Carl 'Foggy' Fogarty columns from TWO magazine

Carl Fogarty has done more than enough to deserve this space to talk about anything that takes his fancy: racing, superbikes, Grand Prix, family, friends, fun and hanging out with pop stars in London nightclubs...

August 2001

I wasn't surprised to see the results from the Donington WSB races, with most of the five riders I said would do well doing well.

Chili, Corser, Hodgson, Edwards, and Bayliss, although Bayliss had a bit of nightmare with his tyres. It seems to be the way things are going this year, and it'll be the ones who get the right type of tyres. I still think that the best two guys out there are the ones who are 1-2 in the Championship: Bayliss and Edwards. They are the fastest two guys, but they have to find the right rear tyre to use at any track.
In the past there haven't been so many fast guys on Dunlop tyres, which helped the Michelin guys a lot. So even in the past when you struggled on Michelins it wasn't so bad. I really struggled on Michelins at Donington in 1999 for example, but I still won, because I was fighting against someone else with the same tyres.

But now you've got some quick guys on Dunlops. The guys know from the moment they go out on the track for the first session on Friday they are trying to find the right rear tyre for the race. That decision is now made right at the last minute on Sunday. It is that hard now. I still think that Edwards is the fastest guy out there. Not by a mile, but he's the best rider, then Bayliss, then a slight gap and then Neil, Corser and them.

If the bike is perfect, Corser is perfect. If it's not, he's not. When we he rode with me in 1999 he could ride as fast as me but when the thing starts falling apart around you, which is ninety per cent of the time, you've still got to find the aggression and the way to get round it. But when Corser can ride smooth he's very difficult to beat. The Aprilia does look smooth with him on it. You never see him out of shape at all. Bayliss and Edwards have theirs moving about a lot more because they can't help it when their tyres go off.

We've moved into the new house in Spain and right away had some dramas. First off we had no electrical power and had to stay in Alan Pendrie's house (the guy from On Fire clothing) for the first night.

Then we got moved in the following day but only after getting help from the next door neighbour but one. He's an English bloke and he saw me as he drove past our house and turned to the person in the car next to him and said, "I'm sure that was Carl Fogarty!"

I came out of the garage and he was hanging over the wall, so we got chatting, and he said, "Hey I've got your book. I'm just reading it at the moment - would you sign it for me?"

I said no problem - and asked him if he could sort me out with some electric. So we got an electrician down and he ran a cable from his house to mine so we had some power.

Ruben Xaus came down to see my new house so the first night I was there, so was Ruben! He was a big help moving us in and arranging things because he can obviously speak the lingo.

I had arranged to have a 40-foot container full of our stuff brought over from England. I started unloading all the stuff out and it was stinking hot in the container and the things to get out of it were three CCM off-road bikes. I thought, "there was no way to get them out without jumping them out." I stood next to the trailer and the bed of the truck was under my chin, so it were a good 5-foot high.

I rooted out some body armour and a helmet before I attempted it. My mouth was dry and I was shitting myself. I went for it off the back of the trailer and the bike landed crossed-up, my foot came off the footpeg, and I nearly crashed it. Michaela was going mad! My confidence improved after I got the first one out and I was quite stylish by the third one!

I haven't seen much of the GP scene this year but I watched Rossi fall off on the last lap at Mugello, which was daft.  He'll have to figure that one out and it is something he will have to sort out if he wants to win the Championship. Consistency seems to be his problem - but I still think he will win it.

He is frighteningly fast and he's been like a breath of fresh air in that class. It's all 250-style riders coming to the fore again.

In the late 'nineties you could tell it was changing when Biaggi jumped on a 500 and won his first GP. Doohan always says that the later 500s don't slide right, they feel slow, just like a big 250 and so on - but he's probably right. That's the way to go fast on them now. I think that's why Chris Walker is having such a hard time, because his style is like a big rear-end Superbike rider.

A mate of mine, Rob Sawyer, owns a load of night-clubs and he asked us over. It was really funny because I spent the night mingling with the stars. Going down to London I thought I would be a small fish in a big pond, but it was the exact opposite. I get recognised all the time.

Even by really big stars like Mick Hucknall. He shouted to me, "Foggy, Foggy - respect, respect! Respect to you man!" JK from Jamiroquai... He were all over me, just wouldn't leave me alone. He said, "Oh man, since Denise left me I haven't been good." He was like almost crying on my shoulder. So I asked Michaela to come to my aid. He kept going on about it and I just said, "well, get another bird -  and you'll be fine." Perhaps it wasn't the advice he was looking for, but I was a bit pissed at the time...

September 2001

The Laguna SBK race went as I expected, Bostrom and Hodgson up front. I didn't think Bayliss would be that worried about pushing it too hard there. It's a Dunlop track, always has been. I was confident he would beat Edwards and now only disaster is going to stop Troy being World Champion. The circuits coming up are strong for him so he's only got to worry about Colin. They're on the same tyres, so if one struggles they'll both struggle.

A pleasant surprise is how well James Toseland went again. He's working away quietly in the background doing a very good job. I think he'll be one to watch in a couple of years' time.

I'm not sure what to make of the Rossi-Biaggi fighting story. The press are dying to make something exciting happen in GPs. It's like the thing I had with Kocinski or Russell, or Slight. It was always made out to be worse than it was. Racing in general lacks a few characters right now. But both riders want to win and when you have two guys who both want to win, you'll always have the banter between the two. They both hate each other though, so it's good for the sport. It's a pity it's not two Brits, but the Italian press must be loving it.

The British Championship has been a good battle so far. Normally about this time of the season Hislop falls apart but I think he'll be alright this year, and I hope he is. He's had a lot of ups and downs over the years but there's so much luck involved. A lot of British riders don't get a break until their late twenties. Look at McWilliams and people like that. Their arses aren't wiped and stuck on a bike like they are in Spain, Italy or Japan - or even Australia. Brit racers battle and battle and sometimes never make it to the top. But you have to believe you will eventually make it.

They talk about why there hasn't been British guys in GPs 'til now, but it's all to do with sponsors and so on. Some of the Spanish riders who have had factory GP rides are nothing special at all, but they have been on 500s so long that they learn how to ride them. That would happen to any British rider, but they're not given the chance.

Jeremy's win pleased me and I was really happy for him. He's chipped away in the background, had bad luck, but he's won a 250 GP and nobody can ever take that away from him. I don't think it will open any gates for other British riders because most sponsors' brands aren't so big in the UK. When I spoke to Roberts in 1995 he said he wanted me to ride for him but Marlboro weren't interested. Had I got the chance in my mid twenties, I'd have gone on to have be successful in GPs, no doubt about it.

 The Donington GP crowd was good, but I dunno what the fans thought of it. They've come for the popularity of Walker but then to watch people finish in 15th, I dunno if they'd have been that interested. I know I wouldn't be.

We had a big party at the house in July. It was my birthday, but it was also a surprise party for Michaela's best mate Tracy. She were crying her eyes out because we had arranged for all her friends and family to be there to surprise her when she walked in the door. She never gets drunk but we had her well pissed by about midnight.

I also went to the Goodwood festival of speed, same weekend as the GP. They had 140,000 to watch some old cars and bikes roar up someone's driveway. Mad it were.

Damon Hill and Eddie Irvine were up there so I had a natter with them. I was on my 1995 world championship-winning bike. It felt really weird to ride the very bike I rode in 1995 - and it was the one, because there were loads of things I checked and recognised. I wobbled my way around the first few corners, and the bike felt really fast for me - because I'm only used to riding Supermotard things now. But by Sunday I was doing stand-up wheelies and burnouts for the crowd. They were going absolutely mad.

