Being the race director of a world championship like Superbike is an important and delicate role, because you need to know how make decisions that will satisfy everyone, manufacturers, riders, team managers, sponsors and the paying public.
Gregorio Lavilla has had this role for several years, and his experience as a rider is always useful: “I started to the race in the Spanish Criterium, a real talent factory - recalls Gregorio- with me there were riders like Alzamora and Checa, who need no introduction in the paddock. My path was different, I came to SBK in the late 90s, and stayed for many years, racing with Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki. So many podiums and the British SBK title. I learned so much through racing”.
Was it better to be a rider, or race director?
“Rider, no doubt! In those days, I only thought about myself. Now I have to listen to and speak with all the riders, more than 130 of them, and be aware of all their needs before deciding on the best thing to do. But it's not easy, because of course the final decision can never satisfy everyone”.
What's the toughest part of the job?
“During the race, I have to understand the situation on track, checking that each is respecting the rules. We have some great marshals to help us, who signal if it's raining, if there's oil on track and any cutting of the track; the human role is more important than the technological, we have TV screens but people are more attentive; there are three of us in race direction, I'm one of the arbitrators who takes decisions, and I always do it for the good of the riders”.
In Superbike there is an increasing difference between the factory and private bikes…
“It's always been that way actually - only the privateer Ducati have been able to run up there with the best, in the past the other bikes were further back. Now it's like in my day, every so often a strong privateer shows up, like Haslam with the Puccetti bike. Over time we're tried to find a regulation that everyone can accept, I'm talking about manufacturers, teams and the FIM. We have the ingredients to take another step in reducing the costs and gaps between the various bikes”.
Would a single ECI level the playing field between the factory and private bikes?
“We're talking about it, but the same ECU for everyone would be just a small step on our path; this change wouldn't be the final solution, the regulation would be leveled out if everyone had the same conditions; direct involvement with the manufacturers and economic means are included in this. The regulation influences the results, but it's still the riders who make the difference. Our goal is to slightly lower the bar with regard to the preparation of the bikes”.
What other modifications do you propose?
“The right path would be bring the current Superbikes closer to the Superstock regulation. How close? We need to ask the manufacturers and teams, I always do that, taking what they say into consideration and trying to satisfy everyone. Each team and each rider should have a the chance to win. We will to try to create that situation”.
Will there be any new tracks next year?
“Argentina will come in, others will be confirmed and we're working on that. There are many stunning tracks, for both the riders and the public, but they have to respect the safety standards, considering the speed of the bikes. We continue to work to improve the safety aspect”.
Lately the Brits are increasingly competitive, how come?
“BSB is a rich championship, with a great tradition. They are independent and treat the series as if it were a world championship. The wave of strong riders that we see day dates back to the early 2000s, a period in which the likes of Rea, Camier, Haslam, Sykes moved up… but also Crutchlow: he won the Supersport title, did one year in Superbike and then moved to MotoGP, doing very well”.
SBK suffers when compared to MotoGP in terms of audience figures…
“Currently yes, our aim is to increase the public's interest in SBK. It would be great to have Valentino Rossi as a wildcard in a few races, I'd love to have him here for a few rounds and think that we in Superbike would treat him very well".