WSBK » Andrew Pitt
While it may have been four years since he last completed a World Superbike race, when Andrew Pitt lines up on the 2010 grid with Reitwagen Motorsport, he will still be one of the most experienced competitors out there.
Flitting between MotoGP, World Superbikes and World Supersport for a decade now, Pitt is certainly no stranger to motorcycling fans, although success during that time has been tempered with several false starts.
Nonetheless, Pitt has certainly done enough in that time to warrant a belated second chance at World Superbike success having had his MotoGP career hampered by uncompetitive machinery.
Prior to his MotoGP debut in 2002, Pitt was the latest in a long line of Australian riders to sample competition on the international stage following success on the domestic scene. A 1999 title win in Australian Supersports, coupled to a runners-up spot at Superbike level, for Kawasaki smoothed his path into the factory backed World Supersport operation in 2000.
A solid season followed, Pitt scoring consistently well and finishing just off the podium in only his fourth race at Donington Park. He would end the season tenth overall, just two spots behind team-mate Iain Macpherson.
Retained for 2001, Pitt went on the title offensive and succeeded, remarkably, without actually scoring any race wins. Indeed, despite racking up a series of podiums over the season, Pitt certainly wasn’t the favourite for the title heading into the season finale after Paolo Casoli had opened up an 11 point advantage.
However, when the Italian retired on the opening lap, Pitt needed to finish just fourth to snatch the title, a result he duly achieved to win the crown for Kawasaki.
Staying on board for a third season of Supersport racing, Pitt finally tasted race success in 2002 (at Phillip Island and Kyalami), but a poor end to the year forced him to give up his crown.
Nonetheless, Pitt’s efforts for the Japanese manufacturer received a belated reward towards the end of the season when he was called up to make his MotoGP debut with Kawasaki for the final three rounds.
With the manufacturer itself having only made its first appearance in the category at the preceding Pacific Grand Prix, Pitt was on the Ninja for the Malaysian, Australian and Valencian events. As expected, Pitt took time to get dialled in to the faster machinery, but was on fine form to score the manufacturer’s first-ever points at the Spanish season finale with an 11th place finish.
The result was enough to convince Kawasaki to retain Pitt for a full season in 2003 alongside countryman Garry McCoy. However, the season didn’t turn out to be a successful one, Pitt struggling on uncompetitive machinery and rarely bothering the points paying positions.
In total, Pitt would sneak into the points on just three occasions, racking up just four points over the course of the season – an identical tally to what he achieved in just a single race in 2002 – to finish the year a lowly 25th in the standings.
Despite initially being promised a second full season with Kawasaki, Pitt was replaced by Shinya Nakano for 2004, leaving him with limited options in the premier class. Nonetheless, he was thrown a lifeline in the form of Moriwaki Racing, who tapped Pitt to help develop its Dunlop-shod MD211VF with the intention of participating in a handful of races.
In total, Pitt made three outings for Moriwaki, getting on the score sheet once at Catalunya with a 14th place finish, but a return to the World Supersport Championship for three end-of-season outings with Yamaha would define his immediate future.
Making a good impression on his return, Pitt was duly bumped up to the works Superbike team for 2005, the manufacturer making a return to WSBK competition after a four-year hiatus. Competing alongside Noriyuki Haga, although Pitt initially out paced his team-mate, it was the Japanese rider who would eventually prevail overall.
By contrast, Pitt was often the bridge between the leaders and the mid-field and would fail to get on the podium once during the season. Nonetheless, an end-of-season position of eighth was enough to see his contract extended into 2006, with Pitt immediately addressing his lack of a podium with a third place finish at the Qatar season opener.
While it would take twelve more races for Pitt to return to the rostrum, when he did at Misano he was stood on top of it after fighting off Alex Barros and Haga for what remains his one and only victory at Superbike level. A further four podiums followed to leave Pitt fifth in the final standings, leading many to assume he would be retained for another season.
However, Yamaha controversially took the opportunity to sign 2005 champion Troy Corser alongside Haga for 2007, leaving Pitt without a ride heading into the off-season.
