Colin Edwards in front of Yasutomo Nagai – the 1995 Yamaha spearheads in Laguna Seca. After the fatal accident of the Japanese in Assen (see this year’s report), the Yamaha works team withdrew from the World Cup. The following year they returned with the American and Wataru Yoshikawa in 1996 (© WorldSBK).

1996: The first half of the 9th WorldSBK Championship season

This time the season started in mid-April on the Adriatic coast at the Autodromo di Santamonica near Misano. There were no new routes in the calendar, all of which had been the venue for the WorldSBK in previous years. Once again, two events each took place in Italy and England. With Donington, Hockenheim and Sugo there were still three tracks that had been there since the premiere in 1988. After 1993 Brno was back in the Czech Republic, but for the first time there was no Austrian run in the program. Compared to 1995, this was the only change in terms of the venues.

The entry list of year-round participants for 1996

The two-time world champion Carl Fogarty had switched from Ducati to Honda in the new year. In his place, the Italian works team signed the American John Kocinski. For this purpose, the Englishman Neil Hodgson was brought in instead of compatriot Mauro Lucchiari, who competed in WorldSSP this year. Yamaha returned after the tragic accident of Yasutomo Nagai from Japan in Assen with a fatal outcome for the young rider with Colin Edwards and the new Japanese Wataru Yoshikawa. Vice world champion Troy Corser remained loyal to his promoter Power Horse Racing Team. Just like the World Cup third Aaron Slight, who now got Foggy as a teammate. After 8 years of participation in the World Championship since the beginning, Fabrizio Pirovano was no longer there. Last year, the Italian was the last top driver to have driven since 1988.

Colin Edwards (Yamaha YZF750) – still number 45 on his Yamaha in his second WorldSBK year. Some time later he should switch to a lower number (© WorldSBK).

Season start in Misano

For the first time in three years, the 12-round season started again in April and the weather was kind to the main players. In addition, the course of the opening race meant well with the viewers, who mainly came from the host country. The Tifosi were able to enjoy a triple triumph of their local brand. With John Kocinski 11.061 seconds ahead of Troy Corser and a good 3 seconds behind local hero Pierfrancesco Chili, three Ducati pilots were cheered on the podium. There was also a new WorldSBK race winner with the American.

Our photo of turn 10, called Tramonto, and the right bend in the picture to the right, which drivers know today as Turn 9 when braking. At that time, however, it was driven counterclockwise and the pilots approached Turn 10 from the rear right at full throttle.

The other placements
The two Muzzy Kawasakis of Simon Crafar and Anthony Gobert followed in 4th and 5th place, followed by the best Honda with Aaron Slight in front of his new teammate Carl Fogarty. The top ten were completed by the Swede Christer Lindholm (Ducati), Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha) and Piergiorgio Bontempi in a Kawasaki. Colin Edwards only managed 11th place on the factory Yamaha, ahead of Neil Hodgson and his compatriot Mike Hale (both Ducati).

John Kocinski (Ducati) – the winner of the opening race in Misano came from the motorcycle world championship. In 1990, he was 250cc world champion and in the 500cc class in 1992 and 1994 world championship third (© WorldSBK).

The second race at the Autodromo di Santamonica
The second run was almost a copy of the first, at least as far as classification was concerned. Again John Kocinski won ahead of Troy Corser and Pierfrancesco Chili, but this time the second-placed only lost 1.031 seconds to the winner. The audience cheers were limited this time because Anthony Gobert, a Kawasaki rider, was the first to cross the finish line. However, he was subsequently disqualified due to an illegal carburetor. His team-mate Crafar finished fourth, followed by Slight again beating his new Castrol Honda team-mate Fogarty. Colin Edwards came in 7th ahead of fellow countryman Mike Hale, Christer Lindholm, Giorgio Bontempi and Yoshikawa.

John Kocinski (Ducati Corse) – the American made a flawless debut in the Ducati factory team with a double victory after the disqualification of the Australian Gobert in the second race (© WorldSBK).
Pierfrancesco “Frankie” Chili (Ducati) – not far from his home in Rimini, he could have come for a walk and was on the podium both times in front of a home crowd. The lifeguard from the well-known city in the Adriatic was just at the beginning of an impressive career (© WorldSBK).

World Championship Round 2 at Donington Park

After finishing second in the first race a year ago, Troy Corser made it onto the top podium this time. The Australian won with a comfortable gap of 5.27 seconds on Simon Crafar and 3rd place went to his Muzzy Kawasaki team-mate Anthony Gobert. Pierfrancesco Chili finished fourth on the second best Ducati ahead of Aaron Slight as again the best Honda rider. 5th place went to Colin Edwards (Yamaha) in front of Ducati ace John Kocinski and a disappointed Carl Fogarty. The reigning world champion was only a shadow of himself on the Castrol Honda compared to the two previous years. Wataru Yoshikawa was ninth ahead of Piergiorgio Bontempi and Paolo Casoli on the fourth-best Ducati. With the Englishman Kirk McCarthy this time a Suzuki driver made it into the points with P13.

A perplexed Carl Fogarty in the Castrol Honda box – after an absolutely dominant 1995 season, the English superstar stumbled after Misano in Donington and had not even made it into the top 5 by then (© WorldSBK).

The second run of Donington
This time, Aaron Slight made it anything but easy for the first race winner. The fight with Troy Corser lasted until the very last round and in the end the Kiwi lost to the Australian by a tiny 6.9 tenths. The podium was again completed by Kawasaki rider Anthony Gobert. Behind them, Edwards, Chili, Kocinski and Fogarty arrived at the finish. The Swede Lindholm came in eighth ahead of Casoli and the Englishman Jamie Whitham on a Yamaha, an old friend from earlier years. After the first two of 12 rounds, Corser was in the lead in the intermediate championship ranking, but of course that didn’t mean anything at that point.

The program for the second round of the Donington Park World Championship at the price of £4 at the time naturally contained the reigning world champion on the front page with the number 1 on his new bike. But the Foggy fans were bitterly disappointed in the first of two races, just like their idol. After his 2 world titles on the red Bike everyone wondered why he had switched back to Honda. It was probably just the dear money that played a role. In retrospect, the Englishman would have preferred to become world champion on Ducati for the third time for less.
Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda) – The fast man from New Zealand was the fastest Honda driver after Misano in Donington, which was particularly painful for his team-mate Fogarty in his home country (© WorldSBK).
For the Australian Troy Corser on the private Power Horse Ducati 916 from the promoter team it was in Donington in his 2nd year as a regular driver in the WorldSBK the victories number 5 and 6 of his career For the Australian Troy Corser on the private Power Horse Ducati 916 from the promoter Team it was in Donington in his 2nd year as a regular driver in the WorldSBK the victories number 5 and 6 of his career.

Championship round 3 on the Hockenheimring

By switching from Carl Fogarty to Honda, the world championship had become much more open this time than in the previous year. In Hockenheim, the Englishman had his first double victory last year at the World Cup opener. But this time he was on a Honda and obviously this bike was anything but tailored to him. A total of 5 riders did not even start on Sunday, two of them because of their destroyed bikes. Yamaha works driver Wataru Yoshikawa, John Reynolds (Suzuki) and Neil Hodgson (Ducati) also had to pass with an injury.

A full program on the race weekend in Baden-Württemberg and everyone wondered whether the 200 km / h average speed would fall this weekend. Below are the records of the various Grand Prix categories and WorldSBK that were valid until then.
The Australian Mick Doohan had already cracked the magic mark in the 500cc class. In 1988 in his hometown on the Oran Park track, he himself was a two-time winner in the first year of the Superbike World Championship.

The first run in Hockenheim
After the start of the first race, Pierfrancesco Chili took the lead. Behind them, Aaron Slight and Troy Corser were scrambling for places. Behind them, newcomer John Kocinski also tried to catch up with the two, but never really got close to the leading group. With two laps to go, the Corser, who was in P3, was only just able to prevent a highsider, but fell into the grass in the long right-hand bend and flew off, which ended his race. It got dramatic after entering the Motodrom when Chili and Slight argued about the lead and the Honda driver saw a gap to pierce inside. However, the Italian touched the Kiwi in the last left turn and fell as a result. Slight won ahead of Kocinski and Colin Edwards inherited 3rd place ahead of Simon Crafar (Kawasaki), Carl Fogarty and Anthony Gobert (Kawasaki). Local hero Jochen Schmid achieved a top ten result behind Paolo Casoli and Christer Lindholm (both) with 9th place on his Kawasaki.

On the back of the program booklet from the German event was advertising for the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring on July 5-7, 1996.
Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda) – he won the first race in Hockenheim and was supposed to leave Germany as the overall winner (© WorldSBK).

The second race at the Hockenheimring
This time Foggy got away from the start best, but in turn 1 Chili passed the Englishman on the outside and on the first long straight Paolo Casoli on his Ducati overtook the world champion from the slipstream. A heated battle for positions broke out behind Chili. Shortly after he had fought his way up to 3rd place, there was contact with Muzzy Kawasaki’s team-mate Crafar. Gobert’s take-off was violent after falling off the track, but luckily he wasn’t injured. Shortly afterwards, Troy Corser crashed his Power Horse Ducati for the second time on the same day. Aaron Slight drove on his Honda RVF750 RC45 in 4th to a new lap record with 2:01.590 and an average of an incredible 201.095 km / h.

The magical 200 km / h sound limit fell in the first race by Aaron Slight on the Castrol Honda, with a new lap record. However, the winner was his teammate Carl Fogarty.

