Doug Polen (Ducati 888) – the 1991 world champion was on the road in the following season, as befits an American, with the number 1 on his red racer. After the most dominant year that the Superbike World Championship had so far under him, there was to be a much tougher fight and the title to be defended in 1992 (© WorldSBK).

The second half of the 1992 season – year 5 of the WorldSBK

The first 7 laps in Europe in his second season in the Superbike World Championship were no longer an easy walk for Doug Polen on his Ducati 888, as it had looked like for many observers the year before. Together with Raymond Roche as his toughest rival in 1991, he had 4 wins each. The strong Australian Rob Phillis on Kawasaki was also close on his heels. His team-mates Aaron Slight, Stéphane Mertens and the resurgent Giancarlo Falappa (both on Ducati) should not be underestimated either. In addition, of course, Fabrizio Pirovano on the Yamaha FZR750R, who has always been at the forefront for years.

Fabrizio Pirovano (Yamaha FZR750R) in Donington Park in 1991 – the Italian was runner-up in the first year of the Superbike World Championship in 1988 and repeated this position two years later. Pirovano was again very strong in the fifth season of the WSBK and was still among the world’s best in the near-series World Cup (© WorldSBK).

The 8th lap in Malaysia on a new track

After Shah Alam, this time Johor Bahru was the host of the Malaysia event. The Sepang Circuit did not exist back then, it was only opened on March 9, 1999. But Malaysia would play an important role in the WorldSBK for the Superbike World Championship for many years to come. The fight for the world title was still completely open when it premiered in Johor Bahru in 1992. As in the past, some drivers from Australia and New Zealand who had not yet participated in Europe drove on the 3.86-kilometer (2.4 miles) track. At the races in Asia, drivers from the USA and Down Under were often at the forefront. In contrast to previous years, however, this time they did not play such a dominant role as, for example, in the first two years of the WSBK in Sugo. At that time, the wildcard pilots had agreed the victories among themselves. One of them was Doug Polen on a Suzuki in 1989.

This time the American traveled to Asia as the reigning 1991 World Champion and current World Championship leader. But in the first run the Ducati factory rider did not go as desired and he was only waved off in eighth place. The first 5 drivers at the finish were only 1.19 seconds apart. Raymond Roche was once again ahead of the game. The French won in front of Fabrizio Pirovano, Rob Phillis and his Kawasaki team-mate Aaron Slight in the ungrateful fourth place. Behind them Stéphane Mertens, just 0.48 seconds behind P3. Giancarlo Falappa was already 13 seconds behind in 5th place. Kiwi Christopher Haldane (Yamaha) followed in 7th position and the top ten behind Polen were completed by Piergiorgio Bontempi (Kawasaki) and Adrien Morillas (Yamaha). Ex-world champion Fred Merkel finished 11th with his Rumi Honda ahead of the Englishman Steve Hislop on Kawasaki.

Fred Merkel (Rumi Honda) – here a picture from happier days of the ex-world champion, who after 1988 was allowed to wear the number 1 on his Honda as a two-time world champion. The success stories of the likeable Sonnyboy from California became increasingly rare from 1991 onwards. In the 1992 season, he did not appear on a Yamaha until mid-season in Spielberg (© WorldSBK).

The second run
Doug Polen was able to strike back and won the second race with a lead of 3.83 seconds over Roche. Just behind the Frenchman, Aaron Slight achieved another podium on his Kawasaki. After the New Zealander had won the first race of the season and a podium at Hockenheim, he was on the podium for the third time in Malaysia. After Magny-Cours in the previous year, Fred Merkel finally had his first sense of achievement on a Yamaha, finishing fifth behind Falappa and ahead of fellow brand name Pirovano. Rob Phillis did not get past 8th place, which allowed Roche to overtake the Australian in the championship interim rankings. Before moving on to Japan, however, the two were still in close contact with World Championship leader Doug Polen.

Doug Polen (Team Police Ducati) came a good deal closer to defending his title at the races in Asia, after he had to give up the championship lead in the middle of the season. With the exception of race 1 in Jarama, however, he always finished in at least the top eight and in 1992 again a model of consistency (© WorldSBK).

The 9th World Championship round in Sugo

Just a week after Malaysia, the season continued in Japan before another two laps in Europe awaited the drivers. Sugo was on the calendar from the beginning and was also in the 5th year of the WSBK the host for the near-series world championship. Doug Polen celebrated his 5th of six double victories here last year and was particularly looking forward to the route southwest of the city of Sendai. In the first race, the US boy won by just over 2 seconds ahead of Kevin Magee (Yamaha). Pirovano was third just behind the Australian and Roche also had to admit defeat to local hero Shoichi Tsukamoto on Kawasaki. The top ten were completed by Aaron Slight, Keiichi Kitagawa (both Kawasaki), Stéphane Mertens (Ducati), Piergiorgio Bontempi and the American Mat Mladin (both Kawasaki). Rob Phillis did not get past 11th place, why he lost again important points in the World Cup.