On the Saturday night there was a ball, with Lord and Lady March inviting us up to Goodwood House for the night. It were a black tie do and only I wasn't wearing a black tie and dinner jacket. I don't like being told how to dress and I had this nice black suit on with a pink Gucci shirt so I looked really smart and nobody said anything.

We came across John Reynolds at the ball on Saturday. This man who I thought were this innocent, quiet person was completely pissed, so I got him more drinks. We kept wandering around this massive mansion getting more pissed. We were both wrecked and he was so relaxed, and so not John Reynolds. We lost him at one stage, but when Michaela and I walked back to the Goodwood Park Hotel, at about 3am, we were walking up the stairs when suddenly there's this body, sprawled out on the stairs. We got hold of him and guess who it was? Reynolds, completely out for the count. I dunno who took him back to the hotel, but I said to Michaela "lets take his pants off and leave him there," but she said no. So we found his room key in his trousers, helped him to his room - and there was Sean Emmett snoring away - and so we dumped John on the other bed. He's the last guy in the world you would expect it from, but I was pleased because he was just so chilled out. He had to catch a helicopter back up to Donington on Sunday at eight o'clock in the morning though...

I left my jacket in his room by accident and when he got to Donington he said to one of his mechanics, "I've come back with this jacket - but it isn't mine..." I said to the bloke, "Tell him it's bloody mine - because I was the one who put him to bed!"

October 2001

Bostrom's on fire at the moment in Superbikes. He was fantastic at Brands Hatch, the best I've ever seen him ride. Winning at home is almost expected, as he did at Laguna, but to do it twice at a British circuit that suits British riding styles? Very impressive.

His set-up was obviously good too. The way he usually has the bike, with the back all over the place - I think he loses time because of that, even if he likes it - at Brands he didn't have that.

He's now equalled my record of five straight wins, and he's got six in his sights, which I think only Doug Polen has done before.

He's got confidence behind him at the moment and the rest - Edwards, Bayliss and so on are getting frustrated, especially trying to get a tyre that works in races. I know they are because I was the same myself a few years ago. The Dunlop guys - it was obvious they had an advantage at Brands.

Bayliss rode really well at Brands too. Rode through the field and battled hard - like World Champions are supposed to I guess - and it looks like only disaster can stop him now.

I thought Brands would be difficult for the Michelin guys. I fancied Hodgson for two wins going into the race. Had a sneaky feeling about Bostrom and then changed my mind. I spoke to him on Friday and he seemed really confident despite doing no real consistent laps up to that point. The only man doing consistently fast laps was Hodgson, and maybe Edwards a bit as too. But it seems at the moment that Edwards does all the hard work on Friday and Saturday but comes up short on Sunday. I find that surprising. He was doing good lap times, even in morning warm-up, but not in the race. I don't know if it's his fitness or what but he seems to struggle later in the race, while Bayliss gets stronger.

People say it's the easiest thing in the world to win a world championship, but the most difficult thing in the world to hang onto. Colin really wanted it last year, but this year he's come up short. One season as World Champion and maybe never again.

Assen's coming up and I don't think Bostrom will make it seven in a row there. The circuit suits high corner speeds, which isn't Ben's strong point. But who knows what he can do now?

I hear Mick Doohan tried the Honda V-five at Suzuka and reckoned it was more like a GP bike than a Superbike, so he's probably right. Some riders may get onto them and adapt quicker than others, and I guess that's what it's all about.

I forgot all about the Suzuka 8-Hour which shows how unimportant it is to anyone outside Japan. Good for Colin and Valentino winning it though.

Went up with the Red Arrows the other day and it was great fun. I wasn't even sick. Troy Corser and Suzi Perry were there with me too.

When we were kitted out we were down to our underpants. Everything we had to wear was theirs. Full suit, boots everything, and I finally fitted into the helmet after a mass of preparation. It were really good but what got me worried was all the talk about firing the ejector seat. I'd gone along for a laugh and got hit with all that stuff! But when we got outside and walked towards the planes it was like something out of Top Gun and I could hear this voice in my ear singing, 'Take my breath away'. Really sad I suppose but I couldn't help myself.

When we took off in formation it was funny, but really weird because we were so close. I was just thinking 'don't be sick, don't be sick', but more than that I was like 'move the other planes because we're doing about 400mph with them just a few feet away'.

I looked over at Troy and Suzi and they gave me big thumbs ups. But a couple of minutes and some fast moves later Suzi was looking for a sick bag. She was white as a sheet. She had to go back but Troy and I went through about 80% of their routine and then started pulling five G. Then the guy said "we're gonna do a seven or eight G turn at the end of the runway, do you feel up to it?" Well of course I was.

He popped the brakes and there was this vibration and suddenly I was sinking down in my seat, my eyelids were pulling down, my lips were sitting down, I could hardly open my eyes, my arms were like lead weights, and the best thing was I didn't feel sick at all. Suzi didn't look like her usual self though, but Troy loved it because he's getting his pilot's licence at the moment.

The paperback version of my book was launched just before Brands WSB and went straight back into the book charts at number one. Sold 30,000 in two weeks, so I had to do loads of book signings at Brands. With the BBC commentary day I did there too, was dying by the end of the weekend.

It felt weird being at Brands, not racing and in my first real year of retirement. There was still loads of Foggy stuff on display so the fans haven't forgotten about me quite yet.

Jaguar have sorted out a car for me, a beautiful XKR. It's beautiful, and loads of power. Just foot down and it goes.

The phone's going a lot here in Spain now, and despite the diary filling up I've kept it pretty free for August. I like play-days back home now, with my dirt bikes and that. The last thing I did before I left for Spain again was trail riding in the Lake District. We got into an argument with a walker again who was just being an absolute twat like most walkers are. Nice to get back on some proper trails again, instead of just the Supermoto track.

In fact, it's been all play days recently, so it's been nice to not have a proper job anymore, not that I ever had one anyway.

November 2001

Assen was an amazing weekend for Ducati, absolutely perfect. Troy Bayliss is the most laid-back guy in the world but even he felt the pressure a little bit.

I was speaking to Davide Tardozzi and we agreed that he said he wouldn't be human if he weren't feeling the pressure. It's difficult when you get to that stage. There are two things on your mind, winning races and winning the Championship - whereas for most of the year it's just a case of going out and just trying to win races.

Davide had a bit of a go at him on Friday, saying that there was nothing wrong with the bike, and that it was just him. So Troy just jumped on the bike, stuck a fast lap in and said "I'm not a slow rider" sort of thing. Davide is just the right person at the right time to get people in the right frame of mind for a race. It was difficult for Troy but he did win the World Championship and he deserved to. He's been the fastest, most consistent guy out there and that's what wins world championships. He's also wanted it more than the other guys.

Troy was more focussed and more determined than Colin was. Last year Colin was really up for it and focussed, wanting to beat me, but this year he has been relaxed and happy and smiling, and when you are like that you're not really in the right frame of mind to go out and win races. I just thought, "well, that's all good and that, but if it were me I would be a bastard. Because that's what it takes to go out and win races, win world titles."

Losing the World Championship will be almost like a wake-up call for him and he may come back and win it next year. We'll have to wait and see. But when he's had to dig deep to come up with the results he hasn't been able to do it. He's always there and there about in practice, always doing the lap times and looking like a race winner, and very few others are - maybe Hodgson and Bostrom. He's still got age on his side, so we'll see if he comes back and wins it again.

