the ama superbike paddock has been an all japanese affair over the last couple of years. at the end of the 2006 season, ducati na decided that they wouldn’t be returning the following year saying “[their] primary objective… has been acheived”. coincidentally, the italian marque released their new from the ground up 1099cc v-twin superbike, the 1098, in 2007 which didn’t meet ama sbk engine specs. they said they’d be back in 2008 but alas there are red rockets on the grid.
in 2009, the ama rules will allow ducati to race it’s 1200cc powerplant but it will need to be more stock than what is currently raced in world sbk (ie oem or homologated cranks, rods, pistons, and transmission). these rules don’t just apply to ducati. other manufacturers will have to adhere to the new regulations as well. basically, they want the bikes to closer resemble what’s in the showroom.
one area that has been completely left open is electronics, aka traction control, a discipline that ducati excels at. in fact, they’re the first company to implement real traction control on a production bike (dtc) with the 1098r.
in previous years, ama sbk followed the same rules as world sbk (with exception to engine capacity). with the 2009 rules, however, the ama and wsbk will be very different. basically, manufacturers will have to build two different spec bikes – one bound for america and the other to europe.
the ama rule changes are meant to both slow the bikes as well as bring costs down. but at what price?the japanese manufacturers with their gargantuan racing budgets won’t have a problem developing two different bikes. can a small company like ducati (or even aprilia) do this? can ducati afford to snub one of its largest markets?
if the new regs are approved, next season should be very interesting. the playing field will be evened and hopefully we’ll see an end to the suzuki dominance and a return of the bologna bullet.
[UPDATE] i stand corrected. the 2008 ama rules already allow wsbk-spec 1200cc twins. in fact, i was informed that boulder motorsports is running a 1098r this year.