Interviews VVV Interview SBK Legend: Carl Fogarty

Interviews

Alan Boiston

Founder & Website Editor

Posted on

With the recent announcement that biking legend Carl Fogarty would make his gaming debut in the forthcoming SBK-X, VVV took a time-out to interview the man and find out a little more about his background besides further insight into the up's and downs from an amazing, successful, and eventful biking career.

VVV: Hi Carl, I'm often interested to find out where racers started their career, so take me right back to the beginning, the first time you got on a bike and what inspired you to get into racing? Were there any major influence from your parents?

CF: Yeah, my Dad used to race! So more or a hobby with him really than anything else, but just being brought up around bikes, you know? It just meant that I wanted to do that really, I think if I did golf or football I would have wanted to do that instead. But being around bikes and brought up with them got my interest. Just wanted to race bikes as early as I could remember, to be honest.

VVV: Often it's Dads that are the initial supporter of their children into motor sport, was it your Dad that kind of pushed you into the biking world and said right 'get on here' or was it personal passion?

CF: Yeah, he didn’t push me at all really, it was just like I say, having been brought up around biking I just wanted to race and he supported me and that was it. He never pushed me into doing anything in fact the opposite really, more the other way than anything he probably wasn’t bothered if I did it or not, that’s how it all started.

VVV: I spoke to a couple of riders that say, 'it's easier now in junior classes working your way up' perhaps because there are smaller introductory machines now and all the rest of it. Were there tough elements that you had to go through back then? Perhaps riders wouldn't have to deal with so much now?

CF: Yeah, there probably was, I think there is a lot more classes being created for younger riders to start now. I don’t think you could start racing until you were 17 – 18 when I raced. Now you can ride mini-motors at 6 or 7 whatever, so it's easier that way, like I say, to get started it's a cheaper run through the smaller classes for young kids really.

VVV: Now did you enjoy just the biking first and then get into racing? Or did you decide straight away 'I want to race these'?

CF: Oh yeah, I just wanted to race and win my first ever race you know, early on I got disqualified but I wanted to race and that was it! So it was all about winning for me. I just dreamed of being World Champion since back in cycle races when I was about 10, 11 or 12 years old, you know? That’s what I was going to be and fortunately it all came true.

VVV: So you worked your way up, something a lot of people struggle with early on is sponsorship, first few races you've surely got an uphill climb to get that initial sponsorship? Then you've got to hold onto your sponsors, what was the sponsorship aspect like years ago?

CF: Probably I was quite lucky ‘cos my Dad was racing, so I started riding his bike he had pretty much retired ’83 – ’84 somewhere round that area. So I had a pretty successful haulage business that sponsored me for the first year or two until I picked up results and started to pick up the sponsors.

VVV: Is it quite pressurised? Do you find for the family as well? You put all the money into it because obviously you are going to have guys turning up with new bikes, new tyres all the time? Or did you have to make do with what you've got?

CF: Yeah I did make do, and used a lot of my Dad’s old stuff, it probably wasn’t the wisest decision like old tyres that have been in the garage for like 7 – 8 years. I got on the bike and then crashed the bike and broke my leg and stuff. So it is an expensive sport really, Dad’s company helped us out quite a bit in the early years, but I picked up results pretty quick. I was having bikes bought for me by other companies by 2nd – 3rd year of racing.

VVV: So pretty quick! You worked your way up very quickly and did quite well from the off because you had some support there?

CF: I did do it pretty quickly, of course I had accidents like 21 – 20 years old breaking my leg and stuff so it kind of set met back a bit. I got pretty quick, you know.

VVV: Yeah, I was reading a bit about the history of Formula 1 Biking, I didn’t know much about that?

CF: Yeah, it was mainly a street-based Championship, really, that incorporated the Isle of Man TT.

VVV: There was one subject I actually did want to ask you about, was the Isle of Man. Now obviously you set the lap record on that. I’ve watched a lap of it on a side-car, crazy guys they are, how do you learn a circuit like that?