Xaus - my tip for the top - saved my neck, I think. Embarrassing me he was up until Oschersleben and Assen! But seriously he's done really well recently. He was new to that bike, new to the Championship. It's trial and error for a young rider in that position, and you will crash a bit at the beginning of the year. It takes a while for the team to understand what he wants to get him going consistently fast. The year has actually gone exactly as I thought it would have done for him. He's always been complaining that he needs something better on the front and he's got a better tyre from Michelin, just come out since Suzuka. He's got a lot more feel from that. I thought towards the end of the year he would get more confidence and maybe get on the rostrum, but he's gone one better than that. It's been a really good year for him.

Everyone thinks that I'm helping him but I'm basically just taking the piss out of him all the time. I probably do help him because it goads him into going fast. I said to him at Assen "you didn't even break my lap record!" He said,"I will do it in Race 2!" But he still couldn't do it! So that was me off again: "You guys must be slow because you can't even break my lap record from two years ago when I was on a slow old bike..." That was him off again.

I wobbled around Assen for a lap and although I don't want to sound ungrateful of anything like that but I really don't enjoy them things. I did it because it's Assen, always been my favourite track, always been a good circuit. Won every year I've been there. So I was presented with a plaque as 'King of Assen'. I was going through all these puddles, on road tyres, I just thought I was going to crash if I so much as even touched the puddles. I always feel like the fans will be sitting there thinking, "Oh yeah, let's wheel the old guy out again," kinda feeling sorry for me. That's how I feel about it, like people think I'm trying to hold onto something that had gone 12 months ago or more. I won't do it again, but I did it because it was Assen.

With the Championship over all the talk now is about a big Supermotard race at Mettet, in Belgium, on 13-14 October.  I only wanted to do it on the quiet, for a bit of fun, and now it's gone massive. They're talking about a 50,000 crowd. There will be a lot of big names doing it. Whitham's doing it. It's just nice. I'm looking forward to being in competition again to get on a start-line and race against a couple of guys I used to race against and see how it goes. I might come last in every race. But I'm looking forward to it. James sent me a text message about it. "I'm doing it now as well - book the ambulance." I sent a reply. "Yeah, for two," James came back right away. "With gas and air!"

I could not believe the English football score in Germany. We won 5-1.   I cocked up on my flight back to Manchester and there was no way I could change the flights to see the game. So I was sitting in the departure lounge with no telly and I was getting text messages from everyone as the game progressed. At 3-1, I got another one that said, "3-2 now, German penalty, Beckham ordered off for arguing."

So I was storming up and down airport, muttering and cursing saying, "that Beckham, he's a wanker, he'll be on the back pages with a great target on his back, he'll deserve everything he's gonna get..." Then another message came though - "only joking!" Just before we got on the plane I got the real score of 5-1 and I was spewing even more that I missed it on TV. I was still mega-pleased. Right, I'm off to practice on my Supermotard for the Mettet race. I'm gonna need it...

January 2002

I'm in Spain at the moment but sadly not on holiday. We've come over to check out the landscaping of the garden at our house but as soon as I got on the plane I started feeling like I had flu. I spent the first day in bed and even driving up here with Michaela I was dying.

The best thing about Spain is that you can walk into a Chemist's, say, "I'm dying," and they'll give you antibiotics straight over the counter.

I still feel terrible, but it all adds to the entertainment of having a broken leg I suppose.

Everything's going okay with that though and I'm down to half a cast now, instead of the full leg one so I can get about a bit better and sit down normally at the table and eat and stuff now so in a few weeks I should just be walking around on crutches. Tell you what though - you don't appreciate not having two legs until you only have one to get about on.

I've been very restless the last few weeks because of the leg but going to Neil Hodgson's wedding the other day was a highlight. That was really good - I got totally wrecked so I hope I didn't offend anybody. I always found it hard to relax in environments where there are a lot of people from racing, but this time round it was good because I could really let my hair down.

The next day Jaguar turned up with Eddie Irvine's Formula One car at the house. So it was quite nice to see this F-1 car sitting in your driveway. We did some photos for their PR department because they've given me another new car, an XKR100, which is really beautiful. They took the other one back and gave me this gorgeous black convertible with special touches all over. It looks really nice. They told me even Eddie's not got one yet so maybe I should ring him up! Then again, best not.

As I mentioned I'm sitting in Spain right now to make sure the garden's going the way we want and it's great here because there are about eight guys out the back now working away. Back at home you'd be lucky to get a couple of blokes. Everything I've asked to be done is being done. It's a big job, because they're building walls, planting trees, palms, plants - looks really good now.

When we get back I have to go and do a few signings for the new book 'Foggy On Bikes.' With my broken leg the timing isn't so good so I can't say I'm honestly looking forward to it too much. But the book's good and I hope it does well.

There have been a lot of rumours flying about recently and all I can say is that I am involved in a new project and have ended my contract with Ducati. It has been very amicable and there's no bad feeling on either side, but I can't say anything more at the moment about what I hope to be doing.

I didn't get to the NEC show but Ducati brought Ruben Xaus over so he came and stayed with us on the Friday night after the show. We all went out to a nightclub in Blackburn, which we haven't done for ages because I just get mobbed in the town.

That was a laugh because it was a real eye-opener for Ruben. I thought he was going to hate it but he loved it. We were all bloody wrecked - got a minibus to take us down there with a few of our friends and that, so it was a funny watching Ruben in the mix. It were literally freezing and he couldn't believe how cold it was. He only had a long-sleeved shirt on, so no wonder.

Surprisingly he didn't do that much damage to the local lasses, and was fairly quiet really, but I do remember him getting his manhood out at one stage. These two girls came over to speak to me because they knew who I was then Ruben came around the corner. I said, "This is Ruben Xaus, who's going to be the next World Champion." I dunno what the girls said to him but the next thing he whipped it out quickly for them.

We got back about three and shortly after I was woken by the dogs barking and I heard some noise downstairs. The babysitter had already gone downstairs to check it out and said two tall blonde girls had turned up trying to get in, but when she got to the door they were just walking away down the drive!

At first we thought Ruben had given them our address but he swears it wasn't him, and it couldn't have been him anyway because he hasn't got a clue where we live. So I've got to get to the bottom of that one - and Michaela wasn't too pleased.

I were a bit drunk but I know I would never have given my address out to anyone. Maybe it was Neil Bramwell but he swears it wasn't him either. Bit of a mystery really that.

Ruben has come so good now and it's going to be a big year for him and a few others next season. It seemed easy to predict what would happen this year but, I'm dreading trying to say what will happen next year. It's going to be a lot harder. The winter tests should be interesting.

I heard from the CCM guys at the bike show that Colin went along to their stand, had a look at my tricked up CCM and was so impressed he ordered one to take back to America. The guys at CCM were well pleased. The new CCM looks awesome.

It was the first time I hadn't been down to the Bike Show for over ten years. Normally I like to go and have a look at the off-road bikes, because the Superbike stuff doesn't really bother me.

I fancy one of these four-stroke motocrossers, definitely. Either a 250 Yamaha or a Honda 450. I don't think you'll be able to buy a two-stroke in a couple of years time. Four-strokes are no hassle compared to two-strokes, until they go wrong that is. But then I pass them onto someone else to fix then. I just wait for Slick Bass to come and see me every few weeks and get him into the garage to fix everything. Because he was back over for Neil's wedding he stopped at our house. I told him that my little Yamaha 125cc motocross bike was leaking oil, and now he's sussed out that the gearbox seal is bust, so when he's back in a few weeks he'll fix it.

We've got Michaela's birthday up next so hopefully I'll be over my flu by that time because we've got a really big night in Manchester planned.

It might sound like I'm always out in pubs and nightclubs but I do work quite a lot in between! I hardly used to go out at all when I was racing but I'm really loving it now because I can relax a bit more and chill out.

February 2002

As you'll have gathered by now, the big plans I talked about last month - the reason I had to end my relationship with Ducati - has been unveiled.

In short, I'm going to be running a World Superbike race team using a race bike designed and built in partnership with the Malaysian petrochemical company Petronas. The bike is gonna be derived from the present Sauber Petronas Engineering GP-1 machine, which is at present being re-designed for Superbike racing. We're obviously going to be making a roadbike, which will be Petronas' and Malaysia's first ever Superbike. The early drawings I've seen of the road bike are really impressive and I want it to be a gorgeous thing that everyone will want to have. The scale of the whole project is massive and it's been a dream of mine to have my own team for years. I couldn't believe it when Petronas agreed to my deal.

It all started a few months ago during a phone conversation with an old sponsor and friend of mine David Wong, who is heavily involved with Petronas. One thing led to another and we were given the go ahead to build the roadbike and racing Superbike. I was stuck in the middle a bit after the announcement that I was going to leave Ducati came about, not being free to say what I was doing next and I said to the people in charge, "We have to say something in the next couple of days. Or it will seem a bit strange."

It was a bit of a mad scramble during those two days. I heard that lots of people in the MotoGP scene didn't believe that the project was going to Superbike, but I called it the best-kept secret I've ever been involved in, because this thing has been going on for months. Petronas had other options but they chose mine in SBK - which was great for me. I was a bit shocked to be honest with you, because I thought they would go to GPs.

This is huge for me. This is not about one person jumping on a bike and trying to win the World Championship any more - I am relying on many people to do a lot of work to get it all going.
SPE (Sauber Petronas Engineering) are doing the engine and the SBK Petronas will be the same as the GP1 engine, sleeved down but perhaps with the engine cases strengthened.

When we had put the deal together it was then up to me to go and employ people, so I went and spoke to Nigel Bosworth, to be the race team manager, in charge of bike, rider and mechanics. Murray Treece, who is a very successful business man and a clever guy, has been brought in to sort of run the business side of things. That was really important. He has a company called Teamwork Performance, which works on getting sponsorship and giving it to bike and car race teams, but he has been working all year really to get us sponsorship.

Then we have Neil Bramwell, running the Media and PR side of things, plus being heavily involved in the business itself as well. I feel like I've got the best guys I could possibly get. Bozzy is like Tardozzi, very hands on.

The riders are the number one priority now. Getting the riders sorted out and getting the rest of the team assembled. I didn't want to go and talk to riders until we get the whole thing assembled. There was pressure to go and speak to riders in the early stages but I didn't want to do that until it was all in the open, when they could see how big it was. I now want both riders sorted out by Christmas.

We hoped to get the team out for the first race at Monza, but we had to apply for homologation for the second half of the year, and that doesn't let us start until July, which is Laguna. This gives us two more months to get the bikes race ready, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. I want that bike still to be going testing in March and April and ready to race in May as originally planned. I want to be able to present the bike as soon as possible, as the finished article. We've got premises now and we should be moving into them in January, just off the A50 near Burton-in-Trent, a pretty central location.

The team launch at Bologna went quite well, we seemed to have a good reception. The hardest thing is that I am not Carl Fogarty - motorbike racer any more, I am Carl Fogarty, race team owner. So I have to watch what I can and cannot say now. Before I could go out and win races and just annoy people even more; now I have to bite my tongue and be diplomatic. That's the biggest challenge for me!

I remember saying a couple of years ago that I didn't think it was hard to run race teams. And I still don't. If you've got the budget to run a team, what's hard about it? The way we're doing it is a bit hard because we're building a new motorcycle. But if someone came to you with a lump of money and said that they wanted you to run a race team in SBK - it's easy. I remember saying that to Neil Tuxworth, and he just laughed and shook his head at me. But if you put the right people in the right places to do their jobs, and you've got the budget to do so then...

The three guys in the backbone of the team are really good and I couldn't have picked better people. Once we get the premises up and running I want to get more into the business - partly again because as the most successful Superbike rider in history I don't want to be seen to be in there saying to the riders how I did this or how I would have done that. It wouldn't work right and I expect the guys we have are going to be experienced anyway. I don't want to be in there messing their heads up.

I always said I would not get involved in any new team unless the budget was right and the budget for this is. We will have the best of everything, equipment, hospitality, also because it will be built and conceived to last five years. But I think this is the biggest challenge of my life, even more so than when I was racing - but it's something I simply could not turn down. Being a British-based team I hope we can get your support through 2002!

March 2002

Things have been a bit quiet over the Christmas period, which is probably a bit frustrating, because you want to keep the momentum going, but lots have gone into holiday mode the week before Christmas. Right now things are starting to move and we're getting things done again, so everyone's pretty busy. Boz and Steve Thompson have been doing a lot of work through the holidays, and they reckon that we are, if anything, slightly ahead of schedule as far as the chassis and the engineering side of that goes, plus the design of bodywork and so on.

I'm quite impressed with it all and the main thing I want to do is make sure we get the bike looking right. We had a couple of meetings before Christmas with Piper Design, who are doing the design of the bike, and I didn't really like the look of what they'd showed up at first, so I told them what I wanted it to look like and now they have gone away to get that done.

The aerodynamics seemed to be at the top of their list of but it was some way down the list on mine. I don't know how well that went down with them but it's got to look right, but I'm not a big believer in aerodynamics, especially in this class of riding. Look at the Ducati, which is probably the worst aerodynamic bike out there, yet still wins world titles. So it's got to look right, and perform well, so aerodynamics are about third or fourth on the list. If someone wants to buy a bike there are certain things they want to see on it, to add a bit of character to it.

It's hard but we've got to get to the point where everyone is happy with it, but at the end of the day it's us that have got to be happy with the bike, not them.

A lot of people are interested in getting involved in the project and we're working out which ones to go with now, for everything. Tyres - we are still talking to Michelin and Dunlop and that should be decided soon, same for everything really, chains, sprockets, tool suppliers, tyre warmers. Boz has been great with all of that, been right on with it. Right now there has been a lot of talking, but we're yet to see the results of it at the moment. We're just putting everything in place and it will all come together at once, I guess. Every time we have a meeting you are wanting people to come along so you can show them something and say "Here, look what we've made - look at it - it's really good," but it doesn't seem to happen like that, it's just meetings, meetings phone calls and more meetings at the moment. But that's how it is, and I guess it will all come together in March time I guess.

It's great that we've got at least one of the riders sorted out now, James Haydon. I always wanted to have British rider on the bike and because James is one of the best riders in Britain it has turned into a bit of a bonus really. He's a fast guy who'll get on and give 100% and he's still a good age, mid twenties, so I'm pleased. Now it's up to us to work with James in areas which he's struggled with in the last couple of years, consistency really, getting the best out of the bike and the best set-up, so we'll help him the best we can.

We agreed all the details a while ago with Troy Corser, but now it's just contracts and so on to sort out. It's not helped being Christmas and Troy is Australia, his lawyer is in Europe somewhere. I am sure there are no problems at all from our side or his. It is minor details at present but I would hope to have him signed up long before you read this.

It really is a big scoop for us to have these two riders, Troy is still one of the top five fastest in the world and one of the best at setting bikes up, and then you've got James who's got a lot of confidence in himself and will push Troy very hard indeed. I never thought we would get two riders of this calibre to come and ride for a brand new team with no bike. In some ways it puts even more pressure on myself to make sure this thing is right, but that I don't really mind because pressure is something I've dealt with a lot over the past ten years. I just want to make sure it is right for them. I'll do everything I can to make sure it is 100% right.

