IT’S the number plate that gives it away. The legend " T4 FOG " just above the chunky rear tyre reveals that this is no ordinary Ducati Monster.
Yes, the owner of the machine glinting seductively in the sun is none other than Mr C Fogarty, four-times World Superbike champion and all-round living legend. And he’s just handed me the keys. A pause for breath is required.
Foggy is very attached to his M900 Monster. It’s a one-off supplied by Ducati’s factory in Bologna especially for the firm’s No1 WSB star. It was an honour indeed when he offered to let us take it for a spin.
As Foggy walks away, with a smile and a gentle warning to take it easy, my feelings are, to put it mildly, mixed. Yes, I’ve been given a unique chance to ride Foggy’s personal streetbike. But on the downside, the thought of bringing it back with so much as a scratch fills me with abject terror.
I press the starter button and clamber gingerly aboard. The throbbing 900cc V-twin reverberates through the still air, beating as fast as my heart. Snicking the gearbox into first, I weave down the steep, single-track road near Foggy’s home in Blackburn, taking care to avoid the gravel piled up on corners. I glance at the white-face speedometer, imagining Foggy standing in his back garden, ears straining to make sure I don’t over-rev the engine or miss a gearshift.
Mindful of the still cold tyres, I exit on to the main road, open up the Monster’s twin carbs and flick through the six-speed gearbox, letting the V-twin gather pace. The sun is shining and the scenery in Foggy’s part of the world is picture postcard perfect – rolling hills dappled with grassy pastures, broken up with a few scattered trees. What better day to be riding such a distinctive motorcycle?
Foggy can’t come with me because he’s still injured – but he has given me directions to the best roads in the area. I’m secretly relieved I’m on my own – Foggy as a riding companion would be extra pressure.
As the road snakes along for what seems like miles, I take plenty of opportunity to get some heat into the Dunlop Sportmax radials, moving around on the bike and feeling for every millimetre of feedback.
I test and re-test the Brembo brakes – not because there’s any reason to doubt them, but because I really don’t want to drop this particular bike. Finally, with my mind at rest, I can have a bit of low-key fun. Or I could if I wasn’t starting to feel so self-conscious. Everywhere I go, even on the quietest roads, people seem to be staring at me. It must be the combination of MCN leathers, personalised number plate and the small Foggy graphics on the lower-than-stock Tecnosel seat and carbon fly screen. It would have attracted less attention from the general public if the Queen had been riding past. Naked.
The Monster certainly stands out. Neat touches include a carbon front fender, a one-piece carbon tail unit with built-in indicators and a rear hugger also made out of – you guessed it – carbon. But the icing on the cake is the bike’s eye-grabbing chrome fuel tank, polished to a sexy mirrored gleam.
It’s brought home to me just how distinctive the bike is when I stop for a bite of lunch at a local pub. There’s no way I’m going to let Foggy’s pride and joy out of my sight, so I sit outside within a few feet of it. After a few minutes, people start coming up to me with cameras, asking if they can pose beside the bike. I feel a bit of a fraud – the bike’s owner is rightfully famous and I’m just basking in his reflected glory. But I don’t worry too much about it and just lap up all the attention. I can’t imagine what would happen if Foggy was here in person – he’d probably be mobbed.
You can buy some of the parts on Foggy’s bike yourself, but others are strictly one-offs – such as the 960cc big-bore kit with high-compression pistons, supplied by the factory just for this bike. Oh, to have Foggy’s clout. The kit, like the rest of the parts on the bike, was fitted by Foggy’s former race mechanic Anthony " Slick " Bass.
I’m steady on the throttle at first, but when I do get the chance to open the bike up the sound is magical. Even stock Monsters sound pretty fruity, but this one sports a factory aftermarket exhaust system with high-level oval carbon cans. The resounding staccato beat bouncing off dry-stone walls sounds as if a herd of buffalo is stampeding towards me.
An Ohlins single shock at the rear, with adjustments for rebound, compression and pre-load, is new on the 2000 Monster, and easily copes with what I dish out during my short blast. Meanwhile, Ducati’s stock fitment Showa front forks control anything that happens in front. The extra capacity from the tweaked motor encourages you to let loose with your right wrist, and on twisty roads like this I’m sorely tempted to give Foggy’s bike some serious throttle action. But I still feel as if I’m being watched by an unseen pair of eyes – perhaps the same ones glaring out from the front fly screen.
Another set of corners appears in the distance and I delight in chopping through them, using the Monster’s excellent four-piston Brembo brakes to scrub off just enough speed before I pitch in, leaving a trail of destroyed plastic from my kneeslider as a signature on the asphalt. I swear the Monster has somehow absorbed Foggy’s personality – just being around this bike seems enough to get you into trouble.
I’m having such a blast that I’ve completely lost track of the time and I’m shocked to discover that I was supposed to return the bike two hours ago. So I’m a bit anxious when I finally arrive back at Foggy’s place. He’s gone for a session with the physiotherapist, but his wife Michaela tells me a few curses have been thrown in my direction. Thank God I brought the bike back in one piece.
When Foggy comes back, he gives me the trademark stare for a few seconds, then checks the bike over to see that all its bits and bobs are still intact. He’s OK about my tardy return, though, and I relax – as much as you can relax in the presence of Carl Fogarty.
Foggy tries to help me push the bike back into the garage – which also contains a couple of motocross bikes, a kiddies’ quad bike and the red miniature car he used to whizz around the paddock in. But his badly broken arm is obviously still giving him pain. The healing process clearly still has some way to go.
Two other journalists have arrived since our return. With the Brands Hatch round of WSB coming up this weekend, Foggy is in demand by the media, even though he’s not actually taking part. But it’s obvious he would rather be talking about his Monster than answering the same questions over and over about his return to racing.
Once the reporters have left and we’re alone in the seclusion of his garage, Foggy relaxes and opens up. It becomes clear how much he loves racing and how frustrating his enforced lay-off is for him. I have some idea how he’s feeling, having acquired a total of 13 injuries myself in 10 years of road racing. I leave Foggy with even more respect for the man, his commitment to his sport and his consideration for his fans.
Riding Carl Fogarty’s own Monster on his own hunting ground has been a unique experience. It’s like riding around with a halo on top of your head. It’s something I won’t forget for a long time.
All of these parts are available through Ducati UK: 01604-750851. Prices exclude VAT and labour
•High-compression piston kit £1090
•Polished tank £650.91
•Carbon fly screen £127.27
•Carbon tail unit £152
•Rev counter kit £177
•Carbon gearbox sprocket cover £30.18
•Carbon clutch cover £46.64
•Carbon rear hugger £112.73
•Carbon front fender £86.18
•High-level exhaust system £669
Engine: Air-cooled, 960cc 4v sohc four-stroke 90° V-twin. Magnetti-Marelli fuel injection. 6 gears
Chassis: Tubular steel trellis
Front suspension: Showa 43mm inverted forks, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Ohlins single shock with rising-rate linkage, adjustments for pre-load, compression and rebound damping
Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax; 120/70 x ZR17 front, 170/60 x ZR17 rear
Brakes: Brembo; 2 x 320mm front discs with 4-piston calipers, 245mm rear disc with 2-piston caliper
Geometry (Rake/trail/wheelbase): 25°, 10.3cm, 143cm
Weight/power to weight ratio: 183kg (403lb), 0.45bhp/kg
Standing 1/4-mile time/terminal speed: 10.5s, 124mph
Top speed (claimed): 140mph
Average mpg/tank capacity/range: 41mpg, 16.5 litres, 155 miles