CF: They are definitely crazy…

VVV: Do you ride round it 20 times and just learn a bit every time? Even when you ride round it, how can you appreciate what a corner is going to be like when you are at race pace as it were?

CF: Well you can’t really, it's an open road circuit and you can go round as many times as you want, public roads isn’t it? I go out a week earlier in the car, drive round and round and round. Soon as you get on the bike and put a helmet on it just seemed totally different to be honest. You try and do what you can to learn the circuit.

It took me 3 years racing there before I was really learning which way this circuit went and what I had to do to win on the circuit. So it did take a while for me, though I think everyone is different, it took the Irish lads a little bit less ‘cos they’re used to riding a road, where it took me 3 years to figure it out.

VVV: It's funny hearing you talk about it because you are so relaxed about it, yet I see that circuit as such a momentous challenge.

CF: Yeah, it was always a massive challenge.

VVV: Every time you go round it, there must be a few life threatening moments where you look back and think.

CF: Oh! Yeah. (chuckles)

VVV: I guess that's always a moment where fear is controlling the bike, if only for a second?

CF: There is a very fine line, if you make one mistake it'll probably be your last one to be honest, I certainly came close to touching some of those walls a few times around there, but thankfully I am still here.

VVV: Now from there obviously you went into the Superbikes World Championship, and you have had lots of success there, obviously there’s ups and downs along the way, did you find you had to raise your level or was there a new peak you found within yourself at that point of your career?

CF: Yeah it’s a lot harder at that level. I was World Champion for a start, and at short circuits you have got to really scratch hard and give everything that you have got. I had the best set up, the best tyres to give it that chance ‘cos somebody else was always after it. It’s not easy, if it was easier everybody would be doing it, it is hard and it gets harder every year the more you win, the more you want to win, the more pressure you are under.

VVV: I can imagine, well, I can’t imagine actually just how hard it is, I’ve not ridden a bike like that before though I would love to, I was taken out by the California Superbikes crew at Silverstone earlier this year, my first experience and found braking pressures were immense. I tell you, a few racing laps of that were enough, it felt like if we kept going my shoulders were going to explode, God knows how you guys do it?

CF: Mine did – hit a tyre wall. (chuckles)

VVV: We'll get to that shortly, so obviously you are 4 times SBK World Champion but you never actually got the publicity in the UK that say other Championships achieve? You know, Sports Personality of the Year, stuff like that? How or why is it? I look at Rugby Union and Rugby League, is biking kind of split in that way?

CF: I kind of did alright really, I did the National papers and they followed me, every race was live on TV, Sky Sports did an incredible job on me. They made me a household name so when it comes to Sports Personality of the Year, apparently I unofficially won but they just threw the votes out the window because it wasn’t a BBC sport at the time? It caused a lot of hassle but I was happy with what I got, I recognise it now. I recognise it every day of my life so I must have got something right. It's 10 years ago since I raced, but everywhere I go, be it London or anywhere else, it's like you say "it’s Carl Fogarty" people still say it. God I haven’t raced for 10 years, but it is still a good feeling actually.

VVV: Obviously you are a legend amongst biking fans, huge amongst them. When you had your injury, you hurt your shoulder, effectively ending your career, but you got back on a bike and I remember you said about the pain and all the rest of it? Where does your energy go then, from the biking? All that adrenalin rush and everything? How does that change you from there, focus on different things in your career?

CF: I don’t know, with me it seemed like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders for the first year or two, you know. I hadn’t got the pressure anymore in life and I didn’t need to replace it. The buzz that was around the biking wasn’t really what motivated me, it was the buzz about winning races. So going down the straight at 190mph was no big deal anyway, I wasn’t that bothered about that. So I didn’t have to replace it with anything to be honest.

Did find it hard for quite a lot of years, till recently to be honest, to watch and to follow it. When you have built or made something what it is today and you can’t take part in it any more, it is difficult. It didn’t sink in at first, it was probably a year or two after I retired.