The Superbike version of the machine will come... I'm 90% certain by March. I want us to be testing somewhere the back end of March, on the completed racing version. On our side I don't think there is a problem at all. The guys I've got working on my team are doing really well, and we couldn't have anybody better. The chassis side of things is spot on and hopefully the engine will just slot in there and perform as well as we keep hearing it is capable of performing. I'm hoping that we're going to be there or thereabouts right away with the people we've got building and designing the chassis.

We've pretty much sorted out the logos and race colours for the machine, the trucks and so on, and a company is working on that for us right now, and it's pretty much all there.

There will be a part of it Petronas turquoise, although it is apparently not the best of colours to work with. Black is about the best that goes with it, then silvers and greys and then maybe a splosh of red in there somewhere. But it will look really good. Petronas will have 40% of the bike in the turquoise, as they are the main sponsor, so once we've got our design the way we like it, and had the OK from Petronas, then we can show it.

The biggest headache so far? Just sorting riders out! The other thing is time, getting people to meet deadlines, and so far they have, it's been happening. No-one is letting us down and everyone working for the team is working really well and there have been no major headaches so far, although I'm sure there is going to be before the end!

Everything else I've done recently has been scrapped, and I spend most of my time at home on the phone. Once we move into the premises we have just bought, I will probably be down there two or three times a week, sort of commuting, then it might feel like a proper job. But now it's a case of keeping tabs on with Boz and Murray (The Business Director) to find out where we're at every day or see if I can help if we have to contact someone in racing. It's not so hard on me because of Bozzy in the last four or five weeks. We all have a meeting once every two weeks and that gives us a chance to talk together properly.

We've thought about having a presence at all the races leading up to us joining the championship, but time may be against us on that, because we've got other more important things than that to consider. But I'm going to be at the first race. So are Murray, Boz, and the rest, just to have a look round, see where we're going to fit in when we do turn up - maybe get some Petronas shirts and walk around with them!

I've been assured that we will make the Laguna race and the FIM homologation date for the first 75 bikes. I'm confident with my guys and I hope the engine is as good as they say it is. The guys in Sauber Petronas Engineering are saying that everything is going to be fine with the engine so that's also encouraging.

Some people have apparently been very sceptical about whether or not we will have the required number of bikes ready, and cite Benelli as the example. All I can say is that's Italians for you, see!
I can only go by what everyone around us is saying. There is always that element of danger that it might not happen, but I'm confident that it will all happen - but if it doesn't it doesn't. It's not an option at this stage. I just think that in a lot of ways this kind of thing has never been done before. But it's up to us to prove the knockers all wrong. But I've done that before and I hope that we can do it again this time.

April 2002

Our project is all going along well, things happening all the time, even if you can't really see it. Everyone is getting on with his or her own individual responsibilities to make the bike ready to test around April time.

I just went over to see Michelin in early February to have some talks with them. It went really well and they were desperate to be involved.

We've got a deal with Ohlins now and it looks almost certain with Michelin, though I don't like to say too much until it's all signed and sealed. We should get the same tyres as Bayliss and Edwards, which is what we need, so that's probably the best option for us.

Troy Corser, our most recent signing, seems very pumped up about the whole thing, as we all are, and I just know that most of it is going to be right.

I know it is. But I am just so worried about the engine. I'm 100% confident that everything else will be right, but the engine - I don't know. My information is that Sauber weren't ditched from the project; things were just moved along the line. Petronas and David Wong were the ones involved, I don't know why, but they said it was because they wanted a bike person to get everything up and running now. That's why they chose Eskil Suter's company. If there is something more to it than that then I don't know, from what I can gather, the project's just been shifted across. SPE has designed and built this thing and now it has been moved across to get it up and running.

I don't know for sure, but this seems to be the best option for where we are now. The one thing I don't know is the bit I'm not really controlling! That goes for whether it was SPE doing it or Suter. We're taking their word for it that it's OK.

I don't know much about Eskil Suter. I can picture him, I have met him a couple of times, although he was a GP man whereas I was a Superbike rider.

I don't really know a lot about his company at all, and I never realised he was well known for his engineering skills. He obviously is and he also obviously knows his stuff. I just made Petronas aware, and David Wong aware, that I was worried about it, and that they should do whatever they could to stop me being worried about it. The engine is the one area of the bike that has to be right, especially for the guys who've got to ride it. I feel under pressure from them more than anybody else. I want them to have a bike they can ride and say "bloody hell this is great!"

Robbie Phillis, the old Superbike rider, is David Wong's man over there, more on the road bike side of things, just with the test team I think. What they do isn't going to interfere with us at all really. Stuff gets sent to us and we test it with our riders. Robbie is doing whatever he'll be doing in the background, just turning in lap after lap, testing for distance and reliability.

But the one thing I want to be concentrating on and getting on with is my own area. I just want to get the race team sorted, and not worry too much about the road bike side of things. I still reckon we'll make Laguna. The plan for James Haydon and Troy is to get together on the 18th or 19th February, sitting on the clay model of the bike, just to get it fitted to them properly. That will happen in London, down at Piper Design. The bike is taking shape but we'll see the final thing when I get down there. I don't know what the bike resembles, but my thinking is that the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta look fantastic, so I've asked them to do something like that - but not the same. I don't want a GSX-R type of bike, sort of big eighties thing. Ours will look more sharp and sexy.

We're still not in our race team premises yet and that is just because of lawyers and all that stuff. We should be in soon and get the fitters in to do the workshops, the offices, and all the sections of it. We've actually got to put a prayer room in the premises. It's for our Moslem Petronas graduates who will be in the team in the UK. They like to have a proper prayer room, so we've included one into the design. But we'll be the first ones in it - praying that we can things done in time!

We've actually finished assembling the team personnel now.

We recently met up in a pub near the workshops in Burton for a meal and a meeting, just so everyone could get to know each other and instil a bit of team spirit. We've got three mechanics per rider, plus one chief, plus a data acquisition engineer. There will also be two truck drivers/come mechanics as well. We've also got Sue Taylor on board, and she's got the important role of Special Projects Manager. At the moment she even organises all the flights and hotels - she does everything really. We have also just appointed a Team Co-ordinator, Julie Kimpton, who will take over some of the stuff Sue has been doing up to now. We're still having meetings about the trucks, but the trailer units are all sorted and they should be on their way in the near future. They are all fitted out and quite similar to the Suzuki GP ones. Our hospitality unit is well on too, and will be as good as anything in the paddock.

We'll be holding a press conference at Valencia on the Saturday - me and the riders - to unveil the team. There will also be a bit of a launch in Malaysia in April probably, to cover that side of the globe. We're nowhere near finalising purely financial sponsors so far, but we don't need it to make this thing work. What we don't want is lots of little stickers plastered all over the thing. Image is everything. If I were to guess where the first track test of the bike was going to take place I would say Donington Park in April. But really we don't know when yet. I do know it will be hard keeping it all covered up, secret and quiet, but we want to keep it secret until we launch it.

Next for me is a week skiing, but because of my broken leg I will be sitting in the nude saunas instead of being on the slopes! I'll spend all my time on the phone anyway, but it's a trip we've had planned for a while.

June 2002

We're beginning to see our operation take shape now. I went to our new premises in Burton and they are awesome. When it was an empty shell we thought 'this'll do, well make it right,' and during the few weeks that have gone by since then we've had a really good group of guys fitting in the machinery and equipment, all the offices, everything. It is totally transformed and is fantastic. Coming from that area, as most of the workers do, and with Donington Park close by, they all seemed keen to be associated with it and got really stuck in. It looks fantastic. According to some other people, who have seen other people's premises and offices, this is the best set-up of race workshops and offices anywhere in the UK. Even compared to Castrol Honda, Team Roberts or anyone else.

