Fogarty's two wheels to the fore
Andy Martin visits Brands Hatch to find a new breed of motorcyclist celebrating the twin victories of a thoroughly modern world champion
In one respect the Superbike races were a classic exercise in machismo. Even the logo of the Superbike championship had been cunningly reconfigured to look, from a distance, not like SBK95 but - omitting the uprights of the B and K - more like SEX95. Brands Hatch is one of the last refuges of unashamed playboy fantasies.
All bikers hark back to a nobler age, rougher, tougher, riskier, more chivalric and patriarchal in which men are men and bikes are women, purpose- built for riding. And there is a sense of solidarity among bike fans absent at car races.
At Silverstone the crowd is just a cross section of our car-owning culture but at Brands Hatch there is a sacred bond of the bike. All these knights in shining helmets despise car drivers. Two wheels good, four wheels bad. "If you're going to ride a couch," read one T-shirt, "why not just stay home?" The rugged nonconformist individualism of The Wild Ones and Easy Rider lives on in the mind.
There was a widespread suspicion that "Foggy" had not got the coverage he deserved, considering he is world champion, and was a victim of a car- driving conspiracy favouring Damon Hill. The Fogarty official merchandise stall was doing a roaring trade in classic biker iconography where motifs of sex and death predominate with a strong heavy metal flavour. Naked women encoiled by serpents and grinning skulls sit alongside Foggy mugs and even Foggy lacy knickers in red and black.
But there is a split within the ranks, symbolised by Foggy himself. It was only after he took off his Shark helmet after his victory that I realised he is secretly a mod in rocker's clothing. Slightly built, clean-shaven, short-haired, more jockey than biker, he would have fitted on a Lambretta no problem.
A few more traditional bikers could be found at Brands Hatch - beefy, bearded, beer-bellied, hair slicked back with Castrol, but they were a rarity. The Superbike rider is a mod in leathers. He is also middle class and well to do. "Most of these guys are professionals," as Simon, of Pagan Promotions, pointed out. "With the new Ducatis retailing at over pounds 10,000, they have to be. And they are the only ones who can afford the medical treatment when they come off."
His sell-out T-shirt bore the motif: "I Live With Fear Every Day, But Sometimes She Lets Me Race". But the reality is that the racer is a consumer. The classic biker is a dying breed, found only at nostalgic reunions. Simon reckons he has never even seen a fight at Brands Hatch. "It's a party atmosphere - they are easy to get on with, they've got a good sense of humour, and they are easy to sell to."
I did find a Ducati 916 [Foggy's bike] for a bargain pounds 9.99. It was in the Model Shop. Keith complained that the market for classic bikes - the Nortons, Triumphs and BSAs - had gone right through the floor. "I have to sell them at pounds 19. People get cynical but the materials are more expensive. But now it's all Superbikes, that's where the market is. All the kids want is a Honda FireBlade now."
The surge in popularity of 900cc Honda FireBlades dates back to the end of last year when a bloke was nicked for doing between 165 and 175mph on one, thus earning Honda a front-page splash in Motor Cycle News.
"It's tragic. All people are interested in is horsepower and mph. The Japs can't even make bikes."
And the Italians? "Well, they're better than the Japs."
I began to understand why it was that when I invited my dad - a biker from way back - to come to Brands Hatch on his Velocette, he turned me down flat. "Superbikes!" he sneered. "They're not real bikes. They're plastic bikes. You can't see the chrome. And they don't make the right noise."
Results, Sporting Digest, page 21
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
- 2 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...
£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...
£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...