Motor Racing: Wet and wild day for Fogarty

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The Independent Online
THUNDER rumbled around Brands Hatch yesterday and Britain's former world superbike champion, Carl Fogarty, on his thundering Italian Ducati slithered around the wet track to qualify for today's ninth round of this season's championship in only ninth place.

Fogarty, who is never at his best in the wet, will be praying that the forecast for a dry day today comes true for what could be his farewell appearance in Britain. Yesterday he saw the championship leader, Troy Corser of Australia, also on a Ducati take pole position. But he was also slower yesterday than four other British riders, Sean Emmett, John Reynolds, Niall Mackenzie and James Haydon.

Because of the rain it was decided not to ask the riders to take part in a "super pole" competition based on a single lap time, but judge grid positions on the best times over 12 laps.

Fogarty, who will start on the third row of the grid, needs to win both races today if he is to have any chance of moving up from his fourth place in the championship and regain the world title. In practice on Friday he showed his intent by being the fastest. Surprisingly, Corser had finished 11th in that session but said it was all down to re-learning the circuit after spending last year in grand prix racing, without success. He is re-learning quickly.

Yesterday, Corser was remarkable on a surface that was in part drying out but in the lower sections had water running across it in streams. It was in those slippery sections that Fogarty had difficulty in controlling the rear wheel of his machine.

Today Fogarty will draw more than 60,000 bike-race fans to Brands. They will come to pay tribute to a special, audacious rider who has revived their sport since the decline that followed the end of Barry Sheene's career, and to cheer him in the hope of one last title bid to add to the two he won in 1994 and 1995.

But, at 32, he admits that though the elation he gets from winning remains a compelling incentive, the defeats get more frustrating, the injuries take longer to repair and his wife thinks it is time to stop risking his neck and to enjoy the proceeds of his success.

This season has not been kind to him, which makes it all the more important that he goes back to Brands and proves to his home supporters that he is determined to make up for the fact that after last year's races they sat in four-hour traffic jams. He was fuming in frustration that though he had won one race, in the other they saw him fall off his Ducati. So far this season he has won only twice and on other occasions been left trailing far back.

He admits that although this year he has often blamed his Ducati for not being as quick as the Japanese machines that have too often relegated him to hurtful also-ran positions, the one that Corser rides is not all that different. "I have to put it down to my own inconsistency," he said. "I seem to have lost confidence sometimes, and it's usually in the wet."

Reading beneath everything he says, the feeling is that his greatest wish would be to win both races today, take the laurels and the money, go to his splendid new home near Blackburn, close the door and get no closer to another Ducati than the pounds 20,000 "replica" the company has given him. Not a bad leaving present.