This year Superbike World Championship has been experiencing a lot of changes, following three main reasons:
- the debut of Ducati Panigale V4R, a fast, but expensive machine inspired to the manufacturer’s MotoGP bikes;
- the surprising season start from Álvaro Bautista, who scored 11 wins out of 11 races in the first four rounds;
- the return of Honda and BMW, that brought to 5 the number of brands officially engaged in WorldSBK.
However, “all that glitters is not gold”. Actually, this situation is disadvantageous for private teams, who have been struggling harder than ever and losing time, money and energy to score just some top-10 results and sporadic breakthroughs, like the podium scored by Toprak Razgatlioglu and Turkish Puccetti Racing Team in Race 1 at Imola. When it became the owner of World Superbike in 2013, Dorna said that the championship would have become one for Superstock machines and private teams. Well, the things are going quite differently…
The only certain thing is that everyone is wondering about the future of World Superbike. About this, Palmen in Motorradsport has decided to interview José Calero, owner of Orelac Racing Verdnatura Team. The squad based in Valencia is a private team lining up Kawasaki machines and they race in World Superbike with Leandro Mercado (currently injured and replaced by Héctor Barberá) and in World Supersport with Nacho Calero.
Superbike World Championship is living particular times. How can a private team like yours compete against five factory ones and such fast bikes?
It’s very hard for us. We are working very hard to be at the same level as the factory teams and to make our Kawasaki similar to the factory ones, but it’s very difficult. Many people say that World Superbike is becoming a championship for factory teams and satellite ones. For example, Yamaha has GRT as its satellite team and the same Ducati, who has been supporting Barni and Go Eleven teams. If a private team has no support from the manufacturer, there’s not much it can achieve. It looks like the other manufacturers will imitate Ducati and build engines inspired to the MotoGP ones. A private team can do nearly nothing in such situation and the only solution would be to “surrender” to the manufacturers and become satellite teams. There is also a money issue we must deal with: we need a lot of money to be as fast as the factory teams and it’s hard to find the sponsors needed, also because they prefer to support who is in the front. As I said, private teams like mine must hope that they will become satellite ones, if they want to be competitive in World Superbike.
This is a strange situation: at the beginning, Dorna wanted to turn World Superbike into a championship for private teams…
We all thought they wanted that and we hoped it could happen, because it would suit the spirit of World Superbike. I was talking about it with the people of other private teams and we all know that World Superbike is going in a different direction than the one they “promised”. We don’t know why, but I think that Dorna doesn’t want to change WorldSBK that much. Dorna already manages a championship for racing bikes, The problem is that manufacturers want to invest money to win the championship and sell as much as they can and maybe they will reply to what Ducati did. Maybe the manufacturers have too much freedom, also because of the current regulation, and I think this is dangerous for World Superbike.
How much is Orelac Racing supported by Kawasaki?
They provide us very few things. Kawasaki already has its factory team and I think they don’t care too much of the private ones, also because they won four titles in the past four years. They help us a little bit, but it’s not enough to be in the front. In Race 1 at Imola, Toprak (Razgatlioglu, ed) achieved the podium on a Kawasaki machine, which is quite similar to the one we use. However, Puccetti Racing Team enjoys much more support and many more updates than us. Honestly, I think it’s ridiculous that Kawasaki abandones Orelac Racing, because we’ve been representing it for many years…
What would you do, if World Superbike really became a championship for factory teams?
I think this is not the goal of Dorna. The problem is that the championship is getting out of their hands, as the manufacturers seem able to do whatever they want. A team like mine cannot do very much, but Dorna both can and has to make an important effort and clarify what World Superbike will become. We’re waiting for Dorna to say what will happen in 2020, then we’ll see. The only certain thing, as I said, is that Dorna seems to have lost control on World Superbike, because now the decisions are taken by the manufacturers. However, I think that even the manufacturers themselves are “nervous” and worried for the future of the championship, because they know that it would lose value and entries, if private teams weren’t there. Many people are moving to series like BSB, Motoamerica and ARRC. We private teams are passionate and professional, but we also want to be noticed and now it’s kind of impossible: there are always the same people in the front and so just a small part of the field is on TV. In conclusion, I think it’s important to help private teams and to have more riders in the championship: to score points by finishing last is not as good as doing it when the riders are about 30…