How do the top AMA Superbike riders stack up against their World Superbike counterparts?
By now, those of you who are interested, know that two AMA Superbike riders, Anthony Gobert and Ben Bostrom, split wins at the Laguna Seca round of the World Superbike series on July 11, 1999. That’s right, the World Superbike riders were all beaten and beaten rather soundly, by two AMA Superbike regulars.
I know what some of you are thinking, Laguna Seca is a “local” track well known by the AMA riders, who therefore have a distinct advantage when the World Superbikers come to town once a year. It’s also true that the Japanese Superbike riders tend to do well when the World Superbike riders visit the Suzuka circuit once a year.
But there’s more going on here than this superficial analysis reveals. The AMA Superbike series is strong — very strong. Its top riders are arguably as good as the top World Superbike riders. Let’s look at some of the simple facts.
Which series has more former 500 Grand Prix riders? Why, the AMA Superbike series, of course. Four former 500 Grand Prix riders currently ride in the AMA Superbike series, including Miguel Duhamel, Doug Chandler, Anthony Gobert, and Mat Mladin. Most of the top World Superbike riders have never competed in 500 Grand Prix. Not Carl Fogarty. Not Collin Edwards. Not Aaron Slight. Not Frankie Chili.
Troy Corser’s foray into Grand Prix racing was a disaster. It may not have been Corser’s fault, but it was clearly a disaster nonetheless. He was not successful at all, and could not come to terms with the 500 cc two stroke he was assigned to ride.
While the AMA riders did not meet with success in 500 Grand Prix, either (this is probably why they are back riding superbikes — isn’t it?), they certainly didn’t do any worse than Troy Corser did.
AMA riders also routinely place well at the World Superbike round held at Laguna Seca even though a number of the top AMA riders do not participate (in the AMA – optional event). This year, as I have already stated, AMA riders won both races at the Laguna Seca World event. This is despite the fact that three of the fastest AMA riders (Doug Chandler, Mat Mladin and Miguel Duhamel) did not participate this year.
The AMA Superbike series also has a strong tradition of producing world championship riders. Who are some of the riders who got their start in AMA Superbike racing? How about world champions Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Eddie Lawson, Scott Russell and Troy Corser (who is Australian, but won the AMA Superbike title before going to the World championships).
Arguably, Carl Fogarty, who has won three World Superbike championships and is currently running away with the World Superbike championship this year, is not the fastest Ducati rider in the world. My vote goes to Anthony Gobert (currently in 3d place in the AMA Superbike series). While Fogarty is an excellent rider, and arguably a great rider, his World championships have always come in years when he rode a Ducati that was far superior to competing machines. His relatively recent season spent aboard a Honda RC45 was far less successful.
Gobert won World Superbike races on a Kawasaki that was considered uncompetitive at the time and, now that Gobert is on a Ducati, he is generally unstoppable (although AMA riders Ben Bostrom (also on a Ducati) and Doug Chandler have beaten him recently).
Even current AMA champion Ben Bostrom, in only his first year on a Ducati, looks to be as fast, or faster, that Fogarty. Week in and week out he nips at the heels of Gobert on AMA circuits across America, and won the 2nd race at the Laguna Seca Superbike round, several seconds ahead of Fogarty. Now, Bostrom has started to beat Gobert in AMA competition.
In summary, although the AMA Superbike riders’ talent pool may not run as deep as the World Superbike series, the top six to eight AMA Superbike riders are on a par with the top six to eight World Superbike riders. If you still don’t believe it, ask Noriyuki Haga, who was caught and passed by AMA rider Jaime Hacking in the first race at Laguna. Hacking, who rarely makes the podium in AMA superbike competition, was clearly the fastest R7 rider that day and, unlike Haga, had relatively little time on the new Yamaha.