Former Superbike World Champion Raymond Roche will ride at the tenth edition of the Bikers’ Classics at Francorchamps. In 1990 the Frenchman was the first Ducati rider ever to claim the Superbike World Championship. With Roche confirming his ride the organizers have contracted the top 3 riders of the 1990 championship. Vice champion Fabrizio Pirovano and third finisher Stéphane Mertens already had their names on the list of participants.
55 year old Roche built up a promising reputation in Grands Prix and his spectacular and determined style earned him factory rides at Yamaha and Honda. In 1984 he finished third in the 500cc World Championship, picking up a third place at Francorchamps. In 1987 Roche signed for Cagiva and that more or less marked the first steps of his new World Superbike career. The Italian Castiglioni brothers, owners of the Cagiva group to which also Ducati belonged, put Roche on a fiery red Ducati 851S in 1989. The Frenchman thanked the brothers for their trust by finishing third in his rookie year in the Superbike championship and even went on to win the world title on the big V-twin the following year. The two seasons after that he finished runner up to fellow Ducati rider Doug Polen. When Roche retired as a 35 year old after four years of racing Superbikes at the end of the 1992 season he left an impressive resumée, showing 23 wins and 57 podiums in 97 races. After his career as a rider Roche also worked as a team manager of the Ducati factory team.
Roche will make his first appearance at the Bikers’ Classics. At this year’s anniversary edition – Europe’s biggest ‘classic racing event’ celebrates its tenth anniversary and puts the spotlight on the early Superbike World Championship years – Roche will be reunited with his two biggest rivals of his championship winning year. Crowd favourite Fabrizio Pirovano finished second to the unbeatable Roche in 1990, while Stéphane Mertens had already expressed his wish to meet up again with his former racing buddies. “I’m sure it will be a bit more relaxed than it was back then”, Mertens said in January.
By signing former world class riders Roche, Pirovano and Mertens the 2012 Bikers’ Classics also provides an excellent example of what made the Superbike World Championship so appealing to riders, factories and fans in those early years. Roche will ride a Ducati V-twin at Francorchamps, Pirovano will mount his Yamaha FZR750R in line four and Mertens will feature his famous Honda RC30 V4.
The tenth Bikers’ Classics at Francorchamps will be held from Friday 29th of June until Sunday 1st July.