Dramatic finale on the high-speed course
The top group consisted of Kocinski, Slight, Chili and Fogarty in the final laps. Casoli had lost touch and the four foremost pilots drove partly side by side to tackle the chicanes. With 3 laps to go, the unlucky chili had to roll out, the Italian had to complain about ignition damage on his Ducati. On the last lap there was a neck and neck race between the two Honda teammates, in which Foggy was the first to enter the Motodrom. Slight tried again inside the last left turn, but the man with the number 1 on his Honda didn’t offer him a gap like Chili did in the first race. So it came to the first win of the season for the reigning world champion before Slight, Kocinski, Crafar, Edwards, Casoli and Lindholm. The first ten were completed by the Americans Mike Hale (Ducati), Kirk McCarthy (AUS, Suzuki) and the Swiss Roger Kellenberger on a Honda.

Carl Fogarty on Castrol Honda – the start of the season was a real disaster for the two-time reigning world champion after switching from the Ducati 916 R. In Hockenheim, the Englishman achieved his first redeeming victory in the sixth race of the season (© WorldSBK).

The second Italy event with World Championship round 4

After the high-speed circuit in Baden-Württemberg, Monza went on the next high-speed route. In the first race, the stable duel between the two Castrol Honda drivers Fogarty and Slight was repeated. John Kocinski, on the other hand, flew on his Ducati on the first lap. His example was followed by 6 other riders, including Rob Phillis, Anthony Gobert (both Kawasaki) and the two local heroes Piergiorgio Bontempi (Kawasaki) and Paolo Casoli (Ducati). Over time a top group of five had formed, which included Chili, Corser, Foggy, Slight and Edwards. In the end, the 5 brawlers were only 1.051 seconds apart at the finish. Fogarty was ahead of Slight and Edwards, while Chili had to be content with P4 in front of Corser. Sixth place went to Neil Hodgson (Ducati) with a little over 11 seconds ahead of Jamie Whitham (Yamaha), McCarthy (Suzuki), Crafar (Kawasaki) and Lindholm (Ducati).

Carl Fogarty (Castrol Honda) in front of Pierfrancesco Chili and Troy Corser (both Ducati) – Since his first win of the season in the second race at Hockenheim, things have been on the up again for the reigning world champion, and he immediately doubled in northern Italy (© WorldSBK).
For Foggy it was already his 37th career victory and with this brand he had long been the sole record holder in the history of WorldSBK. The English would remain so for a long time.

The second run of Monza
In the second race on Sunday afternoon, the same five riders were in front again as at noon, but this time Colin Edwards on his Yamaha couldn’t quite keep up with the pace of the top four. This time the first 4 would have fit under a sheet when they crossed the finish line. This time the local hero had the nose in front, while Slight was able to stay ahead of Foggy and Corser was again last of the leading group. Behind Edwards, Whitham followed on the second best Yamaha in front of the two Suzuki riders Reynolds and McCarthy. Neil Hodgson and Anthony Gobert completed the top ten ahead of the Austrian Andy Meklau (Ducati). After the first third and 4 rounds, Aaron Slight was in the lead with 137 points in the intermediate championship ranking ahead of Corser (114), Fogarty (113), Kocinski (105), Chili (94) and Edwards (91).

Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati) – the winner of the second race in Monza in 1996. After a catastrophic weekend at the Hockenheimring and fourth place in the first race, the triumph in the afternoon brought redemption with his second victory of his career. The lifeguard from Rimini had already won the 2nd race in the royal park of Monza last year (© WorldSBK).
Simon Crafar (Kawasaki ZXR-750) – after a strong start to the season with 5 top four results, the compatriot of Kiwi Aaron Slight had to accept a severe setback with rank 9 in the 1st race and a fall in the second race (© WorldSBK).

The 5th round of the World Championship in Brno

In the Czech Republic, it continued two weeks later on the Masaryk Ring near Brno. The first and so far only guest appearance of the Superbike World Championship took place 3 years ago in mid-July and on June 30, 1996, the 2nd edition took place here. The first race fell to Troy Corser, who saw the checkered flag 10.2 seconds ahead of Carl Fogarty. Third place went to Aaron Slight in front of the two Johns, Kocinski and Reynolds, followed by the Americans Colin Edwards and Mike Hale. Pierfrancesco Chili finished seventh ahead of Wataru Yoshikawa and Simon Crafar. Quite a number of drivers did not see the finish line, including Anthony Gobert (Kawasaki) who fell on the first lap.

Troy Corser (Promotor Power Horse Ducati) – The Australian, who was only 24 in the summer of 1996, started to regain his top form after initially leading the World Championship and then having lost twice at the Hockenheimring (© WorldSBK).
John Reynolds (Suzuki GSX-R750) – after the Canadian Gary Goodfellow in 1988, a Suzuki driver finally fought for the top spots with the British. In the first race in Brno he was able to beat a number of top drivers (© WorldSBK).

The second race on the Masaryk-Ring
After his double victory in Donington, everything went well again for the Australian vice world champion in the Czech Republic. The podium from race two was almost a copy of the first race, but this time Corser won ahead of Slight and Fogarty. The Kiwi had already crossed the finish line in seven of the first 10 races of the season ahead of his Castrol Honda team-mate and reigning world champion. 4th place went to Ducati rider Neil Hodgson in front of his brand colleagues Mike Hale and John Kocinski. Yamaha rider Colin Edwards saw the checkered flag in seventh ahead of John Reynolds (Suzuki), Simon Crafar (Kawasaki) and Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati). The World Cup was still led by Slight ahead of Corser and Foggy.

The program for the World Cup in Brno cost 30 Czech crowns at the time, and for this money you could get a good dinner in the Czech Republic at that time.
Mike Hale (Promoter Power Horse Ducati) – With ranks 7 and 5, the 23-year-old US boy achieved the best result of the season so far on the Ducati 916. Before that, he had already achieved two eighth places in Misano and Hockenheim (© WorldSBK).
After the double victory in Hockenheim, the next one for Troy Corser followed in Brno, triumphs number 7 and 8 in the career of the young Australian. Meanwhile, the promoter Ducati Pilot had already won four times, while Kocinski and the reigning world champion had only achieved two victories each.

The 6th round of the World Championship in Laguna Seca

Troy Corser had fond memories of the United States. In the 1994 season he was the first foreigner to become AMA Superbike champion and last year he took second place and the second win of the season on the track near Mosport near the Pacific coast. This time local hero John Kocinski stood in front of the sun in the first race. The US boy had a nose in front of the Australian by 0.117 seconds at the finish. Neil Hodgson made third place for a triple triumph for Ducati. Fourth place went to the best Yamaha with Colin Edwards, followed by Slight and Mike Hale. Behind them, Simon Crafar on the best Kawasaki, Carl Fogarty, Wataru Yoshikawa and the Australian Kirk McCarthy on Suzuki crossed the finish line.

After the start in Laguna Seca, the three Ducatis from Corser (number 2), Kocinski (11) and Hodgson (9) were already in the lead. Behind them with number 4 Anthony Gobert, who crashed on lap 14 at half of the race, and Doug Chandler (both Kawasaki), who gave up on lap 11 with braking problems. With the 45 behind Colin Edwards on the Yamaha and Simon Crafar (Kawasaki, No. 4), as well as the Japanese Yoshikawa with the 5 (© WorldSBK).
It was the third win of the season after the double triumph in the home of his Italian team for the American in his first WorldSBK season. Only Troy Corser had won once more than the Ducati factory rider.

The second run in California
This time too, Corser found his conqueror in the second race. It was Anthony Gobert who saw the checkered flag on his Kawasaki with just under 5 seconds ahead of the Ducati driver. Slight took P3 and once again left Foggy in fourth place. Simon Crafar took 5th place ahead of his Kawasaki brand colleague Doug Chandler, Pierfrancesco Chili (Ducati), Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha), Neil Hodgson and Mike Hale (both Ducati). Kocinski had to be content with 12th place this time and Colin Edwards was eliminated by a crash, as was the strong Canadian Miguel Duhamel (Honda). In total, only 18 drivers saw the checkered flag in the second run, which was very little for the conditions at the time.

Anthony Gobert (Muzzy Kawasaki) – the winner of the first race. Without his 5 failures and the disqualification in the second run at Monza, the Australian would definitely have been able to fight for the world title. Unfortunately, the likeable driver from Down Under did not have a grip on his later life after his racing career and totally crashed (© WorldSBK).
Kawasaki hope Anthony Gobert had won his first victory on the ZX-7RR, before that he had already won twice in his home country on the ZXR-750 and once on the Californian track in 1995, where he now had a second success. Behind the American, he was, together with his Australian compatriot Rob Phillis, the second most successful driver of the Greens, with 4 wins each.

Half of the season with a completely open World Cup situation
In contrast to the previous year, the situation with regard to the World Cup in the 1996 season was still completely open at halftime. The new leader was Troy Corser with 204 points ahead of Aaron Slight (200), the reigning world champion Carl Fogarty (170), John Kocinski (157), Colin Edwards (123), Pierfrancesco Chili (117) and Simon Crafar as the best-classified Kawasaki driver (112). The next stop two weeks after Laguna Seca was the Brands Hatch track, the second English World Championship round of the season after the two races in Donington at the end of April.

John Kocinski (Ducati Corse) – the winner of the first race in Laguna Seca was quite impressive in his first season in the Superbike World Championship (© WorldSBK).

Second half of the year: coming soon..