1998 – the best year for racing?
Both at home and abroad, 1998 brought out the best in the three major championships: Grand Prix, WSB and BSB. Back in the late 1990s, 500cc GPS were still the playground of the unassailable Mick Doohan who’d won 12 of the previous year’s 15 races – 10 in a row – and turned the title into a one long victory lap. In 1998 he had a slightly harder time; Max Biaggi, fresh from taking four 250cc world titles in a row, sensationally won first time out on a 500 at Suzuka (the last class rookie to do so). But Doohan returned to form for the rest of the season, taking eight wins and the title for the fifth and final time. Over in 250s, a young snapper called Valentino Rossi, 125 champ the year previously, pushed Loris Capirossi all the way to finish second. Wonder what happened to him?
Over in WSB, which was – as far as Brits were concerned – where the real action was, as over 80,000 Brit fans made it to Brands Hatch in blazing August sunshine – two-times Champ Carl Fogarty was due a third title after losing in a ‘difficult’ year on his 996cc Ducati 916 to John Kocinski’s Honda RC45 in 1997. For 1998 Ducati modified the airbox and frame, and built 200 homologation Foggy Reps. Even with Kocinski off in GPS, Foggy still had to battle for the title taking just three race wins, and going to the wire against Aaron Slight at the final round at Sugo.
And in BSB, growing in popularity with a steady stream of impressive wildcard riders at WSB rounds, better machinery and a more professional approach, it was Niall Mackenzie’s time to shine. He went for his third consecutive title against fellow Scot Steve Hislop in the Yamaha Cadbury’s Boost team on elderly YZF750S. Mackenzie had to dig deep to win the third title, with Hislop’s pace bringing out the best riding, if not the best in team relations. Mackenzie’s desire made the difference and he took his third and final title, in the end from Chris Walker’s ZX-7RR with Hislop in third.
Simon Crafar won the Brit Grand Prix sharing the podium with Micky D and the late Norick Abe. Bottom right: Biaggi nearly loops his NSR at Brno