Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 141: Retro Review - Imola WSBK 2002, The Greatest Motorcycle Race Ever

The next instalment of our Paddock Pass Podcast racing history review takes a look back at what is arguably the greatest motorcycle race ever held: the 2002 World Superbike finale at Imola. That weekend, Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss went head-to-head for the World Superbike championship, and Edwards emerged triumphant.

To discuss the special race, the crew, consisting of Steve English, Jensen Beeler, and WorldSBK guru Gordon Ritchie take a look back at the season which led up to that astonishing finale. They talk about Edwards' and Bayliss' championships the two previous seasons, Honda's building of the RC51 or SP2 to take on the Ducati, and how the much freer rules in 2002 affected the balance of power between the twins and the fours.

The podcast has some superb insight. Gordon Ritchie was present and reporting on the series for the whole season, and shares some of his memories of the time. 2003 WorldSBK champion Neil Hodgson gives his view of that championship, and of the importance of having factory-level support from a tire manufacturer in an era of open tire competition. And Edwards' crew chief at the time, Adrian Gorst, gives an inside look into how the Texan turned his season around at Laguna Seca, to come back from a 53 point deficit and win the title.

This is a very special show, for a very special season. Well worth a listen.

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Fantastic quality of discussion here, thanks!

Not missing tire wars.
Do think we missed out on rules that did not incline manufacturers to make a Triple SBK for production, it looks potentially ideal.

Most appreciative of not getting stuck within rudimentary dichotomies. Gordo, your depth and breadth of knowledge always continues to be appreciated in particular.

So good! About to listen a 2nd time.

I watched this in a bar whilst going down the east coast of Oz just outside Brisbane. My missus hated bike racing but I was gripped. The barman wanted to close at about 11 as we were the only people there but I convinced him to stay open as they could have an Australian WC, even though I knew Colin had it in the bag from after the Suzuka 8 hour. We all got hammered.

Is this also the year bayliss fell off about 4 times in the wet in 1 race going about 3 seconds a lap quicker than anyone else?

I read somewhere that Collin's team were loosening bolts and cutting chunks out of the SP-2's frame to try and get it to move around more.

 Seems to have worked.

Colin was waiting on updates all year from HRC.  He was consistently finishing #2 behind Bayliss.  Around the Laguna Seca round, HRC finally gave the Castrol team the updates they requested.  He won race #2 and every subsequent race.   

Those two races at Imola were incredible, it could have gone either way, two people pushing each other forward, neither giving an inch, stunning! In fact the whole season wasn't too bad either😁

These two races can stand aloft of the usual precessional or displays of domination we normally get served up. I'd go as far to say the two best races we have ever seen or will likely ever see. So much to gain and at the same time so much to loose.

if you haven't seen these races, you might not want to because everything else after that, sadly, isn't really in the same league, seriously it isn't!

I had to fire up my recording of eurosport2 broadcast of Race 2, (found it on yourtube as well official WSBK licensed) its awesome to see 10/10s racing will full support everywhere (factory, tires, riders). I was at laguna seca that year, and was thinking it was good to see Edwards actual put it to Bayliss, expecting Bayliss to roll the rest of the season.

Between this and the 2006 Season podcast, I am hoping for the last big american season (Spies, 09) podcast too for the trifecta of recent US champions, since then its been a little dry for us since :(.

Really great podcast - definitely helping me get through the stay-at-home thing

1.  I wonder what an accountant would say about the Honda RC51, SP-1, SP-2.  The vibe I have is that it did not sell well.  Context is if Honda had just kept using the V4.  Variables would include: development cost of the RC51, sales of the RC51, and all sales that were a result of winning two championships.  Less tangible is that the RC51 was not necessarily made of Honda DNA/passion; rather a machine that they were forced to make by the rules.

2.  Who had a better career: Kenny Robers Junior/KRJR or Colin Edwards?  I remember when they were racing 250s in the states.  I think they were about equal.  KRJR went to grand prix, Colin to US superbike, then WSBK, then grand prix.  KRJR won races and a 500cc world championship.  Colin won two WSBK world championships but never got that one MotoGP win.  It is a tough call!  If I had to pick: Colin.