World Superbike has confirmed the creation of a Supersport 300 class for 2017 as racing bodies adapt to current market realities and try to provide steppingstone opportunities for young riders.
The new Supersport 300 class builds on the popularity of the new, small sport bikes introduced in recent years that are far more capable than the few offerings in the 250 cc range just a few years ago. Meanwhile, 600-class sales are down and rumors suggest both Honda and Triumph are discontinuing their sport bike models in that segment.
Of course calling the new series a “300 class” is stretching things a bit, since Honda gets to enter its 471 cc CBR500R, instead of the more anemic, single-cylinder CBR300R. While other bikes may be added, WSBK rights holder Dorna listed four machines as eligible immediately: the Yamaha YZF-R3, Kawasaki Ninja 300, KTM RC390 and the CBR500R.
Not surprisingly, the technical specifications issued so far are designed to keep costs under control and keep the motorcycles as close to stock in appearance and major parts as possible. For the most part, the engine must remain stock: cylinders, cylinder head (except gasket), pistons, rings, connecting rods, crankshafts, etc., must be stock. Secondary butterflies in the intake can be removed or fixed open. Exhaust systems can be changed and there is a 107 db sound limit. Suspension can be changed but there are price limits to keep costs under control and suspension components must be available to all.
A mandatory rev limiter will cap the Honda and KTM at 10,500 rpm and the Kawasaki and Yamaha at 13,000 rpm. The single-cylinder KTM gets a weight advantage, with a minimum weight of 136 kilograms (299 pounds). The Kawasaki and Yamaha must weight 140 kilograms (308 pounds), while the larger Honda has a minimum weight of 150 kilograms (330 pounds).
No traction control is allowed, but teams have the choice of using the stock ABS or removing it. That raises an interesting thought. Is there another major professional motorcycle racing series where ABS is used? Would that change racers' technique or strategy?
What about MotoAmerica?
The creation of Supersport 300 also raises an interesting question for the domestic MotoAmerica series in the United States. The KTM RC Cup has been the steppingstone series here, and has been successful. Grids have been full, racing has been tight (as you’d expect when everyone is on the same bike) and promising racers have emerged, such as 2016 champ Brandon Paasch, Anthony Mazziotto III and Ashton Yates, to name just a few.
On the other hand, MotoAmerica wants to make its rules and structure as similar to the world championships as possible, so it’s easier for riders or teams to make the jump to the next level. Plus, in terms of fan interest, a multi-brand series will inevitably appeal to more people, just because some will want to root for a Yamaha or a Honda — something you can’t do in the KTM RC Cup.
MotoAmerica has already renewed the KTM RC Cup for 2017. Will it try to create a Supersport 300 class for 2018?