Wednesday, October 03, 2007

WSBK: Foggy Out, BMW In

Carl Fogarty has turned his back and walked away from World Superbike racing after failing to find a sponsor for his MV Agusta project. Foggy is known both for being staggeringly quick on a superbike (4 times WSBK champ, former Isle of Man TT lap record holder) and for his ability to start a full-on riot in an empty room (never mind a press room containing Frankie Chili and Aaron Slight). He has been trying to find sponsorship to run a team since his deal with Petronas ran out at the end of 2006.

The Foggy Petronas FP1 was never really on the pace. It was initially designed for the 990cc MotoGP series, but the project was canned by Petronas (a Malaysian oil company) and turned into a superbike. It is well known amongst bike fans that nobody has ever seen the FP1 road bikes that were supposedly built to homologate the race bike. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they're locked up in a factory in Malaysia. The WSBK rules have now been changed so that teams must first produce the road bikes, then homologate the race machines. At the time the FP1 was entered into WSBK, the rules allowed for 1000cc twins, 900cc triples or 750cc four cylinder machines. The FP1 was a 900cc triple, but the rules soon changed to allow 1000cc for all engine configurations with appropriate tuning rules (2- and 3-cylinder bikes being allowed a high level of tune to compensate for their lack of top-end power compared to a four). As the FP1 had been homologated at 900cc, it had to remain there and always struggled, apart from a few times when Troy Corser rode the wheels off it and finished well.

The new MV Agusta bike has done respectably well in Superstock races, and there are high hopes for a Superbike version. This is still looking quite likely, but not with Foggy at the helm.

In other news, BMW have announced that they will enter the World Superbike championship in 2009. This is fantastic news for the series, as BMW are a company that take their racing very, very seriously and are in it to win. It is presumed that they will enter a 4-cylinder bike rather than one of their bulky boxer twins. I have seen film of Randy Mamola accidentally demonstrating the limitations of a boxer engine (cylinders sticking straight out the sides, also called a horizontally opposed engine) when he leant over too far in a corner and pole-vaulted over the outstretched cylinder!

Hopefully MV Agusta will already be in the series by 2009, then there would be 3 European manufacturers chasing the 4 Japanese marques (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki). It has also been rumoured that KTM will consider making a 1200cc twin, which would mean an incredible 8 manufacturers involved in WSBK. Let's not get carried away before these rumours are confirmed, but with the addition of BMW, the future of World Superbikes looks secure.

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