American Doug Polen was a dominant national and world champion roadracer in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Polen had a series of strong winning performances in motorcycle roadracing in the United States and abroad, including winning the Suzuki GSX-R National Cup Championship Series 750cc title in 1986, 17 of 24 races in the World Superbike Championship Series in 1991 and winning the World Superbike title by 150 points.
He also was the Japan Formula 1 and Formula 3 National Champion in 1989, AMA 600cc Supersport Champion in 1987 and 1988, AMA 750cc Supersport Champion in 1988, World Superbike Champion in 1992, AMA Superbike Champion in 1993 and World Endurance Champion in 1997 and 1998.
Born in Detroit on Sept. 2, 1960, Polen began his roadracing career in 1977 as a teenager, quickly becoming one of the rising young guns in the Central Road Racing Club (now known as the Central Motorcycle Roadracing Association). He raced Lightweight Production and Superbike classes, becoming a top rider in the early 1980s.
But injuries sustained in a crash in mid-1982 made Polen decide to hang up his leathers.
In late 1985, some friends convinced Polen to give racing another try. He suited up and returned to competition early in 1986 in the newly created Suzuki GSXR National Cup Series. The series gave club racers from around the nation an opportunity to win contingency money from Suzuki.
And win Polen did.
In the series, which featured Suzuki GSX-R 750s and 1100s, Polen proved he was a force to be reckoned with in the roadracing world. He took 45 of 51 GSXR National Cup races and the 750 Cup final, placing third in the 1100 final.
He also fared well in a similar Honda racing series.
As a result, Polen took home an incredible $90,000 in contingency money in 1986 as a club racer.
For 1987, Polen teamed up with Texas-based Kosar Racing to pilot a GSX-R750 in a privateer effort in the AMA Superbike class, battling future Motorcycle Hall of Famers Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Bubba Shobert and other talented riders. Polen finished fourth in the series behind Rainey, Schwantz and Shobert.
He also raced in the AMA 600cc Supersport class where he had better success, claiming the 1987 title with 176 points—63 points ahead of the second-place finisher.
1988 was a stellar season for Polen, who signed with Yoshimura R&D of America and captured both the AMA 750 and 600cc Supersport titles. He was the first rider to ever do so.
Polen was an “iron man” roadracer. In 1988 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla., he began the day with the 35-mile Supersport 600 race, jumped off that bike and raced his Superbike in the Daytona 200, and then later that day raced in the 35-mile Supersport 750 race. He finished third in Supersport 600, second in the Daytona 200 and first in Supersport 750.
In 1989 Polen had the opportunity to race for Yoshimura Japan, parent company of Yoshimura R&D America. The American captured the Japan Formula 1 and Formula 3 National Championship titles for Yoshimura that year, the first time anyone had captured both titles the same season.
In 1990, Polen was seriously injured while testing his Superbike at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. when his throttle stuck while he was going over 100 mph into a left turn.
Two months later, Polen was racing again in Japan, but he didn’t earn a national title.
Polen remained undaunted, determined to race on the world stage. He joined Eraldo Ferracci’s Fast by Ferracci Ducati team to race Ducati’s new 851cc contender in the World Superbike Championship Series in 1991. He won 17 of 24 races in the series and earned the World Superbike title by 150 points.
He repeated as World Superbike champion in 1992, and also finished third in the AMA Superbike Championship.
At the request of the Ducati factory, in 1993 Polen concentrated solely on the AMA Superbike Championship Series. The decision paid off for Ducati, with Polen handily giving them the Superbike title. Polen earned 326 points to capture the title, compared with the second-place finisher’s 262 points.
The 1994 season saw Polen leave Fast by Ferracci and sign with Honda Racing Corporation to contest the World Superbike Championship aboard Honda’s new RC45. Polen raced well but finished the season fourth overall.
Polen left the Honda team in 1995 and only rode a few professional races that year.
In 1996, he started racing a GSX-R 750 for the factory Suzuki endurance racing team (SERT) that was based in France, as well a GSX-R1100 in the AMA SuperTeams Series for the Team EBSCO Suzuki endurance squad.
In 1997 Polen and Australian teammate Peter Goddard won the FIM World Endurance Championship.
In 1998, Polen switched to Honda and rode an RC45 to victory in the FIM World Endurance Championship title race, sharing the title with French teammate Christian Lavieille.
After retiring from racing, Polen formed a roadracing school to help riders improve their skills.
Doug Polen was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2011.