Foggy feared retirement. Now he’s loving it

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MISERABLE? Bitter? Or loving his life and more secure than he has ever felt before? Carl Fogarty is a relaxed man a year after the crash that ended his career.

He’s bouncing back to life and changing into a new character as he takes a widerlook around the world now he isn’t so focused on racing.

Just over a year ago, Foggy was desperately trying to get fit after smashing his left shoulder at Phillip Island, the thought lodged stubbornly in his mind that he was going to make a comeback, first at Donington in May and then at Brands Hatch in August.

But as the time went on, he realised that was never going to happen and he had to face up to retirement.

That decision was made in October 2000 after he tested his works Ducati again and realised that he’d never race again. The damage to the ligaments and muscles in his shoulder was just too severe. He couldn’t even hold on to the bike properly and a demo lap in front of his home fans at Brands was a scary experience for him.

He has since accepted that he’ll never regain more than 75 per cent of the strength and mobility in his damaged limb, but the 35-year-old has also accepted that retirement is nothing to be afraid of. He is relishing a new-found lease of life.

I’m talking to the great man in one of the many rooms in his luxury home in Lancashire. But this is no ordinary room. It’s stacked from top to bottom with memorabilia from his racing career. Lampstands made of WSB winner’s trophies; a glass coffee table made of a Ducati paddock stand with a red Michelin tyre; more silverware than most people see in their lives; pillow cases with the Union Jack and a crown sewn on.Oh, and a new Ducati 996SPS Foggy rep that has never even been fired up taking centre-stage in the middle of it all.

As he leans against the latter icon, I ask the man famed for the most intense stare in the business how the last year has affected him. " I’ve changed for sure, but not in major ways, " he said. " I’ve just got more time for people, friends and family because I’m not always thinking about the next race. I haven’t changed a massive amount, but I have changed. I’m a lot more relaxed about life now rather than getting stressed all the time and making myself sick with worry. It might sound bad, but racing – especially winning races – was top of my list all the time I was racing. The family side of things wasn’t as important. But that’s changed now. My personal commitments are taken more seriously. "

Foggy is busier now than he’s ever been. He even has three-year contracts with Ducati and Shark helmets – which is more than the companies ever offered him when he was racing.

He said: " I was worried that after retirement I was going to fade away and be forgotten. But I reckon I’m more famous now than I was when I was racing.

" People are asking me to do things all the time now, but when I was racing they left me alone because I was never up for doing anything in case it interfered with my track schedules. I’ve had to get someone in to deal with all of the public relations stuff because I was starting to lose touch with what I was supposed to do. Michaela is busy with her CCM work and can’t cope on her own any more.

" Airports are a nightmare now. I can walk in wearing a cap and shades and people still recognise me and want me to stop and chat. I don’t mind, but the problem is that if you stop for one person, you have to stop for them all and it can get a bit scary if there’s a big group.

" But the strangest thing for me is when I have been to a few ‘celebrity’ do’s and see the behaviour of people I think are famous. I was at some PR gig recently and Jay Kay from Jamiroquai was there. I was just walking across the place to the bog when he jumped out of the group of people he was talking to and shouted ‘Foggy, Foggy how are you? You’re a legend man’. It was really weird because to me, he’s famous, not the other way around. Even when I was racing, I struggled to understand what all the fuss was about because I found riding bikes was easy. I was just a guy who rode bikes. "

For Foggy, his only regret is that he didn’t call it a day sooner. He wishes he had stopped racing at the end of 1999, rather than keeping going into 2000.

The signs were there for a superstitious man. Perhaps one of the most superstitious racers out there. He always had to race in a green T-shirt, and when he didn’t win the opening round of the year at Kyalami in South Africa, he started to worry. Prior to that, when he won his four world titles, he always won the opening race of the year.

Before that he had hurt his shoulder on a skiing holiday – and again at pre-season testing when he knocked himself out at Valencia and damaged the same area.

He said: " There was something there telling me to walk away and stop racing at the end of ’99. The skiing accident, the crash at Valencia and then South Africa all went badly. I didn’t listen to those warnings and look what happened in Australia.

" I look back at pictures of myself from the end of 1999 after Brands Hatch when the title was getting close and I looked terrible – I can see how stressed I look. We sorted out the cover picture for my autobiography at that time, but when the publishers saw the picture they made us do it again because I looked horrendous. I did that between Assen and Hockenheim, and I was so stressed about winning another title.

" I’m not superstitious about life, but always with racing. I find it strange that I’ve hurt myself and the only thing I can’t do is race a superbike. I can ride motocross, enduro and supermoto, I can play football, but I just can’t race a superbike. That’s someone telling me it’s time to quit, no matter what I think.

" That psychopathic, aggressive bastard who was focused only on one thing – winning races – is slowly going out of me. It’s still there, but I can control the impulses a bit more now because I don’t have to be such a nasty piece of work. But when I see people like Troy Corser leading the championship, it starts to creep back in and I wish I was racing again because I could always beat him – and I think he knew that. It was the same with Aaron Slight and everyone else of that time. I don’t mean any disrespect to Corser, but he was around when I was winning races, so it means more to me than seeing Ben Bostrom or Troy Bayliss win because they were not around in my era.

