New 2017 WSBK rules creating a more exciting season at a cost of risking rider lives


In case you didn’t know.. WSBK has some new rules this season.  Much like any season there are technical rules and small unnoticeable rules that change each year.  Last year the most noticeable of the rule changes was the switch to a Sunday and Saturday race from two races on the same day.  This year it’s called the “Reverse Order” rule.

The “Reverse Order” rule is designed to level the playing field and increase the competitiveness of the sport.  In order to achieve this equality, the results of the first race will dictate the order of the second race’s start positions.  According to the new rule those who finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd, will be pushed back to the third row and reverse their order; 1st will start 9th, 2nd will start 8th and 3rd will start 7th.  Additionally, 4th, 5th and 6th will move up to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and 7th, 8th and 9th will also move up one row to 4th, 5th and 6th.  The rest of the order will still be based on qualification.

There are three questions you might be asking…

  1. What was wrong with the competitiveness in past years?  2. Why does Dorna (the corporate owner of WSBK) feel that a closer more contested championship is more likely with the new rules? or What could the regulating board desire as an outcome of the new rules? 3. Is there a possible unwanted effect of the new rules?

The truth is that there have been no problems with the competitiveness in WSBK… it is true however, that just like MotoGP and other motorsport series, often a single manufacture, owner or sponsorship team dominate for a couple of years. Currently that is Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea.  Obviously some people feel that singular domination hurts the sport… the argument is that the sprort becomes boring and monotonous when their is less surprise in a series.  At the end of the day the sport is a business.  It is most likely the opinion of the executive board that the best way to increase profits is to increase the excitement level and hopefully bring in new fans.

I think that this theory is a fallacy and error in logic. The idea that fans are attracted to sports based on their excitement level is an unproved hypothesis.  In fact it is more likely that motorcycle sports are most often visited by fans who first learn to ride motorcycles in their lives and then discover the sports later.  Some are introduced by friends or family and learn to ride and learn about the sports aspects of motorcycles afterward.  Motorsports are not so different from football, cricket or other sports than people can pick up as children.  If you think about it you can clearly see the logic behind the corporate purchase by Dorna Sports to control the rights to the television and video of the sport.  They were aware of the history and the huge financial gains made Bernie Ecclestone and Formula 1.  So why wouldn’t they try to corner the market and create a monopoly.  Buy MotoGP, WSBK and then infiltrate the FIM, and IRTA; next buy stock in motorcycle electronics and make their use mandatory as part of the sport.  Also, not long after their purchases they established the “Video Pass” in which for around 100 Euros fans can buy a subscription to watch the races and news videos online.  It is clear that profit is the motivation, and the new rules are a strategy they hope will bring more fans to their site to purchase video passes or watch on cable television.

However, there is a problem.  While the concept of making the sport more exciting seems reasonable it clearly ignores one of the most important aspects of the sport. Safety! The entire reason behind the qualification system that was developed for years was safety!  Driver and riders in all motorsports understand the importance of the qualification system and the safety implications that undoing the qualification rules will cause. Sater riders are qualified in front so that there will be less crashes, less risky overtaking and less loss of life and injury.  This is nothing new and Dorna Sports the FIM and IRTA are all aware of it.. yet remain silent as to the risks, no doubt so they will have deniability later.

There will be more crashes. Anytime slower riders are put in front on purpose in increases the overtaking and risk, danger level skyrockets.  As faster riders are forced to either slow down or risk passing slower riders hurriedly in order not to lose time on the leaders more crashes will occur.

Would it be out of line to say that Dorna Sports does not care about the health and safety of the riders? I am sure that some executive somewhere is actually hoping that there will be more crashes… perhaps crashes are the excitement factor they are really looking for? Increase ratings and increased viewership at the cost of safety.  It is immoral and downright dirty business.  Further, we will not be allowed to hear what the riders truly believe about the new rules because of censure guidelines that bar and limit the riders to politically correct comments and bar discouraging comments.  Sadly, we will have to wait and see what happens, and when a rider gets seriously hurt or dies, then the governing bodies will say they never considered it dangerous or a risk.  Typical corporate double talk and denials.  In the end it is still profit over everything else, riders be damned.  The sport is already very dangerous, without encouraging reckless behaviors and dangerous overtaking.  Let us not forget we lost three Spanish riders: Daniel Rivas Fernandez and Bernat Martinez in MotoAmerica in 2015, Moto2 rider Luis Salom in 2016.  Not to mention the extensive list of British riders that passed in the last ten years.  Motorcycle racing is Dangerous! Why risk more lives just for a couple of extra pounds, dollars or euros?


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