The second run of Sugo
The world championship leader also won the second race and thus got the second double victory of the season. Again Magee came second behind him and this time Pirovano was on the podium. With Roche in 8th place and Phillis in 10th place, Doug Polen was of course able to significantly increase his World Championship lead. The Japanese Tsukamoto (P5) and Kitagawa in 7th place impressed again in the top ten.

Kevin Magee (Yamaha) ahead of Doug Polen (Ducati) – in Japan the two arrived at the finish twice in a row in reverse order. For the reigning world champion, the Australian was of course very helpful in the fight to defend his title, as he helped to significantly reduce their point yield (© WorldSBK).

The premiere in Assen

For the first time and fortunately not the last time for drivers and fans, the Superbike World Championship circus made a guest appearance in the “Cathedral of Speed”. A lot here is a little different than in the rest of Europe and if you have never been to a race in Assen, it’s your own fault. In any case, year for year we have never been able to wait when WorldSBK was there again. At least as long as it doesn’t come like in the 1st Corona year 2020, when in addition to the race in the Netherlands, Donington Park, Oschersleben and other events had to be called off.

The program for the new run in the Netherlands in autumn 1992 cost 5 guilders at the time, a little over 2 euros. In terms of entry price, the Superbike World Championship run was always one of the cheapest in the decades to come, with, for example, less than half of Imola and Misano in 2019.
Photographed during our visit in April 2018 – the circuit in the Netherlands is one of the most popular on the calendar for many spectators and drivers.

The first race in the Netherlands
Doug Polen arrived in Assen with a 26-point lead over his closest rival, Raymond Roche, and immediately followed suit on Sunday afternoon. However, it was once again a razor-thin decision about victory. Roche crossed the finish line just 0.22 seconds behind the American and Stéphane Mertens from neighboring Belgium was also within a second. Carl Fogarty took 4th place ahead of Rob Phillis, Piergiorgio Bontempi and Aaron Slight. The top ten were completed by Giancarlo Falappa, Fabrizio Pirovano and the French Adrien Morillas on a Yamaha.

The first two drivers on the podium after the first race in Assen, from the left the second placed Belgian Stéphane Mertens and as the winner Doug Polen (both Ducati). Only Raymond Roche in third place is missing from the picture on the right (© WorldSBK).

The second run in Assen
In the second race, the list of failed drivers in particular was more than impressive. No fewer than 16 of 35 pilots who started did not see the target. The round of failures started in the first round with the Italian Vittorio Scatola (Kawasaki) with a crash. One lap later it was the turn of New Zealander Simon Crafar (Kawasaki) and Swede Christer Lindholm on a Yamaha. In the third lap the race was over for the German Ernst Gschwender (Kawasaki) and Terry Rymer with a gearbox damage on his Ducati. Just one lap later, Stéphane Mertens got by with an oil leak on his Ducati. After the Austrian Karl Truchsess (Kawasaki), Doug Polen also had an engine failure on his Ducati 888. With eight laps to go, World Championship third placed Rob Phillis crashed on his Kawasaki. Falappa won the race by a little over 5 seconds ahead of Fogarty and Roche (all Ducati).

Raymond Roche (Ducati 888) – the world champion from 1990 made up a few points on Doug Polen in Assen, so the decision for the title could not be made before the penultimate round of Australia (© WorldSBK).

The last round of Europe in Monza

The eleventh of 13 rounds took place in the Royal Park of Monza for the second time since 1990 in WorldSBK history. The weather was rainy, sometimes with heavy rains, which made it especially difficult on the dangerous route in northern Italy. The qualifying was divided into two groups in 3 stages and the two runs with 16 laps each took place in the rain. In the first race, Raymond Roche fell on lap 6 and one lap later, Fred Merkel also crashed. Doug Poland was careful and contented himself with 10th place. Fabrizio Pirovano stood on top of the podium and Stéphane Mertens on his left with P2, and on the right the Australian Rob Phillis.

Fabrizio Pirovano (Yamaha FZR750R) on his victory run in Monza in 1990, when he took the double victory in his home country. Two years later he struck again at the same site under the most difficult conditions. His home town was right on the track, so there was hardly any lack of audience support for the Italian (© WorldSBK).

The second race of Monza and Pirovano’s finest hour
With his second one-two victory in the immediate vicinity of his home country after 1990, the local hero ensured that no other driver than he had won in Monza until then. Roche crossed the target a good 5 seconds behind him, while Piergiorgio Bontempi was already 16.397 behind his compatriot. Stéphane Mertens and Doug Polen followed closely behind, who scored exactly the same number of points as Roche on the Monza weekend.

A man on a mission – Doug Polen (right with the number 1 on Police Ducati). After Monza, the US-American was still 16 points ahead of Raymond Roche as World Championship leader (© WorldSBK).

The penultimate round in Australia

In the first race at Phillip Island, Kevin Magee retaliated to Doug Polen for his double defeat at Suzuka. The Australian won 9.26 seconds ahead of the American, but Roche’s performance was much more important for the World Championship leader at that moment. He had given up after 12 rounds, which he lost another 17 points in the World Cup intermediate ranking to the reigning world champion. Stéphane Mertens took third place ahead of Aaron Slight, Giancarlo Falappa and Rob Phillis. Fabrizio Pirovano, who was the best-ranked Yamaha rider in the World Championship, and who was fighting for 3rd place with the last two, lost important points to his opponents in 12th place. A young Australian named Troy Corser on a Yamaha crossed the finish line in 18th place and we should hear a lot from him in the near future.