VVV: That takes me back to your whole biking career, you were a biker for racing or would you say you were a biker for the love of bikes? Have you always been following bikes in that time or is it something like you said, about having a time out?

CF: Yeah, I pretty much said no, really. You get all texts from your mates 'who won', 'who's looking at who won the race' and 'who's World Champion this year' whatever, but I wanted to get away from it all. I just thought what am I doing? Like a good mate of mine just died recently he kept saying Carl you shouldn’t be like you are, you should embrace what you have done and what you have achieved, you know. Just go and do all those things instead of keep trying to forget who you are, it kind of all made sense I think, probably earlier on in this year, to be honest so that is what I am doing now really.

VVV: So just after the biking you set your own team up for a while as well, what was the major up's and downs in that? How much work was that for you at the time, stress and all the rest of it?

CF: It wasn’t to bad to be honest, big budget from Petronas, big sponsor who wanted to build their own motorcycle, which obviously is very difficult. They had plans to become manufacturers at the time which obviously didn’t materialize. I just employed all the right kind of people to make that happen really, it wasn’t that stressful. It was stressful when they came along with the engine which was something that they had built along with Sauber at the time, obviously it was just wasn’t good enough at all really. We had a fantastic bike, good chassis, everything, everything about the team, fantastic facilities, workshop, riders everything was there but they came along with the engine. The most important bit and it was the worst thing out there by a mile and we had to run it for 5 years. It was frustrating for me, to be honest, but that was what they wanted to do and so we did that for them.

VVV: Running the team management is that something that you will ever consider doing again?

CF: I can’t see it happening, you should never say never, like that kind of thing, I don’t know. I just can’t see myself travelling around the world, I just can’t even be asked. I would rather run a British Superbike Team actually, if someone said ‘Here Carl, here is a the money, there is a manufacturer who wants you to run the bikes in Britain’ – British Superbikes I would probably want to do that actually more than World, bloody planes over the weekend, I want to be at home, now really.

VVV: Is there anything you haven’t done you would love to have done in biking,- probably nothing?

CF: I think the Moto GP thing was invented wasn’t it, about 4 – 5 years after I retired and Ducati went there, and they had a very fast bike. Still there now with a very fast bike and the best rider probably. That would have been nice to have a full year, you know sort of like 29 – 30 year old on the Ducati Moto GP, that would have been good.

VVV: Moto GP how did that split off then? Was that part of the Formula 1 World Championship?

CF: It split off from the 500cc, what Barry Sheene did, 500cc 2-stroke Grand Prix World Championship and they had to do something really. It got a bit stale to be honest round ’99 – 2000, before Rossi came on the scene really and Superbikes had become so big that it was almost the main Championship in a way. I think they saw what was going on, switched everything to 4-stroke which killed Superbikes, I would say for 3 – 4 – 5 years, you know. So now it has got back up there again and becoming really strong.

VVV: So in a comparison between say Superbikes and Moto GP from a technical aspect and from a rider aspect, which one do you think has the real rider ability to it – is it Superbikes?

CF: Probably Moto GP, ‘cos the rules are a bit more open for Moto GP bikes. I guess even though they both are controlled now by electronics, power, traction control system etc. Both Championships are really competitive but the Moto GP is a little bit faster, a little bit lighter and that means you have to concentrate a little bit harder. It is a similar bike to Superbikes but it is a little bit faster, a little bit lighter so a bit more concentration is required, so I have to say that Moto GP is a little bit harder to ride than a Superbike, for sure, yeah.

VVV: I was chatting to Phil (our awesome marketing chap) earlier and he says you have gone out and got a bike?

CF: Yeah, a mid-life crisis. I got a Ducati last year Hyper motor which is a fantastic bike. When it is nice and sunny I go out so it’s hardly ever out at the moment, I did 600-mile last year. I got it out at the weekend because the weather was nice and ended up watching the Grand National so I didn’t get out on it, I’ll be on it this weekend.

