Thrilling racing and countless close finishes, welcome to a weekend of Australia!
Australia: home to koala bears and kangaroos, Bondi Beach and Ayers Rock; home to motorcycle racing legends and iconic motorsport venues. This weekend, the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship belongs to Australia. A country that’s given countless Phillip Island thrillers, 13 podium finishers, 11 WorldSBK winners and two Champions, this is Australia’s WorldSBK story.
Despite bundles of Phillip Island history, it wasn’t the first Australian venue welcoming WorldSBK action; Oran Park in Sydney opened its doors to World Superbike in 1988, with Mick Doohan taking pole position and a double win before he made a name for himself in 500cc Grand Prix World Championship racing. More native success came in 1989 with Peter Goddard and Michael Dowson. Oran Park left the calendar but was replaced by the new Australian home of WorldSBK; Phillip Island.
With 29 finishes within a second in WorldSBK, of which 16 have been by less than a 0.100s and the last nine of those have been in the last five years, Phillip Island is stunning. The fast, flowing nature has given some spectacular moments in the Championship’s history, from the once closest finish of all time back in 1999 featuring Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser (0.005s) to the now closest ever finish between Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio (0.004s). Then, there’s one of the most dominant wins of all time from Anthony Gobert back in 2000’s Race 1, Aprilia’s first win from Race 2 the same year, Garry McCoy’s first and only win in Race 2, 2004 and Troy Corser’s final win in 2006.
Australia also gave many stars in WorldSBK. Troy Corser came to WorldSBK full-time in 1995, becoming a rookie winner. Corser took a first title for Ducati in 1996 – Australia’s first too – repeating it in 2005 for Suzuki. However, between Corser’s titles, another Troy had arrived; Bayliss. Into WorldSBK as Carl Fogarty’s replacement halfway through 2000, his first full season in 2001 saw him become Champion. Back from three years in MotoGP™, he took the 2006 title, repeating it a final time in 2008. Five titles by two of the biggest names in WorldSBK, Australia can be proud.
However, big names have also been and gone in WorldSBK from Down Under, especially Anthony Gobert. He took eight wins during his time in World Superbike, with a notably close victory coming in 1996, beating New Zealand’s Aaron Slight in Phillip Island’s Race 2. Mick Doohan took a first victory of his World Championship career at Sugo in 1988, whilst Rob Phillis was the early 90s hope. In 2004, a new star born; 2003 WorldSSP Champion Chris Vermeulen graduated to Ten Kate Honda, taking a first win at Silverstone, before going on to a memorable home win for Ten Kate at Assen later that year. Runner-up in 2005, he’s the most successful Australian without a WorldSBK crown.
It’s not just WorldSBK either, as WorldSSP has seen big Australian achievements too. Andrew Pitt remains the only rider in the paddock to win a title without a race win back in 2001, before repeating the achievement in 2008 – the last Australian WorldSSP Champion. Chris Vermeulen burst onto the scene for 2003, storming to the title. 2004 brought another hero in Josh Brookes, who, as a wildcard, won at Phillip Island before Karl Muggeridge was Champion that year. Kevin Curtain missed out on a Championship in WorldSSP after a dramatic 2006 season, before more wins came in 2007.
The WorldSBK stats for Australia speak volumes: 615 race starts from 142 riders have given 329 podium places, 118 wins, 107 fastest laps, 86 pole positions, five WorldSBK titles and a legacy that continues to live on. Add in two astounding circuits and you have got a country that has it all. 2020’s WorldSBK season-opener was a stunner and sets the scene for our return to the season ahead.
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