The hospitality isn't finished but that is going to be awesome too; really different from anyone else's in the paddock. It will be a double level design. Even seeing the framework for it is great and we're planning to have the hospitality unit at Silverstone. Obviously we won't be racing there, but it will be a chance to bring all the people who have been working so hard on this project - and all the trade sponsors who have been so good to us - to Silverstone as our guests.

We've also done a deal with a Mercedes main dealer for commercial vehicles, Gerrard Mann, and their biggest customer Taylor's Rentals, to supply us with two fantastic Actros Spacecab tractor units, top of the range spec, plus support vehicles to go with them.

I love trucks. When I left school I got a job working on them and although I didn't learn a thing about the mechanical side of them, I learned something about what they were. Trucks are so cool now compared to what they were like in the mid seventies and early eighties. They were freezing cold things - no heating - really basic. Now they are like Ferraris inside.

I was so impressed with our new tractor unit that I wanted to go out in one, so they said I could take it for a drive. I'm sure they were thinking I wasn't really going to take it out but I started it up, pulled forward in it and they all went "Oh no..."

Bozzy was sat in the middle; the guy from Taylor's Rentals was in the passenger seat. I think both of them absolutely cacked themselves at the way I drove through Birmingham. I slightly misjudged just how wide the truck was at times and they were sitting going "Oooh" and "Oooof" every now and again. It was really good fun to drive but I was glad to get it back in one piece. It was so fast away from the line with nothing to tow - spinning and smoking the rear wheels away from traffic lights. I said to Bozzy that if the truck driver Sean is ever ill on the way back from Spain or Italy, then I would bring it back.
Recently we tested the bike in the wind tunnel and we were very, very pleased with it. Everyone is happy with the way the bike looks now, but I thought I was going to look a right dick after the wind-tunnel test, after rejecting the early, more obviously aerodynamic design. But the final design has come out better than anything else they've had in there - even the makes all geared up for aerodynamics.

The draft design of leathers and pit garages is all coming through now. The image of the whole team is going to be good. Like I said before, it will be as good if not better than anyone else's out there. We've employed one company to do the whole lot, Linney Design, who do F-1 and other bike race team work. They are the best people to use in this country and everything looks just great. Their top guy Michael Fisher has been superb.

The riders are a little impatient and chewing their nails now, James Haydon a little bit more than Troy Corser. I offered James to get himself up to Three Sisters circuit for a couple of days, on a Supermoto bike. Three Sisters is one of the best tracks to ride these bikes on, because it is a road race circuit, albeit a very, very small one. Gary Dickinson, one of the mechanics on the team, looked after him, and a mate of mine, Kevin Moore, also helped him. James absolutely loved it. He had two days up there, with good weather, and had a great time. After I had suggested it I thought, 'What did I do that for?' in case he got injured - but I let him go and enjoy it anyway, even though I was texting him and phoning him from Spain. He broke my lap record by a second though, the bastard! I didn't think he'd do it because the time I did was pretty quick last year, and British Supermoto Champions, plus Chris Walker have all been there since and were about a second off it. I was pretty pleased with the time - even though my bike was chattering all the time, I might add! The new CCM is a lot better so maybe that's why James broke my lap record!

My leg is still not quite right and may need a bone graft but I went out for my first road ride of the year a few days ago, on my Supermoto bike. I went out with my mate Geoff, who owns a helicopter business, and Kevin who has helped CCM out. It was the first time I had been on a bike for seven months, and I loved it. I felt like I had never been off one, but at the start they were saying "Take it easy." So I went straight down the road, front wheel up in the air, one leg hanging off. I looked round and Kevin was shaking his head! I was a bit worried that I would have lost my confidence, but not a bit of it. I had a right good day out. My leg is strong enough to take bang on through the footpegs, but if I were to kick a football it would be agony.

I've bought myself a CR450 and had my little 125cc Yamahas bored out to 150, so that I can use them on the much bigger motocross course I am building in my front field. The Yams are really quiet, so they won't annoy the neighbours. I've got all my new toys lined up, ready for when I'm fully fit again.

Our website is up and running now, There are more things coming on it every week now, so it's well worth a visit. It looks great and, again, it's been created by Linney Design. We may even have the pictures of the bike on there at the end of May...

July 2002

Our whole FPR project is really taking shape now and the new chassis arrived at our workshop in Burton-on Trent the other week. It looks absolutely awesome. All the staff have been extra busy since then, working Bank Holidays and so on to put the whole unit together. The chassis has got the wheels in it now, bodywork fitted, all ready to go.

Bozzy called me the other day and said, "Look I just had to ring you. We've got the bodywork on the complete chassis now and it looks awesome." They must have been impressed because he went on to say "We've ground to a halt here, because we're all just standing around looking at it." I think they like it...

All the areas that we're controlling have gone really well, in general, although there are always problems to sort out every other day. You have to rely on other people sometimes to make deadlines, and that often doesn't happen. That obviously gives us a problem, so Boz and the lads have had to come up with the solution instead - and nine times out of ten they will come up with the right thing.
Despite all the progress we've made and all the deadlines we've met, I personally feel the pressure more as the days go by; you see more and more developments and because of that you get more excited. The last few days have been a culmination of a few feelings for me.

The engine build has always been an area that we can't control really but we're hoping that Eskil Suter and his team can come up trumps. That's all we can do. We just hope he has done his bit as well as we've done our bit.

I'll be glad when we finally show the first bike to the world because then they'll understand. The public launch is scheduled for 11 June, in London, and the Chairman of Petronas will be in attendance.
Our workshop launch went really well; despite Michaela having to disappear off for a wee just before the shutters were raised to let everyone in to see the workshops for the first time!

We had a really big turnout, marquee hospitality outside for the guests and a good time was had by all. The local mayor of East Staffs, Peter Davies, officially opened the unit.

When you consider that ten weeks before the opening the whole place was a bare shell it's incredible how much has been done. Everyone has worked so hard and the standard of the job has been really high. In terms of the whole project we've done in six months what it would normally take two years to do. 

It's just a shame our team trucks, supplied by Thomas's Truck Rentals Ltd and Gerard Mann, weren't on display at the open day for the premises, they would just finished it all off nicely, but we're keeping them for the launch itself. The cabs and trailers are real top of the range units and Thomas's have done us proud.

Long before the unveiling of the premises I went down to the workshop on Bank Holiday Monday (May 6) with Michaela and the kids, just to see the completed chassis that Bozzy was so excited about - our Bank Holiday day out that was supposed to be! Boz was right about the bike though, but the kids were even more impressed with the workshop itself. It was the first time the girls had had been there and they were like "wow, is this all yours Daddy?" They couldn't get over the size of the place.

Even though our first track test is quite soon, Troy Corser and James Haydon, our riding duo, are both a bit frustrated at this stage, James probably even more so than Troy. I still think like a rider so I know how difficult it is for them - I'd want to be out there by now. If there is any further delay I really don't want to have to tell them, because it's bad enough as it is.

In fairness they both knew at the beginning of the year what to expect, but it still hasn't been easy for them. They are itching to get out, which is a good thing in one way.

But there's no denying that the next four weeks are going to be pretty big for all of us. Everyone is going to be grafting until midnight to get this thing to work. I am so impressed the way all the staff have applied themselves, Boz and Tommo's boys in particular.

Not everything is going quite so well as the bike side of things. As you may or may not know, I had to get a bone graft recently, from my hip to my bad leg - the one I broke Supermoto riding. The operation took place on 23 April - St George's day. Strange but true it was two years to the day that I had my career-ending crash at Phillip Island in Australia, and funnily enough it was something that never got mentioned at the time. For somebody that pushed the English flag, the Cross of St. George, harder than probably any other sportsman has ever done, nobody seemed to mention that my career ended on St. George's day!
I've been to a couple of shop openings recently, one in Wales with John Reynolds, and one in Blackpool with Steve Hislop. The crowds were heaving each time and the ordinary bikers were very supportive of our whole project. That's made me even more determined to get the racebikes out there, to liven it up again.
I was a bit shocked to find out that Barry Sheene had a right go at me in a British magazine recently, right out of the blue as well. He says controversial things all the time, mainly about British things and everybody British - always has done. I wasn't surprised at what Barry said, the surprise was that the magazine printed it. I was very shocked at that and it caused a bit of a reaction.

Things like this are the only way he can get any publicity over here now. A few people have said he's so jealous of me, because I am household name over here now and he's not - and he can't stand it. He never helped anybody in Britain before in his life. All he does is knock everybody - and this new race team that I'm involved in, I think that's done his head in. He comes out with a load of garbage, just to get some publicity, then waits to get a reaction. I've never really done much about it but I thought I'd have a go back at him in my own column in my magazine.

I reckon he's a sad old man, who wakes up every morning, looks in the mirror and has to remind himself of who he is and who he used to be. I think even his reflection looks back at him now and says, "Get a life." He said that I never say anything nice about people - but I've never stopped saying nice things about people since I retired. I've been more of an ambassador for British motorbike racing in the 12 months since I've retired from racing than he ever has in 20 years. So he's just come out with a load of rubbish to get publicity and it's worked for him, because he's a very clever guy with regard to publicity.

October 2002

All the people involved in the various parts of the whole Petronas roadbike and Foggy Petronas Racing project had a meeting recently in Malaysia. It was in the Petronas Twin Towers, and it is easily the most impressive piece of modern architecture I've ever seen. The tallest building in the world, it's all stainless steel and glass and it's really quite amazing. Goes right into the clouds almost.

Anyway, we got in there and it was very quiet, very business-like, with all these high-power people walking up and down. We had to sign in, and as I'm doing this I hear a terrified voice, as loud as anything, yelling "bloody hell!" It kind of startled me, I turned round, and there was this massive black butterfly, taking-off from our Marketing and PR Director Neil Bramwell's hand. It was much bigger than a bat and it must have frightened the life out of him.

We eventually met Eskil Suter properly for the first time. Each culture seems to have its own way of working, and we are all trying to be patient with each other's methods. Communication had to improve really, and things have been better since the meeting already. I think Eskil was a little bit wary of us,
and how good my blokes are as a team. I think we've certainly proved to him and other people that our guys are some of the best in the world, even on engine design and development. 

It's been a crazy month really, mainly because we had to be at the Superbike meeting at Brands Hatch - for the fans more than anybody else to be honest. We didn't want to hide from it or bury our heads in the sand. We wanted to show that the team is in existence, so we took along the trucks, hospitality
unit and of course the bikes.

We had a shakedown test of the bikes at Bruntingthorpe on Friday before Brands, and it went really well. We haven't tested at a track because we're just not ready. The engines are only set up to run at 8-9,000 revs at the moment, even though one engine has been up to 14,000 revs on the test bench
in the last few days. When the bikes went out on track the crowd went absolutely crazy. We had not
announced that we were actually racing there but lots of people came there to see us anyway.

The plan was that we should have got out after the Supersport race, which got changed to going out after the second part of the Supersport race, which was stopped and restarted.

I thought, "well, we should be OK, there's still time." Then my best mate James Whitham had a horrendous crash and at first I thought the worst. When I saw the replay I realised he would be all right, because I looked closely at the way he landed and bounced.

Once I realised that I thought to myself "that buggers up my plans for James Haydon and Troy Corser to go out for their demo laps!"

We did manage to get out though, me as well, but after we had seen James afterwards it looked like his elbow was going to need an operation, so to get him to Huddersfield faster he nicked my helicopter.

That left his own Vito van stranded down at Brands so I volunteered to drive it home, along with  Michaela and Danielle. First I had to find it in a field across the road from the paddock, then I had to go to my own hotel to get our stuff, then go into his hotel room to load all his stuff.

The last bit was the worst. It looked like a bomb had gone off inside his room. I thought that nobody
could have an untidier hotel room than Michaela and I - but obviously we've been beaten in that.

Sweaty wet pants and socks that he wore during qualifying were all over the place, his other gear was strewn everywhere. I loaded up all his bags and then set off home about twenty to nine. I actually quite enjoyed it because it felt like old times, driving the van back from Brands with Michaela.

More importantly, I know James would have done the same for me, and a lot more, so I was glad to help. I did a PR appearance on the bike for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, a sort of changeover of the Commonwealth baton. I got onto the bike, and had to do a changeover of the baton with this other guy. Everything was OK and I wanted to hold the baton out like the Olympic torch, coasting in to meet him with the bike in neutral.

I hadn't ridden a racing bike for so long I just went completely the wrong way with the gearbox, and put it into sixth gear instead of neutral. So as I pulled the baton out of my belt I slowed down and I felt the bike chugging forward. I realised it wasn't in neutral, started stamping on gears, got it into second or first and it eventually just stalled to a stop. Thankfully no one seemed to notice, and at least we've tested the gearbox now!

The TV series about how the team was put together, which is show on Men and Motors, has gone down really well. M&M reckon they doubled the best viewing figures they have ever had for a programme, no matter what kind it was. All the people in our team have worked really hard and now we can have a little bit of a rest and then do some proper testing. There will be another shakedown test, probably not even with the two main riders, just to make sure the bike is completely right for proper testing.

November 2002

It was great to see Troy and James out on a track at last. And to hear the sound of the FP1 and see them head into Redgate was a fantastic feeling

Just when I thought I could start relaxing a bit, things start to move up a gear again! Having got Brands Hatch out of the way, it gave everyone on the team the chance to catch their breath a bit and start planning for the winter test programme and next season.

I left them to it and went away with Michaela and the kids to our villa in Spain for a month of sun, sand and ... more sun! (I've put on half a stone, which I probably needed to!) It was great just to mess around on jet-skis and boats without the day-to-day commitment of the race team, but it is always difficult for me to switch off totally and I was on the phone every day, wanting to know exactly what was going on and team manager Nigel Bosworth came out to see us for a couple of days, so he filled me in on all the details about what exactly was going on.

One of the difficult things over the past few months, and something which has added to the roller-coaster effect, has been trying to decide the best time for us to start testing. There have been a few false starts because we decided we were not quite ready. So, when I got back to England, I was pretty excited about seeing the guys out on the track. I was about 10 minutes away from Donington when I got the call from Boz. "Carl, we've been up all night trying to fix something but it's looking like it would be best to postpone today for a short while," he said. I was spewing, spun the car round and started punching the dashboard and kicking the door. In the cold light of day I know that the occasional hitch has only to be expected but it's no secret that I'm not the most patient person in the world! I fact, I might well be the most impatient. I try not to let these things get to me but I guess it's just an indication of how keen I am for this to succeed, for everyone on our team, for PETRONAS and, of course, for the riders. That's the hardest bit for me - having been a racer I know how they must feel when they are all set for a test only to be told that it has had to be delayed.

So it was great to see Troy and James finally out on the track at Donington the other day. I have to admit I was really nervous because this was a public track day so there were quite a few people around and, of course, sneaky reporters with cameras and stop watches in the bushes. And, of course, I started to get a bit frustrated if I ever got the feeling that things weren't quite going to plan, even when it turned out to be something or nothing. But to hear the incredible noise that the Foggy FP1 makes and see the guys disappearing round turn one was a fantastic feeling. We only had a limited amount of time on this occasion but I don't think we could have got much more out of it even if we'd had a full day. And the early signs are really good, with the lap times really encouraging.

