THE START OF IT ALL
April 3, 1988, Donington Park, Leicestershire, UK – and the first ever World Superbike race blasts into action
The very moment the world’s greatest production-based race series started
This is the moment World Superbike kicked off. And kicked off in style. With a packed grid, six manufacturers, four tyre brands and shoestring privateers clashing with heroes on works bikes, the new series was an instant hit with competitors and spectators alike.
The production-based class put four-cylinder bikes up to 750cc against twins up to 1000cc, with two races both on the Sunday of a race weekend. A showcase for the bikes in dealers, it also promised to make racing easier to understand – after the muddle of TT Formula One, MCN Superbike, ITV World of Sport Superbike plus umpteen other ACU and club championships, the idea of a one-size-fits-all class seemed entirely logical.
WSB was an instant hit. With 65 entries for the first round, 45 riders attempted to qualify for a 40-bike grid – with big names Darren Dixon, Virginio Ferrari and Doug Polen failing to get in. This very first race saw battles, crashes, retirements (seven of the ten Bimotas stopped with injection issues) and five different makes in the top seven places. With inspired action throughout the field (Finland’s Jari Suhonen shot from 27th on the grid to seventh place), this series very clearly worked.
Domestic championships around the world gradually adopted the same regulations, and World Superbike became the must-watch series for the next 20 years.
‘THE FIRST RACE SAW CRASHES, BATTLES AND FIVE MAKES IN THE TOP SEVEN PLACES. IT WORKED’