes around 20 or 30 percent cheaper which is important at a time when budgets are so tight.

I have to declare an interest in the next question in that I’m finding it difficult to get on with the two race day format, did you have any influence in that decision?

Scott Smart:

That’s very much a promoter decision.

But do you like it?

Scott Smart:

Again it’s a real pros and cons thing.

When I was a rider I did enjoy the big build up on Sunday for the two races and from a technical overseeing point of view having the two on the Sunday helped because of the time you had on a Saturday to deal with problems.

It also varies according to the country where some tend to come for the whole weekend whereas others prefer just coming for the one day.

With Superstock going there were arguments for so many weekend layouts but the manufacturers are also behind this one and I’m excited to see how it goes.

One of the factors which makes MotoGP such an entertaining series is how the tyres last and how riders initially conserve tyres, could we look to tyres to help the spectacle in WorldSBK?

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One of the factors which makes MotoGP such an entertaining series is how the tyres last and how riders initially conserve tyres, could we look to tyres to help the spectacle in WorldSBK?

Scott Smart:

Firstly, I absolutely don’t think that moving away from a control tyre is the way to go. I’ve heard the argument so much from people who didn’t experience an open tyre situation. Again, you can get a situation where you are sitting on a bike where you’ve got no chance of winning because you haven’t got the right rubber, it’s another potential motivation killer.

It can also get to the point where a rear tyre is costing near thousands of pounds each which is absurd. That’s a war that nobody can afford to have and you’d end up with just a few people having the equipment to win. A spec tyre is absolutely the way to go.

As far as if you should have a tyre that fatigues like they have in MotoGP goes, I can see two competing arguments.

It would again spread the field because the better teams would be able to manage their tyres so much better. When we had a two-part race in Philip Island none of the riders pushed hard in the first half but in the second half could go at 100% all the time and that meant that the racing was close because they didn’t have a tyre wear concern.

You can have a situation where they are riding around hanging back for the first 25 laps which produces the MotoGP close races where people can see what’s going on and just wait for the last laps or close races where riders don’t have to worry about the tyre as a factor. I think people have started to get wise to the MotoGP thing, and are all really just waiting for the last 10 minutes.

As it stands I feel happy with the tyre situation as it is.

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Is the very long summer break a point of discussion amongst WorldSBK administration?

Scott Smart:

It depends on the crowds. A lot of the current crowds are Latin, Spanish and Italian and they often have July and August off so having races then doesn’t attract a huge audience. The racing calendar is also quite intense with the first race being in February so the teams don’t get a lot of time off in winter so it gives them time to get on top of issues. You do get a system though where you kind of forget what happened in the first half of the season.

And how strong do you think the Honda effort will be this year?

Scott Smart:

It’s definitely more factory, it’s got a factory connection with Moriwaki, Althea and HRC all being involved. It’s going to be a difficult project because they’re starting from scratch more or less, nothing carries over from Ten Kate.

In my opinion the first half of the season will be very difficult for them, but knowing some of the people involved I’m sure they’ll pick up speed quickly. Also Leon Camier is one of the fastest riders out there and he’ll be well placed to help them on and make the most of the situation.

One problem is that they are basing the bike on an older model than the other manufacturers. This year will be a year of laying the ground work with a new Blade hopefully coming out in 2020.

And lastly, you still get my prize for the most exciting finish in bike racing where you finished the race still on your bike at 90 degrees to the finishing line in British Superstock.

Scott Smart:

Yes, yes, I remember that one! I think I finished second to McGuinness by a whisker. The crankshaft had snapped sending the flywheel out of the side of the engine and I was just a passenger to the line.

Thanks a lot Scott, I’ll let you get back to the homologating.

Scott Smart:

No problem at all.