CLAS­SIC RACER TOP 10 MO­MENTS

Classic Racer - - TOP 10 MOMENTS -

For many years the World Su­per­bike cham­pi­onship was the world’s num­ber one four-stroke rac­ing se­ries – it re­ally had it all. It had the men – young­sters on their way up, hun­gry for suc­cess and fear­less, as well as griz­zled vet­er­ans who had seen it all be­fore and wanted to prove a point and bag one last big pay day. This was be­fore po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and spon­sor-speak. Young or old, the rac­ers never held back. Up-and-com­ers like Troy Corser, Colin Ed­wards, An­thony Gobert, our own no-non­sense Carl Fog­a­rty, the su­per-cool Scott Rus­sell and then the old guard like Rob­bie Phillis (Syph to his friends), Ray­mond Roche (hard as nails) and for­mer GP ace Marco Lucchinelli, who later got into trou­ble with the po­lice over co­caine pos­ses­sion… Each and ev­ery one was a char­ac­ter. World Su­per­bikes had the cir­cuits too. Some were the best in the world, like Don­ing­ton Park, through to the old Hockenheim, the spec­tac­u­lar Oster­re­ichring and some very iffy cir­cuits, such as the pre-gp Laguna Seca, where the bar­ri­ers and straw bales seemed oh-so close. What­ever the cir­cuit, all th­ese men gave no quar­ter and asked for none in re­turn. And then there were the bikes. Like Du­cati’s 851 and 888, mor­ph­ing into the 916 se­ries. Honda’s VFR750R RC30, which took the first two ti­tles, Bi­mota’s YB4 EI, Yamaha’s steel-framed FZ750S, then the ex­otic OW-01 and YZF750. Kawasaki’s GPX750, then ZXR and ZX-7R mod­els and Suzuki’s GSX-R750S… Yes, in the glory years of World Su­per­bikes the se­ries had it all and, ar­guably, it knocked even 500cc Grand Prix into a cocked hat for ex­cite­ment and in­ci­dent. Lit­tle won­der then that you would see crowds of around 120,000 at the UK’S WSB event at Brands Hatch, which dwarfed the crowds at the Bri­tish bike GP… So what re­ally made World Su­per­bikes so spe­cial dur­ing its first 15 or so years? Just ask the two old ri­vals, Carl Fog­a­rty and Aaron Slight. Slighty, a 13-time race win­ner and three-time se­ries run­ner-up, says: “It was def­i­nitely the best time to race in World Su­per­bikes. It was more raw back then and we had tyre man­u­fac­tur­ers bat­tling it out there too.” Carl adds: “I think the suc­cess of World Su­per­bikes, at least from the mid-1990s, was that many things came to­gether at the same time. The Sky TV cov­er­age for one – they did be­hind the scenes things and stuff. And you had the char­ac­ters to sup­port that, like Corser, Gobert, Haga, Ed­wards, Slight, Rus­sell and some for­mer GP win­ners. “You also had the bikes out there rac­ing that you could ac­tu­ally buy. It was a com­bi­na­tion of a lot of things and it made WSB the big­gest world four-stroke bike cham­pi­onship in the world. “To be part of it was amaz­ing. Some­times I don’t think we ap­pre­ci­ated what it was and how big it was at the time.”

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