By Adam Arnold

This week, Honda and Ducati MotoGP teams are testing at the Losail track in Qatar, just a few days after the first round of the World Superbike championship at the same circuit.

Following the first day of the current test, the MotoGP teams have had a total of four days at the circuit (three at the 2004 GP and one day of testing), which is effectively the same amount as the WSBK field during their Qatar pre-season test and following race weekend.

The WSBK field had two days on track at the pre-season test and only two for qualifying and the races, since Thursday was washed out by the uncharacteristic desert rain.

So how do they compare?

Yesterday, Nicky Hayden took the honour of the fastest time set by a MotoGP rider at the track with a 1min 58.36secs, beating the 2004 pole position time of Carlos Checa by 0.628secs. Colin Edwards on the Telefonica Honda set the fastest race time in 2004 with a lap of 1min 59.293secs.

Last weekend saw the fastest outright WSBK lap going to Alstare Suzuki's Troy Corser, set during a practice session, of 2min 01.244secs, with the fastest lap in the races going to Sebastien Gimbert and Yamaha France with a 2min 01.852secs. The 2005 Qatar WSBK pole position time was Regis Laconi's 2min 01.593secs.

Therefore, if we compare the fastest outright lap of 2005 for each series, and the qualifying time for 2005 WSBK and the 2004 MotoGP championship, and also the fastest race lap for each, we are faced with a difference of 2.884secs, 2.605secs and 2.559secs respectively.

It would also be necessary to take into account tyre manufacturers, possibly one of the most important aspects in lap times, with the leading MotoGP teams using Michelin or Bridgestone and the entire WSBK grid using Pirelli.

Considering comparative lap times in WSBK between the years of 2003 and 2004 - when the Pirelli rule came into effect - it is seen that the lap difference is, on average between all the riders, two seconds.

Taking this off the fastest Qatar times in WSBK we see that the fastest out-right lap is within 0.884 seconds of each other, with the difference in pole time of 0.606secs, and finally the difference in the fastest lap in a race of each series is 0.559secs.

Averaged out this difference is 0.670secs.

It must also be noted that the weather and track conditions for the MotoGP test are considerably better than they were for much of the WSBK race weekend.

The MotoGP teams are benefiting from a non-rain interrupted test, utilising the rubber laid down by the WSBK grid last weekend. Therefore the comparison is somewhat in favour of the MotoGP machines.

So what does this tell us?

With Qatar being a new circuit it enables one major variable to be made constant, which is the rider experience of the track. With this the same for each of the MotoGP and WSBK team's considering the day lost to rain by the WSBK field, a total of four days each, we have the rare opportunity to directly compare the two championships.

Also by making allowances for the different tyre manufacturers based on previous history of when the WSBK paddock could use any tyre manufacturer it pleased, it can be seen that a Superbike, a bike derived from a road going machine, is not actually that far off a GP bike designed specifically for racing.

In qualifying, based on a difference of 0.670secs, a Superbike would not have a great deal of difficulty in taking to the first two rows of the MotoGP grid.

Over race distance, 30 laps in MotoGP and a total of 20.1secs behind the leader at the flag (0.670secs x 30 laps), a top Superbike rider could finish well within the top ten and possibly in the top five at some tracks based on last seasons MotoGP results.

It has to be asked, based on this insight, whether the Suzuki MotoGP team might have been better off using 2005 development GSX-R1000 last season at Qatar in October, with Troy Corser comparatively securing a better qualifying time than the highest placed GSV-R last season for the race by 0.303secs.