Foggy: 'In my day racers hated each other. Now they go cycling together' featured image

Foggy: 'In my day racers hated each other. Now they go cycling together'

30 Sep 2018
It's not every day that a bona fide racing legend walks into your office for a chat. So when Carl Fogarty did that, we grabbed the chance with both hands

Stick a microphone under Carl Fogarty’s nose and you’re guaranteed honesty and an interesting ride.

Foggy is a legend to bikers for his four World Superbike crowns in the 1990s and found love from a wider audience for his victory in the 2014 series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.

He made a flying visit to the SBS Mag office last week and we couldn’t let him go without asking for 10 minutes for an interview. Half an hour later, the recorder was still running.

We started by talking about the Foggy Petronas road bike that lives in the shop at the front of the SBS Mag office. This developed into a wide-ranging chat in which Foggy revealed…

  • He “didn’t really know what he was doing” when Foggy Petronas started
  • He’d consider going back into team management – but only in British Superbikes
  • He’s embarrassed by his antics during his World Superbike heyday
  • He’d have preferred to be a racer in the 1970s

Here’s the full interview…

Does seeing the FP1 road bike out the front of here bring back memories?

“It always brings back memories because you don’t see many about. It was an interesting time – a frustrating time when I was doing it because of what we were working with.

“They’re happy memories of what we achieved with what we had. It was amazing how it all happened when I look back at it.”

How did it come about?

“I raced for Petronas in 1992 in Malaysia and got on really well with David Wong, who ran the team.

“We stayed in touch and later on he told me Petronas were on about going into MotoGP with a bike they were building with Sauber, the F1 guys.

“David somehow persuaded them – I don’t know how – to scrap the idea of building three or four bikes for MotoGP and to build 150 bikes and pretend to become a motorcycle manufacturer and go to World Superbikes with me. It’s quite bizarre when I think about it.”

Do you look back and see mostly the happy memories or the frustrations?

“I think both really. The bike is iconic now. It’s frustrating that Petronas didn’t really listen to us when it came to the engine and went with a bloke who’d never really built one before, which was strange. I still don’t understand why that happened.

“The only bit of the whole project I didn’t have any say in was the engine, which is the most important part of the motorcycle.

“The engine system was fundamentally designed and built wrongly. The cooling system was really bad so it wouldn’t cool down and it had oil leaks all the time.

“If they’d listened to us with the engine and gone to someone with engine experience then I think it would have been a lot more successful.

"We were just trying to finish and score a few points. There was nothing to get excited about"

“The rules at the time should have suited us because you were allowed a 1000cc twin, 900cc triple or 750cc four. People thought you had the best of both worlds with the triple, but ours was never built right in the first place.

“Then, a year later, the rules changed and 1000cc fours were allowed and we were stuck with an uncompetitive engine because Petronas weren’t prepared to build another 150 bikes for the homologation.

“It was frustrating knowing we couldn’t win. I had riders who were good enough, we had the image, workshops and we went to the grid knowing we couldn’t finish in the first six or seven in probably the worst years in World Superbike history.

“Everybody had gone to MotoGP then so it was weak and we were struggling. Unless it was damp we were just trying to finish the race and score a few points. For me, there was nothing to get excited about in that.”

What are the happy memories?

“They’re about what we created in a short space of time – a beautiful bike that got pole positions and rostrums. I’m proud of what we did.

Did you see team management as your future?

“Not really. It was just an opportunity that came to me and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

“I just got clever people to come and work for me and run the business. I had good technicians. If I were to go back and do it now I’d do it differently and would get involved in more of it myself.

Photography: Will Brodie

“I think it came to me a little bit soon if I’m honest. I was still a little bit raw from having to retire from racing and I didn’t really want to be around it.

“Because we weren’t up at the front and winning my attitude was a little bit different from what it would be today. I’d have a lot more patience today.”

Would you fancy another go at it now?

“Maybe in British championship, because I could be in my own bed on a Sunday night. Going round the world doesn’t appeal to me one bit. But if someone came to me about doing it again in Britain then yeah, why not? I’ll never say never to that.”

