WSBK: Back in the USA
16 May 2008
In the run-up to that inaugural Miller Motorsports Park event, here is a look back at the history of World Superbike racing in the United States of America...
The Brainerd Years
The Superbike World Championship landed on American soil on June 11th 1989. It is a historic date because that was the day that SBK, which became a motor sport phenomenon in the USA at the end of the '70s and the start of the '80s, returned to its spiritual home.
It was also the first match-up between the American legends and the European specialists, who were making their name in the world championship that had been created by the FIM just one year before in 1988.
The race was held at the Brainerd circuit in Minnesota. The European riders were amazed at the track which had a 1.8 km straight ending in a blindingly fast fifth-gear corner.
The first US round also saw a first double win for Ducati in the hands of Raymond Roche of France. At the time this win brought fame and incredible prestige for the small Italian company in the country that represented the most important market in the world for streetbikes.
The US round remained at Brainerd for three seasons: 1989, 1990 and 1991. On each occasion the event was scheduled for the second Sunday in June and was preceded by the Canadian Round, making up a double-header North American visit that whetted the appetite of fans worldwide for the battle between American and European riders.
The first home win for a US rider was obtained by Californian Doug Chandler (Kawasaki) in 1990, followed twelve months later by Texan Doug Polen who won at Brainerd on his way towards the world title.
In 1990, the third year of Superbike, the FIM handed over the running of the series to the Italian promoter Maurizio Flammini who in just a few years succeeded in transforming a new championship, without any history or tradition, into a worldwide success.
Superbike racing was now attracting the attention of the major motorcycle manufacturers, who over the years have become increasingly involved in the production-based series, while spectacular races and a close link with streetbike production ('Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday') captured the attention of bike fans around the world.
But while the championship was going through this growth phase, the Brainerd leg was abandoned and the US round disappeared from the championship for three seasons.
Superbike was in need of a more prestigious venue, and after years of waiting, in 1995 it crossed the Atlantic once again to take up a new home at the Laguna Seca track in California.
The Laguna Seca Years
Laguna Seca held World Superbike races for ten successive years and at the same time became one of the principal events on the calendar.
The fascination of a unique circuit, the spectacular setting, and an increasingly massive influx of spectators over the years turned the US round into a 'blue-ribbon' event that always represented a challenge between the two hearts of Superbike: American and European.
The first event at Laguna Seca in 1995 witnessed the success of two Australian talents, Anthony Gobert and Troy Corser: both spectacular riders and both famous throughout the world.
Corser had won the AMA championship in the USA the previous year and was rapidly emerging in Europe in the Ducati squad. The first American rider to win at Laguna Seca was world-beater John Kocinski who took victory on a Ducati in 1996.
Over the years Superbike has given the Laguna Seca public and the entire world some of the most spectacular racing and memorable action ever seen on two wheels. The last time the Californian circuit was the venue for a World Superbike race was in 2004 when Chris Vermeulen scored a double win on a Honda.
Another Australian, double world champion Troy Bayliss, will lead WSBK into Miller Motorsports Park when practice takes place later this month...
USA Round Statistics:
1989 Brainerd Roche (FRA-Ducati) Roche (FRA-Ducati)
1990 Brainerd Mertens (BEL-Honda) Chandler (USA-Kawasaki)
1991 Brainerd Polen (USA-Ducati) Polen (USA-Ducati)
1995 Laguna Seca Gobert (AUS-Kawasaki) Corser (AUS-Ducati)
1996 Laguna Seca Kocinski (USA-Ducati) Gobert (AUS-Kawasaki)
1997 Laguna Seca Kocinski (USA-Honda) Kocinski (USA-Honda)
1998 Laguna Seca Corser (AUS-Ducati) Haga (JPN-Yamaha)
1999 Laguna Seca Gobert (AUS-Ducati) Bostrom B. (USA-Ducati)
2000 Laguna Seca Haga (JPN-Yamaha) Corser (AUS-Aprilia)
2001 Laguna Seca Bostrom B. (USA-Ducati) Bostrom B. (USA-Ducati)
2002 Laguna Seca Bayliss (AUS-Ducati) Edwards (USA-Honda)
2003 Laguna Seca Chili (ITA-Ducati) Xaus (SPA-Ducati)
2004 Laguna Seca Vermeulen (AUS-Honda) Vermeulen (AUS-Honda)
Races held: 13 (Brainerd 3, Laguna Seca 10)
Wins per rider: Ben Bostrom 3, Gobert 3, Kocinski 3, Corser 3, Roche 2, Vermeulen 2, Polen 2, Haga 2, Mertens 1, Chandler 1, Edwards 1, Chili 1, Xaus 1, Bayliss 1
Wins per country (riders): USA 10, Australia 9, France 2, Japan 2, Italy 1, Belgium 1, Spain 1
Wins per manufacturer: Ducati 15, Honda 6, Kawasaki 2, Yamaha 2, Aprilia 1