MOST SUCCESSFUL DEBUTS: nine riders who upset the established guard with victory on debut

The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s latest visit to the TT Circuit Assen created history, with Nicholas Spinelli (Barni Spark Racing Team) claimed a shock win in Race 1 – his first WorldSBK race. The Italian added his name to an illustrious list of riders who won on their debut, bringing the total to nine. Here, we look at the nine history makers who stunned the field as their WorldSBK career started.

WORLD SUPERBIKE BEGINS: Tardozzi becomes the first WorldSBK winner, Donington Park, 1988

The first WorldSBK race took part at Donington Park in 1988 and that meant someone had to win and start this list. That rider was Davide Tardozzi on his Bimota machine, winning a 30-lap race ahead of Marco Lucchinelli by just over a second. Tardozzi would go on to win five races in 75 attempts, as well as 11 podiums, before taking on several off-track roles at both Ducati and BMW, becoming a key figure in the former’s success in both WorldSBK and MotoGP™.

PERFECT POLEN: American star moves to P1 at Sugo in 1989

Doug Polen’s WorldSBK debut came in 1989 at Sugo and he wasted no time in showing his potential, taking victory in Japan by more than seven seconds ahead of Michael Dowson, with American star Polen on Suzuki machinery. Polen would go on to win 27 races and take 40 podiums, as well as claiming two titles – in 1991 and 1992.

GODDARD ON HOME SOIL: Australian wins at Oran Park in 1989

Peter Goddard made his debut at Oran Park in November 1989, and he showed exactly what he could do. On Yamaha machinery, Goddard not just won, he wiped the floor with his opposition. He finished the 39-lap race 56 seconds clear of Robert Phillis in second, and 70 seconds ahead of Fabrizio Pirovano who completed the podium. In fact, Goddard lapped everyone except those in second, third and fourth.

MISANO THE VENUE: Kocinski takes debut win in Italy in 1996

John Kocinski followed in Doug Polen’s footsteps when he made his WorldSBK debut in 1996 at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”. Like Polen, the Arkansas-born Kocinski fended off his rivals albeit with a closer margin, coming home just over a second ahead of Troy Corser with Pierfrancesco Chili in third in a Ducati 1-2-3 on their home soil.

TAKEDA ON TOP: more history created at Sugo with Takeda in 1996

Although it wasn’t his first round – he competed at Sugo in 1989 although he didn’t start a race – Yuichi Takeda took victory in his first race he started. It was a thrilling battle in Japan with Noriyuki Haga, with 0.086s separating the two Japanese riders after 25 laps. Takeda came out on top ahead on his Honda, with Haga having to settle for second.

BRILLIANT BIAGGI: a seamless shift from MotoGP™ to WorldSBK

Max Biaggi made his WorldSBK debut in Qatar in 2007 after many successful years in the MotoGP™ paddock, including four 250cc World Championship titles and was instantly a hit. Racing for Suzuki, the Italian beat James Toseland by 1.4 seconds over the 18-lap race at Lusail for his first of 21 wins; he’d go on to claim two WorldSBK titles in 2010 and 2012.

THE PERFECT START: Bautista’s WorldSBK career starts with P1 in Australia, 2019

After Biaggi, it would be 12 years before a rider who won on debut, with Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) claiming victory in at Phillip Island in 2019 following his move across from MotoGP™. It was the first of 11 consecutive wins for the Spaniard to start the 2019 season before a series of crashes cost him the title. Two years at Honda were a struggle before a return to Ducati in 2022, winning the titles in that year and 2023.

FOLLOWING IN HIS TEAMMATE’S FOOTSTEPS: same venue, five years on, for Bulega

They had a different path to WorldSBK, and are at different stages at their career, but their first World Superbike race had a similar outcome. Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) entered WorldSBK on the back off a WorldSSP title and he soon became a race winner in the premier class. A 2.2 second win over Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) started his career in style.

SPINELLI SURPRISES: tyre gamble pays off for the substitute rider

Nicholas Spinelli (Barni Spark Racing Team) stepped in as Danilo Petrucci’s replacement with the #9 injured for the Dutch Round. 11th in the Tissot Superpole session was impressive, and what happened in the race was even more so. Opting for an all-intermediate tyre combination, the only rider on the grid, stormed into a 25-second lead over the first few laps. As the track dried, the gap closed rapidly, but a fortunately timed red flag, in Spinelli’s eyes, meant he claimed his, and Barni Ducati’s, first WorldSBK win.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: impressing even without victory

Several riders have made a mark without climbing to the top step. Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) claimed fourth in his first Race 1 when on Honda machinery, and the late Marco Simoncelli rocked up to WorldSBK in 2009 at Imola and claimed a third-place finish in Race 2 for Aprilia, beating teammate Biaggi. Ben Spies, in 2009, started with 16th in Race 1 in Australia but Race 2 kickstarted his season as he claimed victory.

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