World Superbike Championship

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FIM World Superbike Championship
W-ico-wsbk-80s90s.png
Category Superbike
Country/Region Worldwide
Founder(s) FIM, FG Sport
Inaugural Season 1988
Tyre supplier(s) Michelin
Records
Team's Champion Template:Bimota Lucky Strike Fior
Records WSBK Records
Motorsport current event.svg.png Current season


The FIM World Superbike Championship is the premier class of highly modified production motorcycle racing sanctioned by the FIM. Whereas MotoGP, with its purpose-built prototypes, would be described as the Formula 1 of Motorcycle racing, WSBK is more like touring car or Grand Touring racing, with the bikes being tuned versions of road going motorcycles.

History

Before WSBK: A brief history of Superbike racing

The origins of Superbike racing can be traced back to the mid-70s, where a pair of Australian mechanics, brothers Ross and Ralph Hannan, built a highly-tuned Kawasaki H2 for use in both the Australian National Series and endurance races such as the Suzuka 8hours and the Bol D'Or. Featuring Australian Motorcycle hall of famer Graeme Crosby among its rider line-up, the Hannan brothers's newest contraption beacme hugely successful, to the point where their "Superbike" model became the basis for the new premier class in the Australian National Series, which would later become Australian SBK.

Soon, the "Superbike" ruleset began spreading across the world, with the American Motorcycle Association also creating a new Superbike category for its National Road Racing series, becoming extremely influential in the world of Motorcycle racing and producing stars such as Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz, Eddie Lawson, Fred Merkel and Wayne Rainey, among others.

In Europe, however, Superbikes were met with fierce competion from both the national 500cc seires and the Formula TT ruleset, which was the predominant formula for production Motorcycles at the time. However, rising costs and safety issues, particularly at events such as the Isle of Man TT and the Ulster GP allowed many local series to use the Superbije formula, including the Italian Championship, which grew enormously under the leadership of FG group, who quickly looked to bring the Superbike model to a truly global scale.

1988: THE FIRST SEASON

FG group's founder and CEO, former Formula 1 driver Maurizio Flammini, consulted with the prominent national superbikes series in order to fill out a satisfactory rule set for A world superbike championship. Once he came up with the new ruleset, he applied it to the FIM, who accepted the proposal. Thus, the World Superbike Championship is formed, using an engine formula that welcomes both 750cc four-stroke machines with 1000cc V-twin engines as popularised by Ducati and their new 851 Strada bike.

Along with Ducati, The big 4 Japanese Manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki) joined the frey, with Formula TT Champions Bimota also entering the new series, using their Yamaha-powered YB4 Motorcycle that won the TT title and the Italian SBK championship. Flammini also poached events from the Formula TT series schedule, such as Donington, Hockenheim, Hungaroring and Sugo, to fill out the inaugural season's schedule.


Many of superbikes's top National series teams from across the world competed in the first season, such as Italy's Ferracci Ducati, Bimota Corse and Rumi RCM Honda squads, Hideo "Pops" Yoshimura's AMA Suzuki outfit and Aussie SBK title-winning team owner Jeff Hardwick's team. The first ever winner in WSBK history was 3-time AMA Champion Fred Merkel on the Rumi RCM Honda at the round of Donington. In total, there were 6 different winners, including Merkel, Italian Davide Tardozzi, former French Grand Prix Rider Raymond Roche on the Ferracci Ducati and Australian Mick Doohan, who surprised everyone on the grid with his stellar performances onboard a private Bimota.

The title race would end up being a duel between Merkel and Doohan, and it would be decided at the final round in Orna Park, Australia, where, despite Merkel's 9 wins throughout the season (more than anyone else on the grid), Doohan was more consistent, and he would be crowned the first ever World Superbike Champion in front of his own crowd. A few weeks later, He would depart from the series to ride for the Honda factory team for the 1989 500cc Grand Prix season.

1989 Season

TBD