What do you think of World Superbikes today?

“I don’t watch it on TV, but I see what’s happening through social media. It struggles to attract crowds and interest since MotoGP was invented in 2003.

"I can't get my head round having races on Saturday afternoon"

“There’s some great riders in there – Jonathan Rea is brilliant, and it’s great from a British point of view – but maybe not so good for a world championship.

“The characters are not the same. Back in my day there were some strong characters with a lot of money behind them from the manufacturers.

“It was me against Americans and Australians and it was like two boxers who hated each other. Now they all seem to be really nice guys who all get on with each other and go cycling together. It’s just different. I can’t say it’s worse or better, it’s just different.

"I would love to have been racing in the James Hunt and Barry Sheene era"

“I don’t like to knock it because it’s the sport that made me famous, but the crowds aren’t there and nor is the TV. People aren’t that interested, and it makes me sad to say that.

“Being owned by the same people who own MotoGP [Dorna] isn’t ideal because they’ll never let it get anywhere near MotoGP. In my day it was bigger then GP racing in a lot of countries, especially here in Britain.

“I can’t get my head round having races on Saturday afternoon, either. It seems like the rule changes they come up with make it worse rather than better in my opinion.”

Were your rivalries real or were they built up to generate interest?

“We all just hated each other. I’m just a bad loser and if anyone got close to me I was bad, and it’s embarrassing now.

“I didn’t mean to be like that, I just hated losing. It wasn’t just me. The other guys were hard racers who weren’t afraid to say what was on their minds.

“If you think there were characters in my day, I think there even more in the days before me. I would love to have been racing in the James Hunt and Barry Sheene era – have a can of beer on the rostrum and a couple of birds under each arm.

“I think every era that goes by gets less and less cool. The further back you go, the cooler they look and the cooler the things they got away with. Now it’s ‘say this, thank him, thank you, god’ and all that. Do me a favour!”

Do you still see any of your old rivals?

“No, I think everyone is hidden away really.”

What do you think a reunion would be like?

“It would be awesome, so cool. I think we’d all get on. I’d be fine, but I don’t know if the others would forgive me for what I was like. I’d offer to buy them all a beer to see if that helped them accept me.

“I am embarrassed about what I was like, because that’s not really the person I am, which is what people see now and when I was on TV a couple of years ago.

“When I was racing I changed. I just wanted to win so badly that it made me say things that I look back on now and say ‘I wish I’d not said that’ – things like naming my pigs after my rivals.

"When I look back, it seems daft that I put myself under such pressure"

“That put me under such pressure. I don’t know why I didn’t just keep my mouth shut and do my talking on the track. By saying before the weekend that I was going to win both races and that the others were crap I put myself under pressure to prove I was right.”

Do you think you’d have got the same results if you hadn’t put that pressure on?

“Maybe that’s it – I had to be that person to go out and win races. It seems daft that I put myself under so much pressure when I look back. I could have just gone out and enjoyed riding bikes, like Rossi does.”

Bikes seem to mean a lot to you…

“I like riding the bikes I’m not famous for. I like riding off-road. I’m not very good at it, and it’s not like me to enjoy things I’m not good at.

“I’ve got a trials bike now, even though I’ve spent 25 years calling trials boring and pathetic. I’ve had to apologise to Dougie Lampkin for everything I’ve said! I love being involved with bikes more now than I did when I was racing.”

Photography: Will Brodie

Has life changed since ‘I’m a Celebrity’?

“I wouldn’t say it’s changed, but every day I get recognised now. I got recognised before by blokes, but now it’s from kids as well. When I was racing I didn’t really like being recognised, but I love it now.

“I’m glad I did it as to win the biggest TV show in the UK is unbelievable. I get goosebumps thinking about winning that. I thought I’d either walk out before the first vote, or be voted out first if I got that far.

“Every time I got through a vote I would tell myself well done for not walking out. To win it with 60% of the public vote was mental – just for being some ordinary dickhead from Blackburn!”

What’s next for you and bikes?

“I’ve got a couple of things coming up soon, some exciting things coming up in the next couple of months. Watch this space!”