Launched in 1988, World Superbike racing is 39 years MotoGP’s junior. Some notable champions have been produced in the series’ 27-year existence, but noticeably different between WSBK and MotoGP is the lack of one-man dominance. WSBK has multi-time champions (that’s what this Top 10 is all about), but nothing quite like MotoGP. For example, the 12 championship seasons, from 1994 through 2005 saw Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi consume 10 of them (five apiece). That’s a decade of domination by two riders! Having a greater variety of champions makes for an arguably superior series, so kudos to WSBK.
Like our Top 10 MotoGP/500cc World Champions list, let’s first take a look at Rider World Championship Winners by Country and Constructor World Championship Winners.
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Rider World Championship Winners by Country
Sixteen different champions represent six countries in the history of WSBK rider championships. The United States is currently in first place with nine championship titles won by six different riders. Great Britain is close behind with eight titles, but won by only four different riders. Australia is kind of the same with five championship titles won by only two riders.
|Manufacturer||Constructor World Championships|
Constructor World Championship Winners
When it comes to Constructor Championship titles, Ducati absolutely dominates, having won 17 of 27. Aprilia and Honda are tied with four apiece, while Suzuki and Yamaha are level with one apiece. It should be noted that Honda hasn’t won a Manufacturers title since John Kocinski won the Riders Championship in 1997.
10. John Kocinski
There are other single-championship winners from which to choose, and, if you were watching World Superbike or Grand Prix racing in the early to mid-90s, you’ll know what a polarizing personality John Kocinski was, but the man was a talented motorcycle racer. He was the only guy to give Honda’s RC45 a World Superbike Championship, and he did so during the Ducati 916/996 domination with riders like Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser. For that, he deserves number 10 in this list.
9. Ben Spies
In 2009, after winning three consecutive AMA Superbike championships for Suzuki, Ben “Elbowz” Spies jumped ship to the factory Yamaha World Superbike team. In his first and only WSBK season, Spies won the championship and set the record for most pole positions (11), and for most consecutive pole positions (7). He was the first American to win the championship since Colin Edwards in 2002. The one-and-done champion went on to race MotoGP for Yamaha in 2010 where he took the Rookie of the Year award.
8. Fred Merkel – 2 Titles, 5 Wins
There are many two-time WSBK champions, so we’re ranking them according to number of races won during their respective championship title seasons, beginning with Fred Merkel with five race wins. Merkel was World Superbike’s first champion as well as its first two-time champion, winning titles in 1988 and 1989. Equally famous (arguably more so) is the bike aboard which Merkel won his two championships, the Honda RC30. Prior to making history in the new WSBK series, Merkel had won three AMA Superbike titles for Honda in 1984, ’85 and ’86. Merkel also won the Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race in 1984.
7. James Toseland – 2 Titles, 11 Race Wins
James Toseland is the first of only two riders to have won WSBK championships aboard motorcycles from two different manufacturers. Toseland earned his first championship title in 2004 aboard a Ducati 999. After a not-so-good season in 2005, Toseland switched to the Ten Kate Honda team in 2006, finishing second in the championship behind Troy Bayliss. In 2007 he again won the title, beating Japan’s Noriyuki Haga by a mere two points.
6. Max Biaggi – 2 Titles, 15 Race Wins
After four consecutive 250cc World Championships (1994-’97), and a few bridesmaid finishes in 500cc/MotoGP (1998, 2001, ’02), Max Biaggi moved in to the World Superbike Championship series in 2007 aboard a Suzuki GSX-R1000. He won his first WSBK race (he also won his first 500cc GP race), but it wasn’t until 2010 aboard an Aprilia RSV4 that Biaggi would take his first WSBK title. He followed it up with another in 2012. A full-circle story as Biaggi’s first three 250cc titles were aboard an Aprilia.
5. Troy Corser – 2 Titles, 15 Race Wins
Troy Corser is tied with Max Biaggi for race wins during their respective championship seasons, but whereas Biaggi won both of his aboard an Aprilia, Corser is the second man in this list to have his two championships aboard motorcycles from two different manufacturers. Corser also owns the record of the longest time span between his two championships – nine years! In 1996 Corser won his first title aboard a Ducati 916, then, in 2007, he won his second title aboard a Suzuki GSX-R1000 – giving Suzuki its one and only World Superbike Riders Championship title.
4. Colin Edwards – 2 Titles, 19 Race Wins
The first American in the top five, Colin Edwards won his first WSBK championship title in 2000 and his second in 2002. Both were aboard Honda’s answer to Ducati’s V-Twin domination of the series, the VTR1000 (RC51). Troy Bayliss split Edwards’ titles, claiming the crown in 2001. Bayliss and Edwards would go at it hammer and tongs every season, but no more so than the final race at Imola in 2002. Edwards wrapped up the championship by winning Race 1, but instead of playing it safe and coasting to a second-place finish in Race 2, he would repass Bayliss repeatedly, risking the entire championship had he fallen. If you’d like to see one of the best WSBK races ever, check out the full Race 2 here.
3. Doug Polen – 2 Titles, 26 Race Wins
This list’s last two-time WSBK Champion and the last American, Doug Polen brought Ducati its second and third champion titles in 1991 and 1992 aboard the Ducati 888 (Frenchman Raymond Roche was Ducati’s first WSBK champion aboard the 851). Polen returned to AMA racing in 1993 and handily won the Superbike title again aboard a Ducati. Polen also won two World Endurance Championships in 1997 and 1998.
2. Troy Bayliss
Three-time World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss, won each of his titles aboard Ducatis, but each bike was an entirely different model. The first title in 2001 was on a 996, the second in 2006 was on a 999, and the third in 2008 was aboard a 1098. Bayliss may have been a four-time champ had it not been for a change to his bike’s frame in 2002, where Colin Edwards mounted an historic comeback to the championship, winning the title back from Bayliss at the aforementioned last round of the season at Imola.
1. Carl Fogarty
WSBK’s only four-time champion (1994, 1995, 1998, 1999) Carl Fogarty, and Ducati’s 916 are both legendary. Known for his aggressive, take-no-prisoners riding style, and inability to be genteel, “Foggy” was a man you either liked or did not like. His racing prowess, though, was undeniable. Like Bayliss, Fogarty may have had another championship title under his belt had it not been for his inconsistency. Fogarty won 11 races in 1993, compared to the eventual title winner, Scott Russell’s five race wins. During his WSBK career, Fogarty won a total of 59 races. Fogarty is considered the king of World Superbike racing, and probably will be until someone can win five or more championship titles. Foggy’s career-ending crash was in 2000, when Bayliss was called up from Bologna to leave the Vance & Hines AMA team and hop on a plane from Daytona to replace Foggy.