" I just have to make sure I don’t listen to those little demons. I just think ‘shut up you idiot, you’ve done all that and had a great time’. I’ve also got a great life and I’m still alive.

" Then I try and remember what it was like when I was out there. You’re worried about doing well, about things such as what tyres to use, and you’re sweating like a bastard. Then there’s the expectation, the hassle, the pressure and the backmarkers nearly knocking you off. Those are the times when I don’t miss it at all.

" All the travel was a pain in the arse, too. I love home as much as anyone. And when I think at what happened to Joey Dunlop, I realise how lucky I’ve been to have a bit of a sore shoulder.

" But despite all those pains in the arse, there is nothing in my life that can replace the feeling of getting up on that middle step of the podium. Nothing is ever going to change that, but I am finding more things to do to help fill that gap.

" Apart from those moments, I think I have coped really well. I’ve spoken to other racers who have quit and they’ve all said the first year is the hardest, but I am still enjoying myself despite those warnings.

" The worst time for me was at the launch of the Ducati Corse team at the start of this year. I have never told anyone before, but I had a bit of a lump in my throat as I looked at the three guys up on stage on their new bikes and realised I wasn’t going to be a part of that this year. It was hard, but it soon passed. "

It’s not just Foggy who has noticed the changes he has undergone in the past year. Close friend and racer Jamie Whitham has picked up on some big alterations.

He said: " Going for a night out with Carl used to be hard work sometimes because you could see he had other things on his mind. He could be a miserable sod, but that’s changed now.

" We went out for a meal a few weeks ago and it was one of the best nights out I’ve ever had. People never saw the funny side of Carl’s personality because he was always so serious. But he is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. "

Foggy continued: " I love my life at the moment because I’ve been so busy, and for the next three years that’s the way it will be. Ducati has me signed up for three years to still be involved in racing, and Shark has signed me up for a three-year replica helmet deal. Neither of them would give me more than a year deal when I was racing. I’m more sorted financially now than ever. "

A new house in southern Spain has added something else to the Fogarty household – time away to relax in the sun. Foggy added: " I love the place and it’s so nice to just know we can all pack our bags and head off there for the weekend if we feel like it. We’ve already been out there loads of times and now I’m working on getting a car rather than having to hire one all the time.

" The house still needs some work, but I’m more interested in getting it stocked full of jet-skis and motocross bikes. I’ll let Michaela sort out the rest. "

Foggy still has no recollection of the moments leading up to the accident that ended his career. He has no memory of the lap preceding the second he slammed into the back of Robert Ulm’s Ducati and then hit the deck at 170mph.

It turned out Ulm was trying to change the ignition settings from wet to dry when he accidentally shut down the bike, causing it to slow dramatically.

Foggy said: " I can handle the fact that I’m not going to race again, but I find it hard to deal with the fact that I have no memory of the accident. I don’t feel cheated by that crash, but I just wish I had taken some notice of the signs I was getting all winter.

" All I can think about is how I managed to run into the back of another bike.I know there was a problem with the bike in front, but that still doesn’t explain it enough for me. I can vaguely remember the sound of a helicopter, but then nothing until I woke up in hospital.

" I’ve watched the onboard camera footage loads of times to try and recall what happened, but it hasn’t worked.

" I want to be able to remember going across the grass and I want to actually remember how I hurt myself. To this day, no-one can actually tell me what caused the shoulder damage for certain.

" The doctor and the physiotherapist who have been looking after me reckon it was when I hit the tyre wall sliding backwards.

" " I can remember getting a bad start in the second race – spinning the wheel on the line and then getting stuck behind Anthony Gobert for ages. I just couldn’t get past him. Eventually I overtook him around the outside going on to the start/finish straight, but then nothing. It’s very frustrating.

" The shoulder has been getting better over the past month or so as I have been working out in the gym really hard. My physio is really pleased, but has told me there is never going to be complete movement in it. I spend a lot of time on my motocross and enduro bike which seems to help as well. "

Next up for Foggy is trying to concentrate on getting his life sorted out for the next few years. That may include running his own WSB team with Ducati in 2002, though there is still a lot of work to be done before anything is finalised. His future will also include commentating for the BBC’s coverage of WSB and being the family man which has always taken a back seat in the past.

That final sentiment was evident as our day together came to an end.

I was about to leave when Michaela walked into the room with her bags packed. She was off to London for a meeting and needed Carl to pick the kids up from school. She even asked him to write down what time on a notepad so he didn’t forget.

This is just one of the chores that Foggy is now charged with getting sorted around the house.

It’s hard to believe that the hardest man in the history of WSB is off to deal with the daily school run.

You can imagine the look of fear on the faces of the other parents trying to fight through the traffic, only to be greeted by those famous eyes glaring out from behind the wheel.

But he’s loving every minute of it.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff