Top 10 WSB riders
Carl Fogarty, UK
59 wins, champion 1994, 1995, 1998 & 1999 For many King Carl was the man who put WSB on the map – at least here in the UK. Much has been written about Carl’s attitude to his rivals. Today Carl is mellower and realises that he did what he did to keep his focus. “When I look back now, I can see I was pretty mean,” he says. “I didn’t need to be as selfish, outspoken and arrogant as I was – but I guess I created a monster! Sometimes I’d say I was going to do something and that would heap more pressure on me. And then the prediction would come out true, but why put myself through that? “I think that I didn’t want anyone getting near me or that no-one had the right to be on the same circuit as me; maybe my head was gone? I would say the truth though… when the bike was shit or the tyres were crap, I would say it. If I crashed in the wet and it was my fault I’d say that too. When it came to rivalries the press didn’t help! They’d ask what my pigs were called and if they didn’t have names, you’d say something as a joke like ‘Aaronetta’ or ‘Scott’ and suddenly it’s out there! “Looking back it’s part of what made WSB great. Who was my biggest rival? Well, they all were and it changed from Scott, to Aaron, to Colin and Troy Corser, but I think John Kocinski was the toughest and the most talented.”
Fred Merkel, US
8 wins, champion 1988 & 1989 When a man has the words: ‘IF YOU WANT BLOOD, YOU’VE GOT IT’ on the back of his helmet, you know not to mess with him and thanks to those first two WSB titles in 1988 and 1989, we place Flyin’ Fred Merkel second. Why? Well, first of all his background gave the series much-needed credibility, because, by the time he came to WSB he had already been one of the greatest AMA riders in history, before being ‘let go’ by American Honda. Secondly, he had charisma and personality by the bucket-load. Don’t think that the new-for-1988 RC30 was a cert for the title, as his Rumi team didn’t get much support from Honda and nor was it reliable. Also, the Italian opposition was much faster in a straight line and out of the turns – something that would dog the 750cc fours for the first 15 years.
Doug Polen, US
27 race wins, champion 1991 & 1992 Doug slips to third thanks to the superiority of his Fast by Ferracci Ducati 888 (it had a 25 kilo weight advantage over the fours) but let’s not forget that he also took Suzuki’s first win in 1989 on an unfancied GSX-R750 in Japan where he spent much of his early career. After his 1991 and 1992 championships, Doug then went back home to the US in 1993. He returned to WSB to ride the new Honda RC45 in 1994 in WSB, but he was overshadowed by Slight and didn’t appear in 1995, where his ride was taken by Simon Crafar in Rumi colours. Polen would later take the World Endurance title for Suzuki in 1997 and, ironically, take the same title on the RC45 a year later.
Scott Russell, US
14 race wins, champion 1993 One of the real characters of the early years of World Superbikes and the only man to win the title on a transverse four-cylinder 750… He and Foggy had a war on and off the track, with Scott claiming the Ducatis should have been in Grand Prix racing and bemoaning the 750cc four versus 1000cc V-twin
rules. But he and his Muzzy Kawasaki team managed to do the business against the then dominant twins. When Foggy went to Honda and the RC45 in 1996 he said at Daytona: “Fogarty won’t win the championship or even a race.” When Carl did win a race, Scott rang him up to congratulate him. The two would grow to respect each other. He returned from a semi-successful time in 500cc Grand Prix in 1995/96 to race for Yamaha in 1997, but it seemed the old fire had gone. He was a great champion and will be remembered as a Kawasaki man.
Aaron Slight, NZ
13 race wins Probably the best man never to win the series, Slighty was runner-up in 1996 and 1998 and third in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997. He scored his first win on the Kawasaki ZXR750 in 1992 and was a three-time Suzuka 8-Hour winner. Always a critic of the rules that favoured the V-twins, Aaron was nevertheless a fierce competitor who never gave up.
Colin Edwards, US
31 race wins, champion 2000 & 2002 Colin’s WSB career was one of two halves: sufferance on the four-cylinder Yamaha YZF750 where he would frustratingly watch the V-twins disappear and one of redemption when he finally got a V-twin and took two titles. One of the characters in WSB, he would become a Motogp stalwart.
Troy Corser, AUS
33 race wins, champion 1996 & 2005 Always fast and for such a long time the pole/ superpole king, Troy Corser had been Aussie superbike champ (RC30) in 1993 and then AMA champ (Ducati) in 1994 before having occasional races in WSB in 1995. In his first full year he took his first title (1996) during which his non-factory team had to compete against the works team of John Kocinski and Neil Hodgson. Rumours were that they weren’t quite getting the support Corser’s speed and results deserved… but he won the title anyway in a tense four-way mathematical battle at the final round at Phillip Island. It could have been Kocinski, Slight, Foggy or Corser – but Troy had the upper hand and third in race one sealed it. He would be a WSB regular for years, taking Aprilia’s first WSB win with the RSV Mille, a second title with Suzuki in 2005, riding the Foggy Petronas triple and riding with new factory BMW until he retired in 2011.
John Kocinski, US
14 wins, champion 1997 No-one could ever doubt the 1990 250cc GP champ’s skill, just his consistency. An up and down year on the Ducati in 1996 and team acrimony ended with team boss Virginio Ferrari actually begging Carl Fogarty to beat him on the Honda. Both riders swapped over for 1997 and Castrol Honda made him feel comfortable and comfy enough to deliver the RC45’S only WSB championship.
Troy Bayliss, AUS
52 wins, champion 2001, 2006 & 2008 Battling Bayliss is only so low down on this list as he only really joined the show in 2000 as a replacement for Foggy from the third round of the series that year. The man is a legend and has recently gone back to racing in the Australia superbike series at 49!
Noriyuki Haga, JAP
43 wins Another ‘best rider not to win a title’, Haga would start 312 WSB races in a career spanning 17 years. The ex All-japan superbike champ took the ageing YZF750 to its second win at Sugo in 1997 (after Fabrizio Pirovano’s at Estoril in 1993.) Famed for his sliding technique, Haga would finish runner-up in the series in 2000, 2007 and 2009.
ABOVE: Foggy was king of WSB in the 1990s.
BELOW: Fred Merkel, double champ!
Scott Russell. RIGHT: Corser took wins for Aprilia.RIGHT: Kocinski rode for Ducati in 1996 and won on the RC45 in 1997.
Edwards took two titles. BELOW: Slighty never gave up...