Memorable World Super Bike Debuts
When Alex Lowes ended his debut in the 2014 WSBK in Australia with an unlucky high side that fractured his leg, he'd only collected three out of a possible 50 points. But his tenacity and overall place down under made him one of the more memorable riders to introduce himself at the World Super Bike championship in recent years.
It's one more thing that crowds look for, and can always be a factor in race attendance when knowing that a potential newcomer is racing. Over the years, some of the most exciting moments have come with new faces.
Mick Doohan, 1988 – Sugo, Japan
Mick Doohan's rise through the national Australian ranks to full time GP rider was stratospheric. Within four years, the Queenslander had gone from scraping shoulders off Bathurst's walls to a full works HRC rider. One wonders if it would have turned out differently had Doohan not stamped his mark on the World Superbike series at his first attempt. Doohan blazed through 1988 at frenetic pace. He and Marlboro Yamaha team-mate Michael Dawson fronted a strong national championship push but his performances on the world stage really caught the eye of prospective GP teams. His record of 16 wins from 33 starts that year made Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda scramble for his signature. Doohan returned to Japan to compete in the inaugural World Superbike season. He found the last podium spot in the '87 Suzuka 8 Hour, in his very first overseas race. He wasn't just a fast racer. Doohan, with the rear of his body fully leant over as far as his elbow, kissing the apex mid-turn, was able to make shapes with a four stroke that seasoned campaigners could only gawk at. Steve Hislop witnessed Doohan first hand at an end of season TTF1 event in Mount Fuji, recalling in his autobiography: “Mick passed me in qualifying and to this day I've never seen anyone riding a four-stroke bike like he did…I swear he was laying black lines of rubber with the front wheel as well as the rear.”
Max Biaggi, 2007 – Losail, Qatar
Like Kocinski more than a decade before, Biaggi demonstrated his worth after sitting out the entire previous season watching from the sidelines. His final year in MotoGP was a disaster and his misery was compounded when Honda dropped him for 2006. No other teams opened their doors and Max was a GP outcast. Luckily, Francis Batta had a seat in the Alstare Suzuki squad for the '07 Superbike season after Troy Corser's departure to Yamaha and Biaggi rolled back his 35 years with a majestic performance in his first race.
“I wished I had discovered this championship years ago!” he exclaimed post-race two having just lost out on his maiden double win to Toseland by 0.7 seconds. The performance was reminiscent of Biaggi's brilliant win at Suzuka when he won with Erv Kanemoto's NSR Honda in his first race in the class and many fans today still say his introduction was the most explosive in the modern era.