Saturday Interview: How jungle life helped helped ‘Foggy’ deal with fame

TRACK TO JUNGLE: Carl Fogarty found a new legion of fans when he won 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
TRACK TO JUNGLE: Carl Fogarty found a new legion of fans when he won 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
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“I hate being hungry, bored and am not a people person. It was a gamble.”

Not exactly the ideal character traits if you are thinking of landing yourself in the middle of a sub-tropical rain forest in eastern Australia with 10 people you have never met for the best part of three weeks.

But small details like that have never really bothered one of the world’s most successful motorcycle racers.

Carl ‘Foggy’ Fogarty returned from his stint on the ITV show ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ victorious once again and cited winning the show as being up there with his racing achievements.

He had turned the show down when offered it before, along with similar programmmes like ‘Dancing on Ice’ and ‘Wife Swap’.

Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post he says: “This was the only one I liked the idea of – living outside in that kind of environment. They came back to me and I was surprised as I had been out of the public eye.

“It was a gamble and I thought if it goes wrong – I don’t care. I am not trying to get back on TV or race. I have got money, I don’t need it.

“I wanted the challenge but it sounds macabre to do it in front of 12 million people every night with a bunch of so-called celebrities.”

But to his surprise he dealt with it by keeping busy and because, speaking of his fellow campers, “not one was up their own a**e”.

He adds: “To go all the way was a total shock. I was thinking ‘how the hell did that happen, to win one of the biggest TV shows?’”

Fogarty’s jungle exploits led to a new-found demand for the racer who, back in the mid-1990s, was a hero to legions of fans.

As well as the usual personal appearances, there have been offers for more TV work and projects but he is hoping to take some time out over the summer to go on holiday, go fishing, ride bikes and his latest project.

As we speak he has just taken delivery of another motorbike to add to his extensive collection of former race machines, superbikes and classics.

His new bike is around 50 years old, doesn’t start and has nettles sprouting out of it.

“It is my first ever bike that I learned to ride on when I was 10,” says Fogarty.

“I gave it to a bloke collecting some bikes from my house in the early 90s. This old thing was outside, it was a pile of junk.

“He died recently and his wife got in touch and asked if I wanted it back. It’s in the same condition I gave it to him in. I’m going to get it restored but it will take some doing.”

It was that bike that put him on track for what was to become a remarkable motorcycling career, which saw the seven-time world champion set records on both road and short circuits.

As well as racing at England’s only road race circuit here in Yorkshire at Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough, Foggy started to make his mark with the most unforgiving of teachers – the Isle of Man mountain course – where, quite frankly, if you get it wrong you are not coming home.

In 1985, he won as a newcomer at the Manx GP, paving the way for 26 TT starts, in which three ended in victory. In 1992, he completed the 37-mile course in 18 minutes and eight seconds – setting a lap record which stood for the next seven years.

Elsewhere, in Ireland, he won the Ulster GP (1988) both superbike races at the North West 200 (2003) beating road racing royalty brothers Robert and Joey Dunlop.

It was around this time that his short-circuit career was getting the green light and, after winning the Formula One World Championship for bikes in successive years from 1988 to 1990, he moved into World Superbikes, a transition he made with ease.

“I could do both and was very fast,” he says. “I was the last of the guys that could win a short circuit and set a lap record at the TT.

“The guys that do the TT now are not very fast anywhere else, but that is how things have changed in 20 or 30 years.

“The fastest riders in the world are all on short circuits. Look at Valentino Rossi and go down the list. It is physically and mentally harder to win.

“But, one of my happiest times was on the road circuits with the riders, the atmosphere, the Irish hospitality.

“The TT is a unique event, it is a very dangerous race.

“The guys that go there know the risks and dangers but the feeling of racing and winning is one of the best you will ever experience.

“Looking back on those times, people think I became famous for World Superbikes, but I am more proud of winning those sort of races.”

Yet his record in that championship and on board a now legendary Ducati 916 is undisputed.

His superbike career saw him start 219 races, win 59 and stand on the podium 109 times. He won the world title in 1994, ’95, ’98 and ’99 before a freak crash the following year left him unable to compete at the top level.

In 2003, he started his own racing team, Foggy Petronas, but it did not work out due to a lack of support for privateers and he admits he found it hard to stay in touch with his beloved sport. He adds: “I raced at a really good time, before it got too electronic, which made it not as much about the rider as it used to be.

“It was the big one of the 90s. Brit Pop was happening, it was summer, it was brilliant. Sky took the sport and made it huge and made me a household name along the way.

“I was just a guy that wanted to race bikes, next thing you know, you’re a household name. Once I took my helmet off, I was open to everybody and didn’t know how to handle it. Some love it, some don’t. I struggled with it.”

Following his success in the jungle, he has found it easier to deal with fame and finds the time again for watching racing.

“I had a lot of pressure and had to back it up but the pressure is not there now. I can enjoy it and have more time for people and fans now. It sounds bad but all I thought about was the next race.

“From 2003, I didn’t like watching or talking about racing. Now I watch as a fan but that is my maximum involvement.”

And who would he be giving a ride to?

“Marc Marquez is the reason people watch MotoGP whether they admit it or not,” offers Fogarty.

“He is a special kid and a special talent. He will be inconsistent at that age because you want to win everything. Sometimes you have to settle for second or third but he won’t do that.”

Maybe ‘King Carl’ sees something of himself in that?

Carl Fogarty and James Whitham Chat, a ticket only charity night for Friends of Huck is on at the Engine Shed, Wetherby on Thursday, May 14, to raise funds for cancer.