VVV: Sunday rider!

CF: Definitely!

VVV: Finally, just moving on with your career now, where are you going from here? Where do you see the next step for Carl Fogarty?

CF: I don’t know, I get asked to do a lot of things, like this year I am doing a bit more, doing some media stuff like 4 rounds or so for Eurosport and involved in a the launch of the SuperBike X video game, got new merchandise out this year and stuff. Probably looking into motorcycling indoors, so kiddie moto-bike things, carbon fibre company that does a lot of after-market sales from Ducati’s carbon fibre 1, and an F1 Tour Box with my name on it.

VVV: So, you re going to be quite busy then?

CF: Lots of stuff and I still get asked to do a lot of things all the time.

VVV: Well Carl, thanks for sparing the time today and I am sure all the fans will love to see you again soon as well, cheers, thank-you.

CF: That’s alright, cheers, thanks a lot.

About Carl Fogarty MBE

Carl Fogarty is, quite simply, the legend of World Superbike racing.

The crowds worshipped his gutsy, aggressive style and a determination to win at all costs that produced four World Superbike titles and a total of eight world crowns.

Foggy, as he was always known to his legion of fans, grew up in a racing family, with father George himself a road racer. But, although Carl was comfortable riding his early bikes in the fields surrounding his Blackburn home, his competitive debut did not come until he was 14. From local motocross racing he soon realised that he wanted to follow in George's tracks into road racing and immediately showed his natural talent on the club scene. It was not just talent, however, that separated this fast teenager from a host of other hopefuls. From day one Carl Fogarty had an unwavering commitment to winning races.

Ambition

His first chance in the World Superbike championship came as a privateer in 1991 for three quarters of the season and, after a promising start, Carl embarked on a hectic 1992 season that was to bring him his fourth world title when he competed in the World Endurance championship as well as continuing in World Superbikes, again with his own team. He lifted the endurance title for Kawasaki with ease but it was now obvious that he had to focus his efforts on the main prize – the World Superbike title. And 1993 saw his first factory ride with Raymond Roche's factory Ducati team and a momentous tussle with American Scott Russell. Despite winning 11 races, a tendency to crash at important times forced Carl into second place. He was in no mood, however, to repeat that result the following year.

Determination

After trying pastures new with Honda in 1996, when lack of rear mid-corner grip plagued his efforts, Carl returned to the Ducati fold in 1997 but could only manage second place behind John Kocinski in a tight championship race which went down to the final round. But then, with the arrival of Davide Tardozzi, Carl rediscovered the old winning ways and pipped his former rider, Troy Corser, and arch-rival Aaron Slight, to the 1998 title in Sugo. History repeated itself the following year when Carl was untouchable in claiming his fourth World Superbike crown.

The most glittering career in superbike history came to an abrupt end when, at the second race of the 2000 season, a freak crash at Phillip Island shattered Carl's shoulder and, later that year, forced him into retirement. But the hunger for success had not diminished and, when the chance to reassert himself at the top of the superbike tree arrived with the Petronas-backed project, Foggy Petronas Racing, Carl jumped at the chance to become a team owner. However, funding to continue the race team proved difficult to find at the end of the Petronas project and Carl decided to focus on a variety of new ventures.

Personal statistics

Date of Birth 1 July 1965

Lives Blackburn, Lancashire, England

Height 5'9"

Eyes Blue

Hobbies Football, trail riding, motocross, sea fishing

Debut Donington 1989

World Titles 4 (1994 / 1995 / 1998 / 1999)

Podium Finishes 108

Seconds 32

Double Wins 16

Timeline

2000 Retired through injury

1998 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPION

1996 4th – World Superbike Championship

1994 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPION

1992 9th – World Superbike Championship

1991 7th – World Superbike Championship

1st – Senior and F1 Isle of Man TT races

1st – 750cc Isle of Man TT
1988 World TT Formula 1 Champion

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