Motorcycle racing, regardless of what series you prefer, is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular motorsports – dare I say, even sports – in the entire world. It's the perfect union between man and machine, and behind the scenes, getting to know and understand the technology that goes into these machines is simply astonishing. With that being said, if we look at the premier series in the world of two-wheeled racing, it's obvious that two stand out: MotoGP and WorldSBK.
Those with little to no knowledge about motorcycle racing might get confused between the two racing series and wonder what the differences between them are. I mean, it's hard to blame them as the racers in both MotoGP and WorldSBK are riding sportbikes, right? True, but underneath the full-fairings of these bikes, they're actually very different. Let's take a look at some key differences between the two racing series, while at the same time getting some insight from six-time Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea.
In a recent vlog on his YouTube channel entitled "How Do They Compare?," Jonathan Rea answers fans' questions about anything and everything racing. From races he wishes to participate in, to his favorite race tracks around the world, we get to know quite a bit about the bubbly character behind the seemingly serious and formidable racer. It's a chill video where you practically sit with Rea as he casually explains the ins and outs of racing, and we definitely recommend you watch the entire thing.
As for the differences between the MotoGP and World Superbike, well, there are quite a lot. For starters, the bikes themselves are vastly different. While MotoGP bikes represent the pinnacle of technology and innovation, WorldSBK machines are essentially road-going motorcycles which have been tuned specifically for racing-only applications. Inevitably, this means that a MotoGP bike is several times more expensive than a WorldSBK bike, and in turn, MotoGP teams have much bigger budgets than those of WorldSBK teams, wherein a limit is imposed on team spending.
Rea points out a few key differences that make MotoGP bikes so much faster than WorldSBK machines – tires, engine, and brakes. He elaborates that MotoGP engines have much more power thanks to higher rev ceilings. On top of that, MotoGP engines are prototype engines that are built with the best components imaginable. Rea explains that MotoGP teams have unlimited budgets when it comes to developing engines and tech, this is why we usually see cutting-edge technology – such as ride height or "holeshot" devices – on MotoGP bikes first before seeing them on production machinery.
When it comes to acutal lap time differences, Rea explains that this varies greatly depending on the track. He gives Jerez as an example, with its tight corners and relatively short straights, Superbikes can come pretty close to the lap times of MotoGP bikes. Generally speaking however, MotoGP bikes tend to be around a second to a second-and-a-half faster than World Superbikes, but again, this varies greatly on the race track.
In essence, if you were to make a comparison between the car racing world and the motorcycle racing world, you could say that MotoGP is the Formula One of the bike world, and WorldSBK is sort of like the Touring Car Championship, wherein road-going machines are race prepped to compete with one another on the global stage.
Another interesting point to take note of, as referenced by Red Bull in an article highlighting the differences between MotoGP and WorldSBK, is the fact that MotoGP makes use of standardized ECUs and software to ensure fair competition. Meanwhile, WSBK teams are free to choose, tune, and program their ECUs, so long as they stick to the prescribed spending limits. This indeed makes sense, as the engines used in WorldSBK are pretty much tuned versions of publicly available bikes such as the Yamaha YZF-R1 and Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
Speaking of those two bikes, when Rea was asked which one he preferred – the Yamaha or the Kawasaki – he said he couldn't give an answer as not doing so was "part of the stipulations" of his partnership between the two manufacturers. He did, however, say that the Yamaha "turns incredibly well." He also praised the R1's engine, saying that it's very user friendly with an abundance of torque all the way to redline. Quite an interesting insight, especially coming from one of the most successful racers in the history of the sport.