WILDCARD TALES: success stories from WorldSBK stars who wildcarded in MotoGP™

Wednesday, 8 November 2023 06:14 GMT

With reigning Champion Alvaro Bautista becoming the latest rider to wildcard in MotoGP™, we take a look at some who have done it before with great results

Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) will become the latest MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship star to make an appearance in MotoGP™ when he wildcards at this week’s Malaysian Grand Prix for the Ducati squad. There have been several others who have done similar – as a wildcard or replacement rider – with success falling their way. Will the double WorldSBK Champion be able add his name to the list of riders who stun when switching between paddocks?

THE BIGGEST STORY: brilliant Bayliss battles for Valencia win

Troy Bayliss wrapped up the 2006 WorldSBK title before getting a call-up to replace the injured Sete Gibernau at Ducati at Valencia. The Australian put his Ducati second on the grid, two tenths slower than the legendary Valentino Rossi. A crash for the #46 in the early stages allowed the three-time WorldSBK Champion to take the lead and from there, he didn’t look back. Leading 29 out of 30 laps, Bayliss came home to win on his MotoGP™ return ahead of teammate Loris Capirossi in second.

SPIES SURGES INTO TOP TEN: the 2009 Champion is strong on MotoGP™ wildcard appearance

Ben Spies’ path is most similar to Bautista’s, in that he completed his MotoGP™ wildcard a few weeks after winning the WorldSBK title. For the American, he took 12th on the grid but showed why Yamaha opted to bring him across from WorldSBK to MotoGP™ for 2010 onwards. The 2009 Champion battled his way into the top ten to take an impressive seventh place ahead of a full-time switch to the Championship the following year.

HAGA STORMS TO PODIUM: home rostrum for the Japanese star

Back in 1998, Noriyuki Haga made a full-time switch to WorldSBK with Yamaha after several years with wildcard appearances. With the same manufacturer in the same year, the Japanese rider also made his 500cc World Championship debut at Suzuka. He took a remarkable sixth on the grid before Haga, running the #50 in the 500cc event, went three places better with a podium. It came after he took two podiums at Phillip Island, including a win, to start his WorldSBK season in almost perfect fashion. He’d go on to finish sixth in the WorldSBK standings that year.

SO CLOSE BUT SO FAR: Fogarty narrowly misses out on a podium

Carl Fogarty was on his way to second in the WorldSBK standings when he wildcard at Donington Park in the 500cc World Championship in 1993. ‘Foggy’ put his Cagiva machine fifth on the grid and was running in second when three rivals crashed out ahead of him on the first lap, but Fogarty ended up in fourth at the end. He ran out of fuel and had to coast across the line behind a trio of Yamahas, including Niall Mackenzie who took the final podium spot.

ANOTHER HOME PODIUM: Ryo takes Suzuka podium

Although he wasn’t a full-time WorldSBK rider, Akira Ryo was a winner in the Championship having won at Sugo in 1999. He made his 500cc World Championship debut in 2000 at Suzuka, before returning in 2001 and again in 2002, at the start of the MotoGP™ era. In his first two appearances with Suzuki’s 500cc machine, he took a best of tenth but the new era heralded success at Suzuka for Ryo, finishing second and only 1.5 seconds down on Rossi.

THE TOP TEN ON HOME SOIL: Chili uses 500cc success for WorldSBK glory

Although Pierfrancesco Chili had previously been a full-time rider, and race winner in both the 500cc and 250cc World Championships, his move to WorldSBK meant he returned to the 500cc World Championship as a wildcard at Mugello in 1995. Running a Cagiva machine, the Italian was the lead rider on that bike as he came home in tenth place. A week after his top-ten at Mugello, Chili returned to WorldSBK action at Monza and took the first of his 17 wins in the production-based Championship.

Follow coverage of Bautista’s wildcard from Sepang using the WorldSBK VideoPass!