Biking heroes Christmas special (Part 2/6)
MCN has teamed up with none other than the legendary Foggy and a host of other greats to name their biking heroes as part of our Christmas special. We’ll be bringing you some of the best picks from the bumper double issue in the lead up to the big day.
500cc GP World Champion 1978, 1979 & 1980
Foggy on King Kenny
‘When I was a kid it was Kenny all the way – not Barry’
“My hero was always Kenny Roberts. When I was a kid it was Kenny all the way – always. I guess it was funny in a way because he was obviously battling Barry Sheene who was British but I seem to remember there were a lot of people that liked Kenny more.
“It’s actually a bit embarrassing now admitting that he was my hero, especially as I’ve ended up meeting him a few times and nearly ended up riding for him in the late 90s.
“I don’t know exactly why he was such a hero of mine, obviously he was the best in the world, which for me is a good enough reason for someone to be your hero. It was also the colour of that bike with the yellow and black livery. It looked amazing. I can remember him coming over for the Transatlantic races and going to watch the USA team in the 70s – there were some big names there. It was all down to the way he rode. Off track he seemed a really quiet guy and didn’t really say much. He did his talking on the track.
“Barry was never my hero and in a lot of ways people forget that although he was famous just how unpopular he was with some people. I can remember watching Barry at Scarborough as a kid and I’ve never seen so much hate for one person in my life. It was incredible, because at the time I was only a youngster and I liked Barry, but people were practically throwing stuff at him when he was going past. Everyone was there to see Mick Grant – he was from Yorkshire and he was their hero. Barry was the best in the world and that doesn’t always mean you’re well liked – he was also outspoken.
“In the UK I had another set of heroes who were Joey Dunlop and Ron Haslam on the Pharaoh Yamaha in the late 70s.”
James Whitham on King Kenny
‘Young, cocky, and a yank - Kenny was the man!’
“Ahhh... umm... my hero is probably Kenny Roberts Snr. From the time when I was about eight years old my dad was taking me to the races and I went to watch the Transatlantic races at Oulton Park in about 1978, and Kenny was there. He was a Yank and he was a bit cocky, and he was young. And he was The Man – he was better than everyone else. The Brits got blasted... although, now I think about it, I’m almost sure Roberts fell off at that meeting.
“The first time I actually met him was saying hello to him as a team manager, which was a weird thing. I’d just flown out to Jerez to race for him in the 500 Grand Prix in 1999 on the Modenas. He’d asked me to stand in for Jean-Michel Bayle who was injured. I wasn’t a young fan by then, so I wasn’t awestruck meeting an idol... well, OK, it was a little bit like that; it was Kenny Roberts! But it was very workmanlike. I didn’t get the chance to say, ‘Fookin’ hell, I watched you in 1978 at Oulton Park...’ – it wasn’t like that. But it still was Kenny Roberts, and in the post-race debrief I’m looking at him thinking I’ve had lots of really good team managers who were good racers in their time, but I’ve never ridden for one who was in the top five riders of all time. So when you’re sitting there after your session and he’s telling you what you’re doing wrong, you have to take it on the chin. You can’t say, ‘Yeah, but...!’. You have to sit there and go, ‘Oh, okay...’”
World Superbike Champion 2004 & 2007
Danny Kent on Toseland
‘One of the hardest people I’ve met’
“He was a great rider and also the first rider to show an interest in me when I was a kid. When James retired there was a dinner in Sheffield and afterwards he handed over his number 52 to me – and ever since I’ve always tried my best to win with it.
“James is one of the hardest people I’ve ever met. When he sets his mind to a task there’s no doubting that he’ll achieve his goal. Go to the gym with him and you know that you’ve had a proper workout – seeing him work and the dedication he put into his racing was so important for me when I was younger. He showed me how to get the most from myself.
“When he won the WSB title in 2003 with Ducati we saw just how good he was. It was clear that Ducati wanted (team-mate) Regis Laconi to win but James wouldn’t accept that and gave it everything he had and won the championship. A true hero.”