Motor Cycle Racing: Fogarty in mood to silence the loud American

Norman Fox looks at the brash biker being chased by Britain's finest at Donington today
Click to follow
Should the weather forecasters get it right and it rains today, the farmers and gardeners will be happy but one of Britain's few potential world champions is likely to be fuming. A fortnight ago, Carl Fogarty, the former World Superbike champion, lost more ground in this year's championship as an argumentative 28-year-old American, John Kocinski, overcame torrential rain to beat him twice in Italy. They meet again at Donington Park today where a dry track and home support could help restore Fogarty's challenge. But if it rains, Kocinski is likely to extend his lead without greatly increasing his popularity.

Although Fogarty is the main attraction today, the reason why a crowd of some 30,000 will be at Donington is also because Superbike racing makes the road-going motorcyclist feel some affinity. The machines look like the more expensive ones some of them will be riding up the M1, whereas grand prix bikes are even more exotic hybrids. In reality, though, the price difference between, say, a standard road-going 916 Ducati costing a mere (!) pounds 12,800 and the Ducati Superbike on which an Australian,Troy Corser, won last season's championship, is around pounds 250,000.

Another reason is that Superbike racing makes Formula One car racing look like a family trip to the supermarket. Kocinski, from Arkansas but now based in England, and Fogarty will be fighting it out because Corser has moved over to grand prix racing. The curiosity of this season is that Kocinski left Ducati to take over Fogarty's place in the Castrol Honda team while Fogarty moved back to the Italian Ducati machines on which he had previously been world champion.

Kocinski gives the impression that the enormously popular Superbike scene should be grateful to have him on loan. He has already ridden on the grand prix circuit and says he will be back next year "after winning the Superbike title". You can see why he falls out with a lot of people and why Fogarty says that given a dry track he can put the brash American in his place. He claims that wet tracks give a totally false reading of ability.

As an example of Kocinski's impudence, he so irritated Virginio Ferrari last season that the Ducati boss was reported to have told the team's main rival, Fogarty: "For my sake, just beat him." At the time Britain's Neil Hodgson was with Kocinski in the Ducati squad. This season he is happier partnering Fogarty. "Kocinski acts like a spoilt child. I used to have posters of him on my wall - not any more. He's just not a nice sort of person." He hopes that Donington will cause Kocinski problems since he has never been confident there.

Kocinski is enormously talented but erratic and impressively arrogant. "From what I gather," said Chris Herring, spokesman for Castrol Honda, "everyone said he was a nice kid until he was about 15." It was not much later that the kid was taken under the wing of his idol, the American world champion Kenny Roberts, whose own ego was a size or two larger than his helmet. Roberts recognised a talent that had been developed from the age of four when Kocinski rode in mini-bike racing in the United States then graduated as a three-times national 250cc champion and rode his first grand prix events in 1988. Yet his potential has never been realised. Herring said: "He needs special attention. He's had run-ins with just about everyone - his ability needs harnessing and everything taken care off."

He finished third overall last year after five victories, but his reputation for being disruptive to what passes for team spirit in this always aggressive sport was increased. After he had slanging matches with Ferrari, whom he accused of being a bad organiser, they ignored him for the entire second half of the season. This year he is being shadowed by a man from Honda who confesses that his only job is to prevent Kocinski giving his firm bad publicity.

So far, though, there is an element of eccentricity in his desire to please his employers. Motorcycling has always been blessed with competitors who act as if they have a few cross-threaded screws above neck level. Kocinski added to the impression when his enthusiasm to promote his new company extended to suggesting that Honda socks were "better made than most people's motorcycles". Fogarty and company would love to race the socks off him today.