By Neil Morrison
It may have taken 26 races and 522 laps run in 11 different countries for Tom Sykes to seal his first World Superbike Championship but he still did it with one race to spare.
Sykes' comfortable third place in race one in Jerez was enough to keep the Aprilia duo of Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli out of reach, making Sykes the twelfth rider to have won the title at the final round in the series' 26-year history.
Of those twelve occasions, nine went to the final race with the champion yet to be decided.
Honourable mentions must go to the Fred Merkel for his 1989 triumph and James Toseland, whose two Championships were both went down to the wire, but here we choose six of the best of those title races that went down to the wire.
1988 - Fred Merkel, Fabrizio Pirovano, Davide Tardozzi and Stéphane Mertens – Manfeild Park, New Zealand
The inaugural World Superbike Championship was established as a cheaper four-stroke alternative to Grand Prix that didn't require its contestants to risk life and limb around road circuits, like the TT F1 series, to come out on top.
The first instalment served up a real cracker as a cast of grand prix cast-offs and national hotshots made up a colourful grid. None more so than 'Flying' Fred Merkel, the three time AMA Superbike Champion and Californian extrovert was every bit as charismatic as his blonde, surfer good looks suggested.
As he lined up on Oscar Rumi's new Honda RC30 his competition came in the form of two extremely fast Bimotas using fuel injected Yamaha engines, ridden by Davide Tardozzi and Stéphane Mertens, as well as Fabrizio Pirovano's steel framed Yamaha FZ750.
Although the Honda was considerably down on power Merkel's consistency kept him within 2.5 points of leader Tardozzi going into the final round at Manfeild Park in New Zealand. Pirovano was level on points with Merkel and Mertens still had a shot of the title, 10.5 points back of his teammate.
The lettering on the back of Merkel's helmet read 'If you want blood… you've got it' and his fighting instincts proved vital as he prevailed in the final round dogfight.
Rain greeted the riders on race day and Merkel won the first outing from Pirovano with Tardozzi fifth. The sun emerged between races and with the track drying Tardozzi fell from his Bimota on the warm-up lap, handing the initiative back to Merkel. Mertens, who only had a slim chance of lifting the crown, was instructed to hand his machine over to the tearful Tardozzi on the line but ignored team orders and duly won the race.