The first 10 years of World SBK history: 1988 – 1997

As World SBK celebrates its 30th season, we look back at where it all started


The first decade of World Superbike - 1988-1997

The first decade of World Superbike – 1988-1997Now in its 30th season, the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship looks back at the first decade of the series, where records were set that stand to this day, and where the championship originally cemented itself as the world’s fastest production based series.

Starting to build momentum from 1988 the first decade produced champions such as Fred Merkel, Raymond Roche, Carl Fogarty and John Kocinski.

Doug Polen
Doug Polen
World SBK 1988 – 1997 Statistics
  • 150 – Doug Polen won the 1991 championship with a 150 points advantage over the second-placed rider, Raymond Roche.
  • 89 in 1989 – In the second year of the championship, 1989, 89 riders scored at least one point.
  • 60 – In his two years in the series, John Kocinski managed to climb on the podium 29 times out of 48 starts, for a 60,4% podium rate. He was the 1997 World Champion.
John Kocinski
John Kocinski
  • 45 – The most winning rider of the first decade is Carl Fogarty, with 45 wins.
  • 34 – Doug Polen, 1991 and 1992 World Champion still holds the record for the highest winning percentage among riders who raced for more than one championship. Polen won 27 races out of 79, for a 34,2% success rate.
  • 24 – Troy Corser became champion in 1996 at 24 years of age: he was the youngest at the time, a record which stood up to 2004, when James Toseland was crowned at 23 years of age.
Troy Corser chasing Carl Fogarty
Troy Corser chasing Carl Fogarty
  • 23 – In the years of his first two World Championships, Carl Fogarty won 23 races out of 44, more than one out of two.
  • 17 – Doug Polen in 1991 dominated the championship with 17 wins, a season record that still stands. That year Ducati won 23 races out of 26. Polen was again champion the following year, with 9 wins.
  • 17 – The record number of poles for this decade is split between Carl Fogarty and Doug Polen, with 17 each.
  • 10 – The second year of the championship, 1989, featured no less than 10 different winners, an absolute record for the series.
  • 9 – 1990 is the first year in which Ducati was the most successful manufacturer. That year they won 9 races, 8 went to Raymond Roche, who took the crown.
  • 8 – Fred Merkel won just eight races in his career, but was eventually able to take home two World Championships, in 1988 and 1989.
  • 6-4 – In the first ten years of the Championship, only two manufacturers shared the constructors prize: Ducati (6 times) and Honda (4).
Ducati and Honda dominated the WorldSBK titles for the first decade, taking six and four wins respectively
Ducati and Honda dominated the WorldSBK titles for the first decade
  • 5 – Davide Tardozzi won 5 races in 1988, more than the double of his main rival Fred Merkel (2), but was not able to take home the Championship.
  • 5 – Also Raymond Roche won 5 races in 1989, to Merkel’s 3, but the title went to the American like the year before. Roche would have to wait until 1990 to take the Championship.
  • 5 – In the first six years of the Championship, the world crown went to American riders 5 times (2 Merkel, 2 Polen, 1 Russell).
  • 1 – John Kocinski stunned the WorldSBK championship taking a sound double from pole in his very first race weekend, in Misano, 1996.
  • 1 – Scott Russell became the first World Champion for Kawasaki, by taking the crown in 1993.
Scott Russell
Scott Russell