There is no better era in the history of the Superbike World Championship than the late nineties. The competition was so intense and rivalries so fierce that World Superbikes had a bigger profile than Grand Prix racing at the time.
The racers were icons, both on and off the track and one of those icons was #111, Aaron Slight.
Still widely regarded as one of the best riders never to win a WSB title, Slight was famous for not giving a toss what people thought. While he was popular with fans, his rivals were exactly that and he wasn’t afraid to let them know it both on and off the track. We caught up with him at the British Grand Prix, which he attended as part of a Castrol Honda throwback with the LCR team.
What are you up to now?
I’m living back in New Zealand and cruising along really. New Zealand is a long way away, so you can either choose to still be involved in motorsport and stay in Europe or go back to NZ and live a different life. I did the British Touring Car Championship in 2002 and then did something with Porsche the next year, I was living in Monaco then but I moved back home in 2004.
I miss Europe a lot, but I still get to the races in Phillip Island every couple of years to get my fix. I’ve been working with Honda in New Zealand for a few years too, doing a bit of an ambassadorial role with track days and stuff. It keeps me involved without sort of being involved.
When you look back on your career, what defines it?
The competition back when I raced World Superbike was so great, there were probably five guys who could win. The bikes were all pretty similar and you’d get wildcards coming in too, in Japan 15 people could win, the same in America and Britain. You were never going to be top five every weekend; you couldn’t count on it and that’s what made it in my opinion.
We had such fierce rivalries. We were breaking a lot of new ground, maybe with some antics that you wouldn’t get away with today but that’s the way the world is going. There was the time when it got out about Neil Hodgson and I having a dust-up after a race when he was fighting for his career and I was fighting for the championship, people loved that kind of stuff – if someone was a **** to you, you could deal with it both on and off track, we were emotional about what we were doing but you see that a lot less these days.
Do you think that sort of fierce rivalry is what WorldSBK is lacking these days?
Nothing was scripted back then. People look back and say the reason I had the Mohawk was all for PR and stuff, but it wasn’t, it was just what we were doing. There’s a whole PR role there now, but back then we did what we wanted. There was no bloody Facebook or whatever, you could do what you wanted.
There’s a lot of talk about changing WorldSBK to make improvements, what would you do if it was down to you?
The problem with World Superbike these days is that there are no manufacturers there. The only manufacturer really there now is Kawasaki and there’s a bit from Ducati, while in my day every manufacturer was there with factory teams. That makes the competition, with only Kawasaki winning it’s pretty hard to get everybody else feeling it. The factories also aren’t making similar levels of bikes available to privateers and things like that too, it’s just not working at the moment.
I’m not sure it’s good both MotoGP and WorldSBK being owned by the same company. Do they have the same level of interest in each? They aren’t doing a bad job but you need competition. I’m not a fan of the one tyre rule either, it’s all too similar. Bikes being different is what makes great racing, it’s what makes one person good at one track and another at another. It spices it up a bit.
Have a browse for your next bike on MCN Bikes For Sale website or use the MCN's Bikes For Sale App.