Though he wasn’t an obvious candidate to graduate to the World Superbike stage in 2011, Mark Aitchison will embark on his second season in the series this year as he looks to build on the progress of an encouraging maiden campaign.
Getting the nod to ride for the Pedercini Kawasaki Superbike, while Aitchison was certainly the least experienced rider on the grid in 2011, his stealthily impressive rise through the ranks should have indicated that he wouldn’t be out of his depth on the unfancied ZX-10R.
Beginning his career in his native Australia, Aitchison burst onto the scene with a star turn in the domestic Supersport series in 2005. Riding a privateer Yamaha YZF-R6, Aitchison took the fight to his main rivals, culminating in a run to third in the standings, behind Josh Brookes and Adam Fergusson, but ahead of Josh Waters and Bryan Staring.
Retained for 2006, Aitchison duly evolved into a fully-fledged title contender, but was out-performed by Jamie Stauffer, forcing him to contend with the runners-up spot instead.
Nonetheless, his performances were enough to capture the attention of teams on the other side of the world, namely Celani Suzuki Italia, who would sign Aitchison to compete in the 2007 FIM Superstock 1000 Championship.
Despite his lack of experience around the European circuits, Aitchison signalled his title intentions with victory in only his second race at Valencia, while further podiums at Monza and Silverstone were indicative of his potential. Weaker results in the second-half of the year saw Aitchison’s title challenge tail off, leaving him fifth overall, but he remained just 29 points off eventual champion Niccolo Canepa.
For 2008, Aitchison progressed to the World Supersport Championship, riding the new three-cylinder Triumph 675 for BE1 Racing alongside experienced countryman Garry McCoy. Though the bike struggled for consistent competitiveness, Aitchison was the manufacturer’s only regular scorer, the youngster comfortably out-pacing McCoy, as well as the factory-supported machines of SC Carrachi on the way to a decent 14th overall.
A switch to more reliable Honda machinery beckoned in 2009, Aitchison signing with Althea Racing and immediately proving a greater threat to his rivals. Claiming a maiden WSS podium at Kyalami, Aitchison finished inside the top six on seven occasions, helping him to ninth overall.
However, with Althea pulling out of Supersport racing to focus on its Superbike efforts, Aitchison was surprisingly left without a ride at the start of 2010. Though he eventually found his way back into the series with Kuja Honda, Aitchison only had three rounds to make his pitch for a full-time 2011 deal.
Nonetheless, though the Italian outfit had been relative tail-enders throughout the season, Aitchison’s arrival sparked an upturn in form and he was able to bring home a seventh place finish at Imola.
Despite that, with a 2010 season spent mostly on the sidelines, it was still a surprise when Pedercini Kawasaki – having publicly courted Gabor Talmacsi and Andrew Pitt – announced Aitchison as its second rider.
With no prior Superbike experience and arguably the least accomplished bike on the grid, expectations were fairly meagre. Nonetheless, Aitchison quickly found his feet and frequently out-paced more experienced team-mate Roberto Rolfo, making Superpole on six occasions and cracking the top ten twice – a first for Pedercini in three years.
Even better results escaped him at Silverstone and Nurburgring – where he was running as high as seventh -, but Aitchison had done his bit to catch some attention in 2011, indirectly leading to a deal in 2012.
Indeed, while Aitchison was tipped to stay at Pedercini, he will instead join forces with WSBK returnees Team Grillini, riding a customer BMW S1000RR. With a fairly small team behind him, Aitchison will look to turn the lessons learned in 2011 into results in 2012. Career Highlights2012:
Heads up Grillini BMW’s return to the WSBK stage2011:
World Superbike Championship, Pedercini Kawasaki, 19th2010:
World Supersport Championship (3 races), Kuja Honda, 21st2009:
World Supersport Championship, Althea Honda, 9th2008:
World Supersport Championship, BE1 Triumph, 14th 2007:
FIM Superstock 1000 Championship, Celani Suzuki, 5th (1 win) 2006:
Australian Supersport Championship, YRT Yamaha, 2nd2005:
Australian Supersport Championship, Fraser Yamaha, 3rd