Bass Strait – looking out to sea from below the Phillip Island stretch. Taken by us while attending a WorldSBK race many decades later.
The picture shown above was taken from the point on the right in the center of the picture, a gravel path leads around the Phillip Island circuit. In the foreground is the characteristic curve 2 of the incomparably spectacular course Down Under.

The second race down under
With his victory in the second run, Raymond Roche kept the world championships open. Doug Polen just missed the podium behind Magee and Slight. Even on the French winner he was only 1.63 seconds behind. With a 26 point lead over his opponent, however, the American was able to travel to Manfeild in New Zealand for the World Championship final with a comfortable cushion.

Kevin Magee
Kevin Magee, the winner of the 1st round at Phillip Island (© Yamaha).

The fight for 3rd place in the World Championship is still completely open
Also for 3rd place it promised to be exciting in the 13th and last lap. Phillis was only ninth behind P5 placed Mat Mladin, Pirovano, Bontempi and his compatriot Michael O’Connor (Honda). With this he was in 3rd place in the World Championship, just 7 points ahead of Falappa and their 10th on Pirovano. Troy Corser got his first 2 championship points with 14th place for his team Peter Jackson Yamaha Racing, it shouldn’t be his last WorldSBK points of his career. His team mate Scott Doohan, the brother of the 500cc pilot Mick, even made it to P10. Below is the list of results from run 2.

The decision for the world title in Manfeild

Stéphane Mertens experienced the World Cup final injured as a spectator when it was the third time since 1988 and 1989 that the World Superbike Championship was decided on the Manfeild track in New Zealand. Even in the first run, Doug Polen left nothing behind and on his Ducati 888 clinched a discussion-free victory 5.2 seconds ahead of Aaron Slight. Roche arrived 7.51 seconds behind the winner, making the US boy the world champion for the second time in a row. The Frenchman was already certain of the second runner-up in a row. Giancarlo Falappa retired on lap 22 of 33 with a broken gear lever. The Italian had to stand by and watch as Rob Phillis took fourth place on his Kawasaki in front of Yamaha rider Fabrizio Pirovano. The Ducati rider’s chance of third place in the World Championship and a triple victory for his employer was over, but the manufacturer’s title was already certain for the brand from Borgo Panigale near Bologna in Italy.

Doug Polen (Ducati 888) – with his second world title in a row, the American made a name for himself in the history books of motorcycle racing. At the same time he managed the feat of becoming vice-champion in the AMA Superbike Championship, Chapeau! Polen renounced the defense of its second title in 1993 and stayed in the USA, where it instead won the national championship title (© WorldSBK).

The second race in Manfeild – the last race for Raymond Roche
The French decided to resign after run 2 and should stay with the WSBK for some time afterwards. Behind Falappa, Polen and Slight, the WSBK’s most successful Frenchman for decades, or perhaps even forever, narrowly missed the podium. 3rd place in the World Championship went to Australian Rob Phillis after 7th place behind Pirovano and Merkel. Scott Doohan finished eighth in this race and his brother Mick would take the first 500cc world title of five in a row two years later. In addition to the Spaniard Daniel Amatriain (Ducati) with P9, the Swede Christer Lindholm also scored World Championship points in the last race of the season with 13th place.

Doug Polen (Ducati) – the overall winner of the last lap in Manfeild and after his compatriot Fred Merkel second two-time world champion of the still young Superbike World Championship (© WorldSBK).
Raymond Roche (Ducati) – the little French competed for the title until the last lap and won 6 races in his last superbike season as runner-up in the World Championship (© WorldSBK).
Giancarlo Falappa (Ducati) – two years after his terrible crash on the Österreich-Ring with 27 broken bones, he was victorious again and fought for third place in the World Championship (© WorldSBK).

The achievements of a young Australian and the continuation of his career
In Manfeild, Troy Corser achieved his first top ten results in the Superbike World Championship in both races with 10th place. The young “Aussie” then concentrated on the Australian Superbike Championship in the 1993 season, which he won. In the following year he was to become the first non-American to win the AMA Superbike title and to compete in several world championship races. He was only supposed to join the WSBK as a regular driver in 1995, but for a period that would be unparalleled for a very, very long time. At the time this article was written (November 2020), Corser was still the superbike rider with by far the highest number of world championship races that he had contested in his career.

The winning and world champion team from 1992 with drivers Giancarlo Falappa and Doug Polen. The likeable American made himself immortal as a two-time Superbike World Champion and athlete. He was a star you could touch, and at events in Europe it wasn’t too bad to take a lot of time for the fans (© WorldSBK).

Ranking list of the Superbike World Championship 1992 – P1 to 42

Rank 43 to 75

Constructors ranking WorldSBK 1992

The 1993 season: