Doug Polen on the private “Fast by Ferracci” Ducati 888 – the US boy drove the entire world elite on tracks that were (at least most of them) completely new to him (© WorldSBK).

The second half of the 1991 season – year 4 of the WorldSBK

Doug Polen traveled to Japan as World Championship leader. The American had won all the 12 races in which they had competed in the first half of the season with the team from his country, with two exceptions, and had finished second once. The race in Mosport (Canada) was boycotted by all the top drivers and should be removed from the calendar the following year. Below is the intermediate result of the World Cup after 7 of 13 rounds from 1991.

The reigning world champion Raymond Roche was already 110 points behind Polen only in fourth place. Fabrizio Pirovano, vice world champion in 1990, like Stéphane Mertens, had already lost more than 100 points to the Ducati privateer from the USA. Only the Australian Rob Phillis was in second place with 56 points less than Doug Polen before it continued in Sugo on August 25th.

Sugo (Japan) – the high-flyer struck again

Driving clockwise, the Sugo course was 3.737 km (2.322 miles) and, like Shah Alam, had a rather strange layout. This course was never an option for the motorcycle world championship, the Grand Prix races took place in Suzuka from 1963 and then in Fuji, then after a long break from 1987 in Suzuka and after the fatal accident of the Japanese Kato only in Motegi.
The Superbike World Championship has been a permanent guest in Suzuka for many years since it began in 1988. Not everything was really readable for Europeans without an in-depth knowledge of Japanese, as this example from 1991 shows. As early as 1989, Doug Polen won the first run on a Suzuki in a wildcard detour at this site. It was not until 1990 that Raymond Roche became the first European to win the first race in the third edition of the first race.

A well-known route for the World Championship leader
On one of the few tracks that he already knew from his work as a guest starter in 1989, Doug Polen again had no mercy on his opponents in Sugo. This time the Europeans in Japan almost went under again. The best of them was, unsurprisingly, reigning world champion Raymond Roche on the factory Ducati in the first race on P6 ahead of Fabrizio Pirovano (Yamaha). World Championship leader Polen won the first run ahead of Australian Rob Phillis and New Zealander Aaron Slight (both Kawasaki). 4th place went to the Australian Peter Goddard ahead of his compatriot Kevin Magee (both Yamaha). With rank 8 for the American Scott Russell on Kawasaki, you saw a face that was already familiar from the 4th round of the World Cup in Brainerd (USA). He had already impressed behind Polen in his home race with two second places. The Belgian Mertens fell in the first race and did not see the checkered flag like another 10 pilots.

Raymond Roche on the brand-new factory Ducati 888 – the 1990 world champion was far too often not the brand’s best rider. The private drivers Doug Polen (Fast by Ferracci, USA) and Stéphane Mertens (Total Wanty Mertens Racing) were mostly in front of the sun in the 1991 season (© WorldSBK).

The second race in Suzuka
This time Doug Polen won 6 seconds ahead of Roche and Kevin Magee was the only Australian to make it onto the podium in the second attempt. Aaron Slight landed on P4 this time in front of Scott Russell (both Kawasaki), Niall Mackenzie and Fabrizio Pirovano (both Yamaha). As in Anderstorp (Sweden) in the previous lap, the best Honda driver was Carl Fogarty in front of his fellow brand colleague and two-time world champion in 1988 and 1989, Fred Merkel. Davide Tardozzi completed the top ten in front of his compatriot Giancarlo Falappa (both Ducati). They were followed by Ryuji Tsuruta and Kiyokazu Tada, the two fastest Japanese riders, both on Kawasaki. Quite a number of drivers did not see the checkered flag in the second run either, there were six of them in total and five of them had also skipped the start. Stéphane Mertens was one of the dropout victims, this time due to an engine failure on his privately used Ducati. The most prominent fallen pilots were Peter Goddard and Udo Mark.

Doug Polen (“Fast by Ferracci” Ducati 851) – Sugo’s triumphant in both races. After his victory in 1989 in the first run on Suzuki, the US boy won the double on the Ferracci-Ducati this time (© WorldSBK).

World Championship round 9 – for the second time in Malaysia

Driving clockwise, the Shah Alam course had a rather strange layout and was only 3.505 km (2.178 miles) long. In 2003 the track was demolished and today houses stand on this spot.

The second edition after the premiere a year before
After the first edition in 1990, Shah Alam hosted a come back for WorldSBK. In the first year Fabrizio Pirovano was able to record a double victory with the Yamaha FZR-750R. It should remain the only track on the 1991 calendar on which Championship leader Doug Polen did not win at least one race. It was also the first time that the US boy did not make it onto the podium in at least one of the two runs. The reigning world champion Raymond Roche without a win this season even redeemed himself and the Ducati works team with a double victory.

It’s almost unbelievable, but fourth place in race 15 was, except for an engine failure at Donington, Doug’s worst result of the season so far (© Termignoni).

Result of the first race:

Doug Polen set the fastest lap in the third, but ended up just behind the podium. Mick Doohan’s brother finished the race on Yamaha just outside the points in 17th place.

Result of the second race:

The 2nd round of Malaysia brought Doug Polen’s worst finish with 5th place in his outstanding rookie season in the Superbike World Championship. Terry Rymer stopped with a gearbox failure and Giancarlo Falappa with engine problems, while Rob Phillis had a problem with the front fork. Stéphane Mertens was on the podium for the first time after the 6th round of the World Cup in Spielberg (Styria / Austria).

The 10th Championship round on the HockenheimRing

Only 4 tracks left since the premiere year in 1988
Hockenheim was one of the few tracks that were still on the calendar in the fourth year of the Superbike World Championship. The others were Donington, the Austria Ring and the Japanese racetrack of Sugo. The reigning world champion and his strong challenger shared the victories in the two races. Roche’s record lap in the second run with an average of over 196 km/h (121.797 miles) underscores how dangerous the Hockenheimring had become. Only after the shortening in 2002 did the route in Baden-Württemberg, south of Mannheim, become safer.

Raymond Roche (Ducati 888) ahead of Rob Phillis (Kawasaki ZXR750) – the two of them fought primarily for the vice world title from the German race onwards. Doug Polen’s lead over the two was already more than 100 points after Hockenheim (© WorldSBK).

Result of the first race:

Podium after the 1st race with from left Raymond Roche (P3), serial winner Doug Polen and Davide Tardozzi (all on Ducati) – after the second race the order and composition on the podium should change slightly (© WorldSBK).

Result of the second race:

Premiere on the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours

On the western edge of Burgundy, around 200 km south of Paris, Magny-Cours was held for the first time in the World Superbike Championship. Since then, the racetrack near the small town of Nevers has been an integral part of the calendar. At the premiere, the two Americans Polen and Merkel showed themselves to be in good shape this time. Local hero Roche had his hands full keeping at least the ex-world champion of the first two WSBK years in check. For the Honda driver Merkel, the first podium of the season should also be the last for a long time. Rob Phillis on the best Kawasaki took fourth place in the first race ahead of Terry Rymer (Yamaha), Carl Fogarty (Honda) and Stéphane Mertens (Ducati). Besides Giangarlo Falappa, his compatriot Fabrizio Pirovano did not finish the race either. The throttle cable of his Yamaha FZR-750R broke after one lap.

Doug Polen (Fast by Ferracci Ducati) – after the first race in Nevers, it was done: Superbike World Champion Title of 1991! (© WorldSBK).
From left Carl Fogarty (Honda), the new world champion Doug Polen (Ducati) and Stéphane Mertens on a Ducati 851, who was a privateer as well, like the US boy at his side (© WorldSBK).

The 2nd race in Magny-Cours
After Doug Polen was the new Superbike World Champion of 1991 after the first run, he rode free from all pressure. There were only 100 points left in the last 5 races and the American was already 110 points ahead of Roche and Phillis tied on points. The way the new World Champion celebrated his title was simply sensational. Doug Polen crossed the finish line not less than 27.54 seconds ahead of Raymond Roche in race two. Third place went to Belgian Mertens, ahead of Terry Rymer, Phillis, Pirovano, Fogarty and Falappa. The Swiss Edwin Weibel achieved a top ten result with rank 9, ahead of Fred Merkel.

The new Superbike World Champion 1991 – Doug Polen on the private “Fast by Ferracci” Ducati of the brilliant tuner Eraldo Ferracci, who emigrated from his home country Italy as a young man. With his rider from his new home USA, his team dominated the World Cup like no one before and thus embarrassed the Ducati works team (© WorldSBK).

The penultimate Championship round in Mugello

For the first time in the 4th year of the Superbike World Championship, a second race took place in Italy. After the premiere of Misano, the penultimate round followed in Mugello in autumn. On October 6th, the new world champion drove home his 16th win of the season. It would take a long time for another driver to succeed in such a series. With Jonathan Rea from Northern Ireland on Kawasaki, history had to wait a long time before he would manage this feat in the 2018 season. But back to the WSBK premiere in the beautiful area around 50 km north of Florence in the Apennines. Raymond Roche had to be content with second place ahead of Stéphane Mertens on the third-best Ducati. The Australian Rob Phillis, who was fighting for the runner-up title with the French, had bad luck. The Kawasaki driver qualified without any problems in P8, but had to forego a start in the race due to an injury.

Fabrizio Pirovano (Yamaha) – Vice World Champion from 1988 and 1991, he was also the best Yamaha rider for the fourth year in a row of the Superbike World Championship (© WorldSBK).

Run two from Mugello
In the home of his team, Raymond Roche took revenge in the second race and won ahead of Polen and Terry Rymer, who took his third podium of the season with P3. Piergiorgio Bontempi finished fourth on Kawasaki, who thus crowned his previously less successful season. The Dutchman Jeffrey de Vries finished fifth and for him, it was also the best result of the year, although he had a much more consistent season behind him, with at least four additional top ten results. Numerous drivers did not see the finish in the last race in Europe, including Fred Merkel, after a crash on lap 4 Stéphane Mertens, Carl Fogarty and local hero Giancarlo Falappa with a defective fuel pump.

The Ducati works team with Raymond Roche (left) and Giancarlo Falappa was badly beaten the year after winning their first title in 1990. Fortunately for the Reds, it was a team led by an Italian who had emigrated from the USA on their bikes that dominated the 1991 World Championships with Doug Polen, as never before in the Superbike World Championship (© WorldSBK).

The season finale in Phillip Island

When the WorldSBK was here in 1991, the stars of the near-series World Championship drove Down Under on the track south of Melbourne for only the second time. Due to the high travel costs, of course, only a few Europeans were there, but they must all have been enthusiastic about the racetrack directly by the sea. Unsurprisingly, the Ducati factory team saved themselves the trip. Raymond Roche already had second place after Bob Phillis ‘injury and the manufacturers’ title was already won, particularly by the US-American and his private team “Fast by Ferracci” from the USA for the Reds.

The route overlooking Bass Strait in Phillip Island in the Australian state of Victoria, near Melbourne, offers something for every visitor. We forgive the hosts that we were usually less enthusiastic about the food, as well as the rather high prices on site.

The first race – with a wafer-thin decision
With Kevin Magee, a local pilot won the first run a blink of an eye before the new world champion. The Australian crossed the finish line on his Yamaha the trifle of 5 hundredths ahead of Doug Polen on the Ducati 888 and just 0.13 seconds behind the winner, Aaron Slight on a Kawasaki was waved off. The Kiwi was to play a formative role in WorldSBK just like Carl Fogarty over the next few years. Rob Phillis, who had recovered after his fall in Mugello, saw the checkered flag just under 10 seconds behind Stéphane Mertens as the best European on his private Ducati 851.

Eraldo Ferracci (right in the picture) had a good feel for the right drivers, as his success with Doug Polen in the WSBK clearly demonstrated. With Troy Corser as the first non-American rider, the Italian who emigrated to the USA in the late 1960s also won the AMA Superbike Championship three years later (© WorldSBK).

The last run of the 1991 season
Doug Polen clearly underlined who was the best rider in the 1991 Superbike World Championship in the second race at Phillip Island. In another razor-thin decision, he was ahead of Kevin Magee by 0.23 seconds this time. Rob Phillis crossed the target with a respectable deficit of a little over 14 seconds on the winner, but at least a conciliatory end of the season and world championship rank 3 was more than impressive for the Australian on his Kawasaki. Australian Scott Doohan (the brother of 500cc world champion Mick) on Yamaha secured fifth place behind Malcolm Campbell (Honda) after finishing seventh in the first race. Behind them, Stéphane Mertens saw the checkered flag as the best European with 6th place. All the remaining classified drivers came from New Zealand or Australia.

Phillip Island – our photo from the coast of Cowes in Feb-2020, the overnight location of our station at the WorldSBK Event 2020, before the corona pandemic completely overturned the entire season planning of MotoGP and WSBK.

Ranking list of the Superbike World Championship 1991 – P1 to 40

Rank 41 to 77

Rank 78 to 95

WSBK manufacturer Championship 1991

Doug Polen (USA) – the best Superbike rider in the world in 1991. He should return the following year to pursue the defense of his world title.

Next Season 1992: