From this year, Jan Witteveen is the technical director for the Althea BMW team.
The Dutch engineer, and former boss of the Aprilia racing department, is undoubtedly Superbike's greatest acquisition.
His experience and skill is second to none, leading us to ask whether Dorna should perhaps listen to him a little more, in order to improve a championship that is now better than ever when it comes to the racing, but still lacking in terms of its organisation and reach.
"I believe that the current regulations are more balanced than they were in the past - states Witteveen - The Superbike world championship is based on the product. Currently the Superstock is a standard bike that offers 5% more performance once we eliminate unnecessary extras. SBK, on the other hand, is at +15% compared to the standard bike thanks largely to the electronics. Let's say around 230 hp. With this level of performance, we can have the bikes working with the standard frame. In the past, 50 extra horsepower would mess everything up. The result is that now we no longer need to start with a prototype, like Aprilia and Ducati used to do, to have a competitive bike".
The identity of the Superbikes has long been tied to its particular format, with two races, one after the other. But this year they have decided to change that, with race 1 taking place on a Saturday.
"Yes it's true, the philosophy has changed in order to achieve greater visibility, but we'll only know if it's worked or not in a year or so. The problem, right now, is that the event takes place over three days, but with racing on both Saturday and Sunday, there's only really Friday available for practice, with two sessions of one hour each that are too close together for us to be able to download data, analyse and make changes. This particularly affects those young riders and teams that don't have data or don't know the tracks".
This is a very real problem that also has an impact in terms of safety.
"Exactly, for those riders debuting in the championship it's also dangerous. We should reduce the sessions to 45 minutes each and then move the race from 1 to 2. In addition, on Saturday there's just 15 minutes of practice, then Superpole 1 and 2…it's all too compacted. Not to mention the fact that practice takes place early in the morning when the temperature is still too low".
This year's battle is between Kawasaki and Ducati.
"The Ducati has improved this year, also thanks to the new exhausts and I believe Davies is a rider that can bring the bike to the limit. The Kawasaki, on the other hand, with the homologation, is slightly worse off in terms of the engine, while it's still the most centred bike in terms of the chassis. These are the two best bikes, then there's us with the BMW, with which we can place between 4th and 8th with two young and fast riders like Reiterberger and Torres and the Honda, that has improved and can count on fast riders like Hayden and VD Mark. Finally, there's Aprilia, and I'm happy they are here, I believe they still have the best engine. The Yamaha, on the other hand, is disappointing, with riders who I expected more from, but performance is very up and down. They are also doing worse in the BSB and in Germany than they did last year".
An overall opinion on the riders?
"The best is Rea, then there are Sykes and Davies. I also put VDM up with those to watch".
You don't think that Superbike, as it is now, has had its day? Sales of supersport bikes continue to drop, would it not perhaps be prudent to go back to when the SBK was all about road bikes with high handlebars?
"We could do that, but it depends on industry, on what the manufacturers want to do, because the championship is a shop window for customers, to convince them to buy what they see on track. The comparison with MotoGP is misguided, because that is a championship for riders on prototype bikes. We have to concentrate on production bikes".
And you wouldn't like to see one single 150 Km race?
"No because we already have endurance offering that. Bike races need to be sprints. And then we have 15, 16 litre tanks, we would need bigger ones. The technology to make pit stops, tyre changes, refuelling all exists but let's leave all that to endurance events".