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Motorcycling: Fourth world title is Fogarty's ride and joy

PREPARE TO see an immediate change in Carl Fogarty's demeanour. The transformation from dour intensity to joy unbridled was completed yesterday when the burden of expectation was lifted from the Ducati rider from Blackburn, Lancashire, as he secured an unprecedented fourth World Superbike championship.

Victory, albeit in controversial circumstances, in the first race at Hockenheim provided more than enough points to clinch the title: he needed only to finish the race after his title rival and team-mate, Troy Corser, suffered a mechanical failure five laps from the chequered flag.

Fogarty had finished in second place, but a red flag on the penultimate lap when he was ahead of Aaron Slight's Honda denied the New Zealander the win after he slipped past the Ducati on the final lap.

Understandably, Slight was enraged, but Fogarty could not have cared less and he pulled a succession of exultant wheelies on the wind-down lap. At one point, he dismounted and fell to his knees before a grandstand brimful of supporters waving the flag of St George. Some 50,000 British fans had travelled to Germany to cheer on "Foggy", who provided British sport with a cause for celebration.

In typically forthright manner, Fogarty's first words after victory were an apology to those supporters. "I'm just relived that I can eat food now, I can sleep at night now and relax at home and be a nice person for a while because I've been hard work these last few weeks for everybody, including the fans. I've not really been too kind to them; I've been ignoring them. But I'm sorry, it's just that I've been under pressure, so hopefully I'll have a bit more time for them now."

Fogarty appeared to allow Slight to pass him on the final lap and claim a first victory of a frustrating season, but race officials reversed the positions. "Today was about winning titles, not races," Fogarty said. Slight, in high dudgeon, boycotted the podium ceremony. "I know I won that," he fumed. "The red flag was out after we crossed the line. The guys fell off behind us at the first chicane."

It was Fogarty's 11th victory of the season and confirmed the 33-year- old's status as the first Briton since Barry Sheene in the late 1970s to achieve fame beyond the sport.

Fogarty's desire for victory is such that, in the second race, he gained the lead on the last lap before Pierfrancesco Chili used the slipstream effect on the penultimate corner to carrying his Suzuki to the chequered flag first. But the round, and the title, belonged to Fogarty.