Filepic shows the launching of the Superbike World Championship Malaysian leg in Damansara on Tuesday. The race will be held at the Sepang International Circuit from June 6-8.
PETALING JAYA: The ground at the TT Circuit in Assen, Holland, was moist due to the light precipitation. Yet, even that failed to deter the thousands of superbike fans from turning up to watch the second most prestigious motor racing event in the world next to MotoGP – the Superbike World Championship (WSBK).
The fans are drawn to the WSBK because of the bikes on show.
Yes, both WSBK and MotoGP races involve two-wheel mean machines. The difference is that WSBK uses the same type of bikes that one can find at the showroom whereas MotoGP machines are specially-produced bikes for, well, MotoGP.
Sepang International Circuit chief executive officer Datuk Razlan Razali, who was on a study trip to the third round of WSBK last weekend with the media, including Starsport, had an eye-opening experience in Assen.
“The WSBK has a different feel to it. It almost feels as if the MotoGP is similar to Formula One in terms of the interaction level between riders and fans. In WSBK, things are a bit closer,” said Razlan, who is a big fan of superbikes himself.
Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Honda, MV Agusta and Aprillia are the major players in WSBK while only Ducati, Honda and Yamaha dominate MotoGP grids.
“Since many own bikes similar to those on the WSBK grid, they feel a certain connection at a certain level to the race. That’s why I feel we must bring the race to Malaysia,” said Razlan.
“Fans will have plenty of opportunities to meet their favourite riders in the paddock at the Paddock Show. This is where fans with paddock passes get to attend an open press conference at the paddock after qualifying and races ... something that doesn’t happen in MotoGP.”
SIC will host the Superbike event for the first time from June 6-8, marking the event’s return to Malaysia after almost two decades. It was last held in 1991 at the Batu Tiga Circuit in Shah Alam.
Many know or have heard of MotoGP stars like reigning champion Marc Marquez, the iconic Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Now motor-racing fans will be able to watch WSBK riders, including reigning champion Tom Sykes of Britain and Frenchmen Loris Baz and Sylvain Guintoli, battling it out on the circuit.
The WSBK has also become a ground for former MotoGP riders to spend the twilight of their careers. The likes of Italian Marco Melandri, Spain’s Toni Elias and Britain’s Leon Haslam add colour to the starting grid for WSBK.
“I’m really excited about the race in Malaysia. Although I only did a test there a long time ago, I really think it’ll be a nice place to race,” said Superbike world champion Sykes, who visited Malaysia during a winning parade with Kawasaki last December.
“The fact that there are former MotoGP riders on the grid with me this year could give some advantage to them in Sepang. It should be a close fight.”
Sykes made Kawasaki’s dream come true as they ended a 20-year drought by winning the championship last year. American Scott Russell was the last to win the championship with Kawasaki in 1993.
With three rounds completed this season, Sykes is in the championship lead with 108 points. Guintoli (Aprilia), who won a race in Assen, is second on 96 points while Sykes’ Kawasaki pit-mate Baz is third on 93 points.
“I think we did a good job for the start of the season. We had a difficult season in 2012 with the machine and we fought hard to win the title in 2013. I think we should be able to fight for another win this year,” said Sykes.