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In the world of two-wheel racing, the World Superbike Championship represents one of the most exciting and competitive series. With decades of history behind them, some riders have left an indelible imprint on the sport, becoming true symbols of excellence, passion and dedication. Today I want to take you through a journey to discover the 10 best Superbike riders of all time, revealing not only their sporting feats but also trivia and lesser-known details that have shaped their careers and lives.

Carl Fogarty

With four World Superbike titles under his belt, Carl Fogarty, also known by the nickname “The King,” is a true legend. Known for her aggressive driving style and indomitable will to win, “Foggy” not only won 4 world titles (1994, 1995, 1998, 1999) but also holds a record of 59 race wins. He is known for a memorable rivalry with Scott Russell and for surviving spectacular accidents, demonstrating incredible resilience. His retirement was forced by a serious accident in 2000, but he continued to be an influential figure in the racing world, managing teams and promoting events. In addition to his victories, Carl stood out for his charisma and ability to connect with fans, becoming an icon of the sport. Among his countless victories in multiple categories include the Formula 1 Cup and the 1990 Senior TT on the Isle of Man.

Jonathan Rea

Irishman Jonathan Rea won a record number of six consecutive world titles from 2015 to 2020, making him the most successful rider in the history of the championship. Rea has literally reshaped the recent history of WSBK by demonstrating a consistency and dedication to work that few others have been able to match. Imagine that in SBK Rea is the rider who has won the most titles, the most races, stood on the podium the most times scoring the most points and set the most fastest laps. A true ruler.

His technical precision and ability to adapt to different racing conditions make him one of the most versatile and respected drivers. The switch from Kawasaki to Yamaha in 2024 will give us an opportunity to appreciate even more his ability to adapt to different means. His staying on top in various conditions and on various circuits testifies to unparalleled versatility and dedication to his work.

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Troy Bayliss

In addition to his 3 world titles (2001, 2006, 2008), Bayliss is one of only two riders in history to win races in both World Superbike and MotoGP in the same season (2006).
The Australian’s return to SBK racing in 2006, after a year in MotoGP, and winning the championship made him a legend of the sport. Bayliss is a classic example of perseverance and determination; due to lack of funds he had stopped racing and started working as a bodyworker until the turning point in 1999 took him to Grand Betagna to compete in the SBK category, which he won. From there he changes his World Superbike career for the better at an age when many are thinking about retirement, proving that passion and tenacity can lead to outstanding results. With three world titles won, he is known for his ability to compete at a high level even against much younger riders. Troy is an icon for Ducatisti around the world, proof that hard work and unwavering commitment make every achievement attainable.

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Noriyuki Haga

Noriyuki Haga, also known as“Nitro Nori,” is loved by fans for his spectacular riding style and the intensity of his battles on the track. Despite never winning the world title, Haga finished 3 times as runner-up in 2000, 2007 and 2009, the first two times on Yamaha and in 2009 on Ducati and left an indelible mark on the hearts of Superbike fans for his fighting spirit and theDisenchanted and Gascon attitude in the paddock.
Nitro Nori is famous for his ability to get the most out of his motorcycles, often inferior to those of his opponents, and for his indomitable spirit, which has led him to be loved by fans all over the world.

Doug Polen

Doug Polen was a dominator of the 1990s, Winning world titles in 1991 and 1992 on Ducati, Polen established the record of 17 wins in a single season (1991), a record that has remained unbeaten for many years as well as that of fastest race laps, 13, which endures from 1991 to 2017 when Rea manages to record as many as 14. Polen is known for his meticulousness in preparing the bike and his ability to take the bike’s performance to the limit, highlighting the importance of the chemistry between rider and technology. His precision and methodical approach made him one of the most respected pilots of his time.

Troy Corser

Troy Corser, nicknamed“Mr. Superpole” for his incredible ability to achieve record times in qualifying, is another name that has made Superbike history. With two world titles and a long and fruitful career, Corser stands out for his smooth riding technique and elegance on the track, elements that have made him one of the most respected riders in the paddock and beloved by the fans.
In addition to his 2 world titles (1996 on Ducati, 2005 on Suzuki), Corser is known for exceptional longevity on the track and competitiveness retiring on the stroke of 40 in 2011. During his career, he is perhaps the rider who has ridden for the most manufacturers, as many as 6: Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki, Aprilia, Petronas and BMW.

Colin Edwards

Known as the“Texas Tornado,” Colin Edwards won two SBK world titles in 2000 and 2002, and in 1999 and 2001 he was second, always riding his Honda, demonstrating outstanding form over the four-year period. He then switched fairly successfully to MotoGP, achieving 7 podiums in his career. In addition to his skills on the track, Edwards is remembered for his open and sociable nature, which made him one of the most charismatic personalities in the paddock. Famous for his ranch laced with dirt tracks and his passion for guns His transition from Superbike to MotoGP has inspired many riders to follow in his footsteps.

Raymond Roche

Raymond Roche was the first Frenchman to win the World Superbike title ; his victory paved the way for many French talents in international motorcycle racing. Roche ‘s triumph in 1990 marked a historic moment for the league, and showed that talent and determination can lead to success even against better-ranked opponents. Roche is remembered for his combative riding style and his ability to get the most out of his Ducati. Determination and battles on the track have made him a hero to many fans.

Ben Spies

In his rookie year in 2009, Spies won the championship with 14 race wins, setting a new standard for rookies. His ability to move quickly from American racing to dominating World Superbike has amazed the racing world, earning him the nickname “Elbowz” for his unique cornering style. His rookie season is considered one of the most extraordinary in WSBK history. THE transition to MotoGP as a Yamaha official unfortunately did not bear as significant fruit also accomplice to a series of physical problems that prevented him from giving his best consistently. In fact, he won only one GP in Catalunya in 2011 season that saw him fifth overall.

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Marco Melandri

We conclude our list with Marco Melandri, a rider who, despite many injuries, has always shown unwavering determination and passion. Melandri, with a career that has spanned several categories, from MotoGP to Superbike, has shown incredible versatility and talent. His races were characterized by bold overtaking and calculated aggressiveness, making him one of the most fearsome and respected opponents on the track. He is the Italian rider with the most triumphs in SBK, an impressive 22. Mention should be made of the world title in the 250 category in 2002 and numerous victories in MotoGP with a second overall in 2005.

Melandri has shown remarkable adaptability and competitiveness in several classes. Although he has not won a World Superbike title, his many victories and podiums testify to his talent and determination. He is remembered for his incredible comebacks and overtaking skills.

Honorable Mentions

As with all lists, this one does not claim to be fair or exhaustive. So many other extraordinary riders of yesterday, such as Max Biaggi, or of today, such as Toprak Razgatlıoğlu or Alvaro Bautista would have palmarès and right cards to be part of this top 10.

In any case, every rider on this list has helped make the World Superbike Championship what it is today: a spectacle of the highest level, where technique, courage and passion come together in every race. In addition to their achievements on the track, these champions were distinguished by their character, personality and the bond created with fans, elements that made them true myths of motor sports.

These stories and episodes enrich the narrative of the 10 best ever Superbike riders, highlighting not only their sporting achievements but also the human and technical qualities that made them legends of motorsport.

 

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Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Managing Director for RTR Sports, Riccardo graduated in law at the University of Bologna. He began his career in London in PR, then started working in two and four-wheelers. A brief move to Monaco followed before returning to Italy. There he founded RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company which, eventually, he moved back to London.
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