CARL Fogarty’s friendly but sometimes combative persona exemplifies much of the appeal of Superbike racing.
His the unstinting dedication brought one of Blackburn’s most famous sons an incredible four world titles.
Around the globe he’s simply known by his childhood name — Foggy — the most successful World Superbike racer of all time.
But when, in 2000, he suffered a horrific 150 mph crash, riding a typically ferocious race on a surface still drying out from a burst of rain at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit in Australia, it was a moment that would alter his life forever.
“I didn’t get away to a good start, so I badly needed to make up ground,” recalled Fogarty.
“I started tearing through the field, passing them one by one and I was just about to pass this Austrian rider, Robert Ulm, on the outside.
“I don’t know what happened.
“I black out from that point and I didn’t really remember much until I came to in the hospital.
“But I’m told the engine started to cut out and he veered into my line and, at those sort of speeds, there was nothing I could do.
“I just ran into the back of him.”
Fogarty was lifeless, unconscious and lying in such a broken state that the paramedics who arrived on the scene feared the worst.
With his humerus, the bone that connects the shoulder to the elbow fractured in three places, the injury was complicated further by shards of shredded bone that had cut through the major muscles.
After the crash, and given his incredible record for getting back in the saddle after some hair-raising spills on the track, his millions of fans expected to see Foggy make another gutsy return to the podium.
Yet even the most accomplished rider in Britain could not defy the odds again as the shoulder injury failed to heal well enough to allow him to race again. His star-studded racing career was over.
“When people ask me what caused me to pack it all in, the answer is: I didn’t have a choice,” he said.
“I needed two arms to race. I didn’t have the mobility, I didn’t have the strength, I didn’t have a choice.”
Foggy is back on home turf next week when he teams up with his pal, former British champ and TV pundit James Whitman, for a sell-out show at Blackburn’s Thwaites Empire Theatre on Thursday.
The pair will recount former glories and disasters, the simmering rivalries between the sport’s biggest characters and the pit lane camaraderie.
It was in 1994, ironically at the Australian track where he was to be so badly injured six years later, that he lifted his first world Superbike crown, a victory he describes as his greatest moment in the sport.
Another title followed a year later and again in 1998 and 1999.
It was also the start of a golden period for Fogarty.
His hometown football club Blackburn Rovers won the 1994-95 Premier League title and Foggy won Sky Sports Personality of the Year and collected an MBE.
“It was a magical time, ’96. Oasis at Maine Road. I loved all that. That really hot summer, thousands of Brits coming over to Holland to see me hold on to the title at Assen.
“It was a great vibe and it seemed like it would never end.
“I think I was the first rider to put my nickname on the back of my leathers and after The Euro ’96 Football Championships I sort of adopted the cross of St George and again it just took off.
“Every race you’d see thousands of England flags with Foggy No 1.”
Fogarty has always lived within a 10-mile radius of Blackburn, and every summer his dad, an amateur rider, would take him to the Isle of Man TT.
Fired-up by the thrill and glamour of big-time racing, he returned to the Mecca of motorbike racing as a competitor in 1986. And it was there that he encountered his first close call with death.
“I was doing all right, I was about sixth, and then my bike just packed in.
“So I’m just stood there, waiting for someone to come and help and one of the favourites, Gene McDonnell, goes tearing past me.
“Next thing, I can hear this terrible crash from down the road.
“A horse had bolted into the road at one of the fastest points on the track.
“If my bike hadn’t seized up, it might’ve been me, but Gene was next past.
“He had no chance.
“Him and the horse were killed, but when I got told, I just said: ‘That’s terrible.’ “It is a crazy thing trying to explain your raw emotions when something awful like that happens.
“I was 21 and I was trying to win.
“I had to accept it and get on with my life.
“Now, I’d be utterly devastated, and looking back I can’t believe some of the stuff that happened on the track.
“But back then if you let fear into your mind, you were finished.”
- Foggy and Whit on the Road, Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn, January 17. A donation will be made to East Lancashire Hospice.