WHERE DOES KING CARL STAND?
WSB pushed GP racing close in the UK popularity stakes in the ’90s, so four-times WSB king Fogarty cannot be counted out of the reckoning
There might have been a 35-year winless period for Britain in GP racing, but it’s been raining gold in World Superbike racing since the 1990s.
The production series, introduced in 1988, has seen a whole host of British success over the last 28 years. More Brits have won races and championships in WSB than any other nation and the success spans from Roger Burnett taking pole position for the series’ opening race at Donington Park in ’88 to Jonathan Rea who won his second title this year.
The growth of the World Superbike series coincided with the dominance of Repsol Honda’s Mick Doohan in the 500cc Grand Prix class in the mid-nineties. Close racing on bikes that punters could go out to the shops and buy was an attractive prospect and WSB audiences continued to grow. A claimed 120,000 Foggy-crazy fans crammed into Brands Hatch in 1999 to see the British star fight for his fourth world title.
With WSB arguably bigger and more prolific than GP racing at this stage, it has to be argued that when considering the best British racers since Sheene, you can’t ignore Fogarty’s WSB success. He took 59 race wins, enjoyed a 50% podium record and lifted four world titles as he dominated the series in the nineties. Neither his win record nor amount of titles have been bettered by any other rider since.
Sheene won 19 premier class Grand Prix races, so Fogarty’s win tally of 59 places him three times ahead of the southerner, and while it could be argued WSB have two races a weekend, four world titles cannot be disputed.
And let’s not forget what a tenacious rider Fogarty was. His first WSB crown came in spite of missing a round with a broken wrist and in 1998, he was as far back as sixth in the standings before fighting back to take the title from Troy Corser and Aaron Slight at the final round.
At the time, Britain wasn’t fussed about its lack of success in Grand Prix, this is something that developed as the years went on and especially as GP racing moved into the Motogp era, growing gradually more popular with the help of Rossi.
However, while interest in GP continually grew, WSB still drew the crowds in the 2000s as Troy Bayliss won his three titles for Ducati. While the Aussie racer struggled when he moved to Motogp full time, a one-off wildcard for Ducati at Valencia in 2006 showed the level of WSB riders as he cleared off into the distance to take a stunning win.
Fogarty showed he could hold his own in the Grand Prix class too. In 1990, he stood in for Pierfrancesco Chili and went on to take a best finish of sixth place, but it would be the 1993 500cc GP where he most impressed. Qualifying on the second row, he ran second early on after Barros, Doohan and Schwantz crashed on the first lap. He looked set to take third as the race came to a close but dramatically ran out of fuel and was left to coast over the line, beaten to the rostrum by Niall Mackenzie.
Fogarty’s efforts were rewarded in 1998, when he was awarded an MBE on the New Year Honours list for services to motorbike racing.
Since Fogarty was forced to retire with injury in 2000, Britain has won a further six world titles in the hands of Neil Hodgson, James Toseland, Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea and in the 28 years of the championship’s existence, 13 British riders have taken the United Kingdom to 193 WSB victories – some 74 more than the USA in second place. So, while it might have been a dry period on the GP scene, it certainly wasn’t elsewhere on the world stage.
‘When considering the best British racers since Sheene, you can’t ignore Fogarty’
Brands 1999 was the UK’S biggest singleday sporting event