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Ranking The Top 10 SuperBike Champions, Number Six: Doug Chandler

| 10 February 2014 10:17 am

AMA Pro SuperBike Championship Series

Story by Chris Martin
Photo by Mike “Stu” Stuhler/Stu’s Shots
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, JAN. 27, 2014

[Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of 10 columns by Chris Martin looking at his choices for the 10 greatest SuperBike Champions. To read about his criteria in choosing those top 10 – and about those greats who didn’t make the list – please see his precursor article, “Ranking the Top 10 SuperBike Champions: The Prologue”…and then don’t forget to check out his picks for numbers seven through 10…]

Doug Chandler: More Terminator than turtle.

Doug Chandler: More Terminator than turtle.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that coming in one spot ahead of AMA Pro Road Racing legend Miguel Duhamel is his old nemesis Doug Chandler. Duhamel frequently won their individual battles, owning considerably more race wins, but Chandler’s precise and relentless approach resulted in three AMA Pro SuperBike titles to the Canadian’s one.

It might be tempting to present their rivalry as a typical tortoise-and-hare scenario, but how could one ever term a 12-time AMA Superbike race winner, a two-time World Superbike race winner, and a two-time 500GP pole man a “tortoise”?

No, Chandler was not the tortoise – he was more like The Terminator: He just kept coming and coming, until his quarry made a mistake. And when he did, it was all over.

Chandler rose through the ranks a hot-shot dirt-tracker before transitioning to a career in road racing. His versatile excellence ensured him a place in motorcycling history when he took his first AMA Pro SuperBike victory in 1989 to complete the coveted “Grand Slam’’ (short-track, half-mile, TT, and road-racing National wins). That feat has only ever been accomplished by three other riders – Dick Mann, Kenny Roberts and Bubba Shobert – and remains an elusive dream of Nicky Hayden’s to this very day. Chandler later added an exclamation point to that achievement by adding an AMA Supermoto race victory.

In 1990, Chandler may very well have been the most outstanding Superbike racer on the planet, dominating the AMA SuperBike Championship for Muzzy Kawasaki while scooping up World Superbike race wins at Brainerd and Sugo in his spare time.

Kawasaki hoped that Chandler would graduate to the Superbike World Championship full time in 1991, where he would have been considered a title favorite as a rookie. (Chandler’s potential as a World Superbike great was later confirmed during a top-secret test session for Ducati while he was a member of Cagiva’s factory Grand Prix squad. Brought in to help sort out their Superbike, Chandler went considerably quicker than World Superbike legend-in-the-making Carl Fogarty had managed on the bike, and – perhaps more importantly for the Castiglionis – Fogarty also improved his pace as a result of Chandler’s valuable input.)

However, Chandler instead chose to chase a career in 500GP, where he proved himself an elite talent during his four-year stint at the pinnacle of the sport. Despite never quite finishing on top of the podium (and, as with Colin Edwards II, just a single 500GP/MotoGP win would have done wonders for his international legacy…), Chandler did secure six podium finishes, including three runner-ups, along with the aforementioned two poles. His performance in 1992 was particularly impressive, as he proved to be nearly the equal of his factory Suzuki teammate Kevin Schwantz that season, just one year in advance of Schwantz’s World title campaign.

Chandler returned to AMA Pro SuperBike racing in 1995, but he suffered through a difficult season, ruined due to a combination of injury, a less-than-competitive H-D VR1000 race bike, and the hard transition that often comes when re-acclimating to the Stateside tracks following a few years spent railing around in Europe.

However, he reunited with Rob Muzzy in ’96 and the pair went on to score two consecutive AMA Pro SuperBike titles. That run upped Chandler’s career mark to three, tying him for second of all time.

During those last two championship-winning seasons, Chandler was typically outpaced by Duhamel, who racked up eight wins to Chandler’s three over that span. But the calculating Californian always put himself in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time with the year-long goal in mind. And when the ’96 title fight came down to a season-finale showdown between the rivals in Las Vegas, Chandler straight-up beat Duhamel to win both the race and the crown.

Chandler was not particularly flashy – not in his riding style nor his personality. But he was beyond smooth and solid, almost as if he was made of polished steel. Or rather, a hyper-alloy combat chassis endoskeleton – a la The Terminator. (Da-da-dun da-dun… Da-da-dun da-dun…)

Next time: We move into the top five…

About the Author
Chris Martin has covered motorcycle sport as a reporter, columnist and editor for a variety of magazines and websites for the better part of two decades, with a particular emphasis on AMA Pro Road Racing. Additionally, he covers national-security issues and is currently working on his first foray into science fiction. You can follow him on twitter. (https://twitter.com/ChrisMartinSBK.)

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Category: National, POV, Riders, Riders All, Road Racing

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