Your first contact with Carl Fogarty may well be watching him sitting on a camp cot in the jungle and wondering who the hell he is. A superbike racer? What the hell is one of them? Surely they could have got Bradley Wiggins or somebody you’ve actually heard of.
Carl Fogarty, or ‘King Carl’ to his fans, was to motorbike racing in the 1990’s what Liam and Noel Gallagher were to music of the same era. Unlike tennis or golf or some other sport for ladies, motorbike racing is a sport for tough guys. Riding a bike at 190mph, inches from the floor with nothing to protect you but a suit that’s thinner than the average wallet means you have to be prepared to put your balls on the line. Handily for Carl, his conkers were like footballs.
Before multiple World SuperBike titles, Carl set a record at the Isle of Man TT that stood for seven years, won the Le Mans 24hr bike race and a World endurance championship. In short, Carl was fucking brilliant at going fast on a motorbike. Fogarty started winning World SuperBike championships in the Definitely Maybe era, riding the stunning Ducati 916. This is a bike that was so beautiful it found its own space on the wall of the Guggenheim Museum and is widely regarded as the one of the defining sports bikes of the last twenty years. Carl and the Ducati were unstoppable, apart from the odd broken wrist or exploded engine.
A Blackburn boy, Carl took no shit on or off track and gained a reputation as being the opposite of the guy that you’d choose to fuck with when you’d had a few beers in the race paddock on a Sunday night. I met him a few times as a race fan back then. PR was different, sponsorship deals didn’t seem to matter as much as championships and riders often gave you as little time as possible. Carl was a winner though and his take no shit attitude was par for the course. Winning a World SuperBike championship is a team effort, but like any Britpop number one of the same time, it was the lead singer that did the brunt of the work and drew the crowds. Carl had hit after hit, winning world titles in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999. It was an injury that eventually ended his career as a racer and started his career as a race team manager.
In an era where Benn and Eubank were stealing back pages and Liam and Noel and that doofus from Blur were dominating the covers, Carl Fogarty was so focused and intent on being the fastest man in the world every Sunday that he didn’t seem to care who thought what about him, in the pub or the press. To some people that made him a dick, to me and millions of other race fans around the world, it just made him even cooler. When you can get 120,000 bums on seats at Brands Hatch, you can pretty much do and say what you like. Carl often did. I sat and had a beer with him in a bar in Italy last year, when I mentioned the fact that he didn’t seem to have any time or patience for fans when he was racing he simply apologised and said he’d been busy hating everyone in the world, something he had to do at the time to keep him sharp on track. The next day when we flew back to London we arrived at Bologna airport at the same time that our flight was boarding, it only took one security guard to recognize Carl and we were ushered through the airport like there was a fire, once he’d stood an posed for a handful of pictures of course. King Carl doesn’t need to chew a Kangaroo bollock to prove he’s the man, he’s been the man since Ant and Dec were in the dinner line at Byker Grove.
Words: Johnatsuperbike Images: 2Snap and Twitter