1998 – the best year for rac­ing?

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Bikes of Your Life -

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

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