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Background info on World Superbikes

By Dan Moakes
March 11 2007

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World Superbike Championship

The Superbike World Championship began in 1988, being open to modified versions of road bike models available to the public. For many years, the formula allowed for machines with 1000cc V-twin engines (principally Ducati, but later Aprilia and Honda) to go up against the 750cc four-cylinders (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki). The twins definitely had the advantage, especially where power delivery was concerned, and this explains the proliferation of Ducatis for many years. Although the 750s were allowed a lighter weight limit in 2002, to try and even things up a little more, it didn’t seem to change the position greatly.

However, with this in mind, the 2003 series followed the lead of British Superbike, and allowed four-cylinder machines with a maximum capacity of 1000cc. As well as these bikes, and the new Ducati 999, that year saw the delayed entry of Carl Fogarty’s Foggy Petronas FP1, which had a 3-cylinder 900cc engine, and was campaigned for four seasons. From 2004, the teams have had to run on Pirelli control tyres, even though most had previously been with Michelin or Dunlop. Partly as a result of this ruling, factory teams from the Japanese manufacturers were thin on the ground for a couple of years. But that all changed in 2005, following the lead of Ten Kate Honda the year before.

In the championship’s history, Fogarty’s name, along with that of Ducati, is easily the most significant. Over the course of the 1990s, the Englishman was champion four times, winning 59 races, or 25 more than the next man has managed. ‘Foggy’ and his team are now gone, but the current rider line-up includes three past champions - Troy Corser (1996 and 2005), Troy Bayliss (2001 and 2006), and James Toseland (2004). Interestingly, only one title holder has been other than a native English speaker, that being Raymond Roche in 1990.

Ducati’s Troy Bayliss was the class of the field in 2002, along with Honda’s Colin Edwards and, after three years in Grands Prix, Bayliss was back for more of the same in 2006. 2003 runner-up Rubén Xaus also returned, to race against the likes of Troy Corser, now joining Yamaha; and Honda-mounted James Toseland. The line up for 2007 will see eight former race winners, also including Noriyuki Haga, Régis Laconi, Yukio Kagayama and Lorenzo Lanzi. To the mix can also be added Grand Prix winners Max Biaggi (four times the 250cc champion), Fonsi Nieto and Roberto Rolfo.

Ducati’s dominance has been such that, with twelve rider titles from nineteen, they have recorded over half of all the individual victories, against six other winning manufacturers. Indeed, in four seasons Ducati took around three-quarters of the wins from a 24 or 26 race championship, and 2003 saw the first WSB clean sweep. In 2004, Ducati held down seven places in the top eight of the riders’ standings, with nine out of ten the year before. However, the new tyre regulations have allowed for a more competitive WSB and, with the return of the Japanese, 2005 saw race wins for four different makes, and a first ever title for Suzuki - although Ducati found their touch again last year.

most Superbike titles:

rider no. make no.
Carl Fogarty ENG 4 Ducati 12
Fred Merkel USA 2 Honda 5
Doug Polen USA 2 Kawasaki 1
Troy Corser AUS 2 Suzuki 1
Troy Bayliss AUS 2
Colin Edwards USA 2
Raymond Roche FRA 1
Scott Russell USA 1
John Kocinski USA 1
Neil Hodgson ENG 1
James Toseland ENG 1

most Superbike wins:

rider no. make no.
Carl Fogarty ENG 59 Ducati 253
Troy Bayliss AUS 34 Honda 90
Troy Corser AUS 33 Yamaha 38
Colin Edwards USA 31 Kawasaki 35
Doug Polen USA 27 Suzuki 22
Raymond Roche FRA 23 Bimota 10
Noriyuki Haga JAP 20 Aprilia 8
Frankie Chili ITA 17
Giancarlo Falappa ITA 16
Neil Hodgson ENG 16
Scott Russell USA 14
John Kocinski USA 14
Aaron Slight NZL 13
Stéphane Mertens BEL 11
Régis Laconi FRA 11
Fabrizio Pirovano ITA 10
Chris Vermeulen AUS 10

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