Something new is gonna come in production motorcycle racing: from 2019 Superbike will be the new main category of Asia Road Racing Championship, the most important series in the new main marketplace for what concerns motorcycles. The category will be known as ASB1000 and it will be supported by the four main Japanese manufacturers. It’s not a case that the official announcement will be made at Suzuka: the circuit is owned by Honda and the third 2018 ARRC round will take place there. Will ASB1000 become the main alternative of Dorna-owned World Superbike Championship? In order to know something more about it, we interviewed Ron Hogg, chief of Two Wheels Motor Racing Sdn (the Malaysian society promoting Asia Road Racing Championship).
ARRC, created in 1996, is becoming a strategic format for the spread of motorcycling in Asia. Why?
The goal for the ARRC, since its creation in 1996, was to create Asian racing heroes. Back then, the market itself was not properly developed to achieve all the goals we wanted. In hindsight, ARRC was probably born 10 years too early as a championship, but we admit that it has helped to create the foundation of what it is now. At the moment, everyone in the market does agree that there is a need for a suitable platform as to bring up talent as to help the industry grow. For example, motorsports is developing in each country at a much more rapid pace as we become borderless societies with the advent of the Internet age. Our goal is to grow heroes in each participating country. Much like the Olympics, the riders become heroes in their respective countries and ambassadors of the products they endorse. We are still very far away from Europe, especially in terms of facilities, but we have to start somewhere. Asia’s problems, or rather Asia’s biggest problem, is the sheer size of the continent. Apart from perhaps a shared love of eating rice, the countries have almost nothing in common with each other.
In 2019 you will launch the Superbike category. Why this upgrade?
The Superbike category has been in our plan for years – to eventually add the highest level of production motorcycle racing to the ARRC repertoire. We mooted this idea in 2010 but the market and teams were nowhere close to ready. We raised the topic again in 2014 and after years of ongoing discussion, we decided to start in 2018. However, the manufacturers strongly requested for a one-year delay, so the class was eventually scheduled to debut in 2019. The 600cc class had been the championship’s premiere category since 2000. In its own way, it had been very successful. Without a 1000cc class in the Asian series, riders who aspire to progress to the next level have no opportunity to ride on a top level bike. At this moment, with the exception of the Japanese riders, every single Asian GP rider were protégés of the ARRC. However, the opportunity to move up is still quite limited. With the creation of the 1000cc class, riders have a next level to progress to.
In the world there are many different Superbike regulations: which will you adopt for 2019 ARRC?
The ASB1000 class will adopt regulations that are very similar to the 2018 FIM Superstock specs but it will be tweaked ever so slightly to suit the requirements in Asia and Australia.
Will we see a unique supplier of tires?
Yes, we have an arrangement in place with Dunlop, who also supplies the rest of the classes in the ARRC.
Will the four Japanese majors be present with full Factory team?
This is a difficult question to answer, as most of the teams taking part in the ARRC are factory teams but from individual countries. Usually, the Japanese manufacturers work with each of them individually. However, we are sure that the factories will be represented in the new class.
Will you get involved with European manufacturers such as Ducati, Aprilia, BMW and MV Agusta?
That will be the goal, in order to make the championship more exicting. We are already in discussions with some of the teams using these manufacturers to join the Championship. At this moment, from a racing point of view, the European manufacturers are not active at all in the Asian racing arena.
The other categories UB150, AP250, SS600 for 2019 and above are confirmed?
The UB150 and AP250 are confirmed. We hope to decide soon on the 600cc. We would like to continue the class, but it will depend on the total number of entries. At the moment, we are proposing to turn the 600cc class into an age-limit category to ensure that the more experienced riders move up to the 1000cc.
Why ARRC has landed in Australia, that isn’t an “Asian” country?
If you look at Football and FIFA, Australia is part of Asia. It is in fact closer to us than the middle eastern Asian countries like Qatar, Bahrain, etc. Also, this is something we have been working towards for a long time – to race there as cross-pollination between the Australian championships and the ARRC has been happening for quite some time. We have had many Australian riders coming to the ARRC, and vice versa, a number of Asian riders hone their skills in Australia.
You have now six rounds: in 2019 how many races will there be?
A minimum of 7 rounds for 2019, but we are still in the process of finalizing the calendar.
Have you targeting new countries like Vietnam, Cina and other Asia giants?
Absolutely, but there are other factors to be taken into consideration. For example, there are many racing circuits in China but there is a lack of sufficient trained officials to organize events. Also for the other countries where the sport is popular, but there are no racing facilities. So we are working out some options right now.
Can give us infos about ARRC promoter?
Our company had been organizing motorcycle racing in Malaysia since the 80’s. In 1994, with the support of Philip Morris, our parent company started to promote the Malaysian Cub Prix Championship which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. A few years into the Cub Prix, we realized that there were no proper regional championships to which our local riders could compete in. Hence, the start of the ARRC. A large core of our management team has been with us since the early years and they are each well versed in the needs of the industry.
Do you have any cooperation with Dorna, which runs MotoGP, WSB and Asia Talent Cup?
No, we work more closely with the Asian federations and manufacturers directly.
When you will issue an official statement regarding new SBK category, rules and 2019 calendar?
We will officially launch the ASB1000 in Suzuka this weekend. We hope to have the rules confirmed within a month and the calendar to be announced no later than October.