With no viable options in Superbikes, Pitt turned his attentions back to MotoGP and landed at the newly formed Ilmor team, who charged him with leading its development process over the winter after original signing Jeremy McWilliams was sidelined through injury.
With its pioneering F1-inspired engine, the Ilmor project was a bold one, but while Pitt participated in the opening round in Qatar (failing to finish), a funding shortfall owing to the lack of a major sponsor meant the team would not reappear again.
Forcing Pitt out of work again, he reappeared in World Supersports once more aboard a Ten Kate Honda in place of the injured Sebastien Charpentier for two rounds. Impressing with a pair of second place finishes, Pitt was rewarded with a full-time berth in the team for 2008.
Given the task of maintaining Ten Kate Honda’s stranglehold on the Supersport series - one that had seen them win the title in each of the last five seasons - Pitt overcame a shaky start to win four of the first seven races.
With no other rider offering him a consistent threat, Pitt quickly established himself as the title favourite and while he was pushed hard by young team-mate Jonathan Rea towards the end of the season, Pitt was crowned champion for the second time in his career at the penultimate round.
Having signed a two-year contract on the assumption he would be moved to the Superbike operation should he win the title, Pitt was disappointed to learn that Rea had in fact done enough to warrant graduation over him for the 2009 season.
It meant Pitt was consigned to another year of Supersport competition, where he failed to demonstrate the same kind of pace as he had done the previous year. Two second place finishes in the opening two rounds aside, Pitt wouldn’t trouble the podium again and was forced to give up his Supersport crown with three events to go.
Eventually ending the season sixth in the standings, well behind Honda counterparts Eugene Laverty and Kenan Sofuoglu, it was announced at the end of the season that he would be replaced by Michele Pirro for 2010.
Nonetheless, with one door closing, another one has opened for Pitt in the shape of Reitwagen Motorsport, who offered him a surprise ticket back into Superbike racing.
The first satellite team to run BMWs alongside the factory operation in World Superbikes, Pitt was part of a two-man team alongside Roland Resch.
Making its debut at Phillip Island, though Pitt showed promising pace given the bike's lack of preparation time, clouds were on the horizon when it became clear the team was not as well-funded was originally led to believe.
Indeed, though Pitt scored in three of the first six races, Reitwagen simply 'disappeared' shortly afterwards, Pitt claiming to have had no contact from the team prior to what became a complete withdrawal.
Left with no ride, Pitt was eventually scooped up by Motorpoint Yamaha in the British Superbike Championship as its full-time replacement for the now retired Neil Hodgson. A promising run of top ten results gave hope to a new career path, only for this to also come to a shuddering halt when - after injuring himself at Brands Hatch - was dropped by the team in favour of young hotshot Loris Baz.
Airing his dissatisfaction by the team's treatment of him, Pitt has every right to head into the off-season with a bitter taste in his mouth.Career Highlights:2010:
World Superbike Championship (6 races), Reitwagen BMW, 27th
British Superbike Championship (9 races), Motorpoint Yamaha 21st2009:
World Supersport Championship, Ten Kate Honda, 6th2008:
World Supersport Championship, Ten Kate Honda, 1st (5 wins) 2007:
MotoGP World Championship (1 race), Illmor, N/C
World Supersport Championship (2 races), 17th2006:
World Superbike Championship, Yamaha Italia, 5th (1 win) 2005:
World Superbike Championship, Yamaha Italia, 8th2004:
MotoGP World Championship (3 races), Moriwaki Racing, 27th
World Supersport Championship (3 races), Yamaha WSS, 12th2003:
MotoGP World Championship, Kawasaki Racing, 25th2002:
World Supersport Championship, Kawasaki Racing, 5th (2 wins)
MotoGP World Championship (3 races), Kawasaki Racing, 26th2001:
World Supersport Championship, Fuchs Kawasaki, 1st2000:
World Supersport Championship, Kawasaki Racing, 10th 1999:
Australian Superbike Championship, 2nd
Australian Supersport Championship, 1st1998:
Australian Supersport Championship, 2nd1997:
Australian Supersport Championship, 10th1996:
Australian 250cc Championship, 2nd