At this stage of our project that is really promising. And to hear Troy say that our bike is certainly as good as, if not better than the Aprilia, at the same stage of development, was a real boost.

I was really impressed by both the riders - and the whole of the team. Steve Thompson and Rob Mathewson in particular have been working day and night to get the bike ready to go out on track and the progress that we have made must really be impressing everyone else who is involved in the project. My team now have a very clear idea of the way forward and if we can stick to that path then everyone should be happy.

One thing for sure is that this project has captured the public's imagination. I still can't believe how much my profile has changed, even since I finished racing, and I guess that Foggy PETRONAS Racing has a lot to do with it. For instance, the other night I went to the Oasis concert in Manchester. I was basically mobbed when I got out of the taxi and at one point didn't think I would be able to make it inside the stadium. I just flipped and started running, before realising that I didn't know where I was running to! Even in the VIP area it was much the same but it didn't spoil a great concert. (Note to Noel: Next time can I please have a backstage pass?) I think I have that kind of face that people, even those not necessarily interested in bikes, remember. And when I am so close to home it perhaps makes things a bit worse.

Then Michaela was in the kitchen the other morning and had the telly on Soccer AM on Sky Sports in the background. The show had an actor called Karl Howman, the guy who does the Flash adverts and who used to be on Brushstrokes, on as a guest and viewers were ringing in to speak to him. The next caller then asked: "Hiya, can I speak to Foggy?" The puzzled presenter told him that the studio guest was not Carl Fogarty. So the bloke just said: "Oh, bloody hell, I got up specially for nothing then. I only wanted to speak to Foggy" and hung up. I'm due down there next month for their new Friday night show, so I'll probably get people ringing up to speak to some actor!

Finally, I'd like to wish Barry Sheene all the best in his battle against cancer. It was a great shock to hear the news that he was suffering from the disease, but I guess he will cope with it in his own confident and chirpy way. Motorcycle riders seem to face up to these things in the same way, as I know from experience when my good mate Jamie Whitham was diagnosed with cancer. Contrary to popular opinion I've never had a problem with Barry when we have met face to face. Sure, some words were said in the press recently. But I was actually more angry with the magazine that irresponsibly printed his quotes than I was with Barry himself.

December 2002

Tells all about the latest developments in testing of the Foggy Petronas FP1

IF you thought the World Superbike Championship was exciting, you're wrong. You should have been up at my house on the day of the final races at Imola. While Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss were fighting it out in a fantastic finish to the season, there was even more action on the field behind my house, which I have converted into a mini motocross track.

My Foggy PETRONAS Racing team manager Nigel Bosworth had come up for the weekend, as well as a couple of mates and, in between the races on the telly, it was like a motocross grand prix combined with a fun day out in the dry and dusty field. We were racing tricked-up Yamaha TTRs - 150cc as they had been bored out - while my girls were riding on their quad bikes (when they weren't having to be pulled out of the holly bushes that is!) Add to this my two dogs snapping at everyone's ankles and it was complete mayhem. And all the time we were trying to emulate what the two guys had been doing on the telly, until I thought: 'This is a bit sad - I used to beat those guys!'

But it was great racing at Imola and reminded me of my two world titles that went down to the final day, at Phillip Island in 1994 and in Sugo in 1998. Both Edwards and Bayliss rode really hard but Colin had the momentum. I didn't think that he looked interested in 2001. I would see him laughing and joking on the grid and that's not right in my book. This year, though, you could see just how determined he was. They say that retaining the title is the hardest thing to do and Bayliss was as fast, but not quite as consistent as Edwards, making a couple of mistakes and crashing out. In 2001 he got away with it but this year he just over-stepped the mark at Silverstone and Assen. Again there were similarities with my campaign in 1993 when I won 11 races compared to Scott Russell's five, but still finished second to him, because I crashed too much.

I hope that both of them carry their form through to MotoGP next year. With the four-strokes being allowed into GPs it was always going to happen that some of the better riders gave it a go and I think this is the perfect opportunity to put the sceptics in their place about the standard of riding in the World Superbike championship.

In the past, riders have made the switch with the wrong package and it hasn't worked out. But I honestly believe that those two are as fast as anyone in the world and, if their bikes are working properly, some people might have to accept how difficult it was to win my four world titles. I really hope that they don't just see this as an easy way into retirement and that they go all-out to win it, because I don't see any reason why they can't. It's just rubbish to say that superbike riders do not match their GP rivals anymore. I would say that 85 per cent of the current GP riders are over-rated and just lucky to be out there.

It's been said that the exit of Bayliss and Edwards has left the World Superbike title wide open but I don't think that's the case at all. Neil Hodgson must be thinking it's Christmas and his birthday rolled into one. With some of the manufacturers pulling out and on a factory Ducati, if he doesn't win it this year you have to say that he never will. I wish him all the best, because he is a really good lad, but I would warn him that it's never as easy as it seems. You have still got to beat whoever else is out there and, obviously, I would love to see Troy and James and the FP1 giving him and Ducati run for their money!

We had a productive test out at the Eurospeedway in Germany.

I couldn't attend because I had some keyhole surgery on my knee to clean out a load of crap that had been floating around in there. When I got out I found out that James Whitham had had exactly the same operation the very next day. A few people were a bit puzzled why we had chosen the Eurospeedway, but at the moment, any testing anywhere is useful for us. Even if it had been a disaster we still would have learned from it. As it was the results were really positive again and once we can cure a few little problems with the engine, we should be able to make some good strides forward with the package as a whole.

At the time of writing this I had driven down from my villa in Spain to watch the guys in action at Almeria, which took place just as Two Wheels Only went to press. It went really well, certainly one of the best day's testing we've had. Reliability wise, it was trouble free and it's looking like tomorrow - the final day of the test - we should be able to do some good lap times, certainly something comparable with what John Reynolds and Troy Bayliss have done around here in the past. If we can do that, it will be a really big plus for us.

Both Troy Corser and James Haydon are here and enjoying it. Chassis-wise they love the bike. It's really behaving properly, too as everything is responding to the particular adjustments we're making. The engine still wants to be a bit more consistent overall, both in terms of power and reliability, but you're going to get problems with any new bike and we really think we're moving in the right direction and improving things, so I'm happy.

After tomorrow, we've got two more tests in November, one at Misano and one at Valencia. Hopefully these will carry on from Almeria and turn out to be decent tests. The two advantages of testing there is that they are tracks where the weather should be good and we'll have some times to compare from the World Superbike guys earlier in the year. We're all looking forward to it.

May 2003

WELL, now you know - we do mean business! What happened in Valencia was actually what I thought might happen, as long as we had a bit of luck on our side. My hope was that we would qualify well and score points, possibly around sixth place. But if anyone had told me six months ago that Troy would qualify on the front row for our first race, I'd have thought they were crazy. I have to admit that when he finished his Superpole lap, and when the guys set off for that first race, I found myself filling up. I had to take myself off to the back of the garage and have a quiet word with myself not to be so soft.

But only the people involved in this project know exactly how much blood, sweat and tears have already gone into getting where we are now. And all the highs of that first race weekend would not have happened without the amazing hard work of our team, who worked into the early hours nearly every night that week preparing and switching engines.

I think that everyone outside the team has been totally shocked with what we have achieved in such a short timescale. We started off wanting to be competitive and score points but, after that first race, it would seem that the public are pinning their hopes on us trying to beat Ducati and prevent the series from becoming predictable and boring. We know that we have more to come - so hopefully it won't be too long before we can break into that top three.

We have made one or two changes for Phillip Island, with a slight development of the exhaust system, which will hopefully improve torque at low revs. And we are also hoping that an issue with the head gasket has been resolved, which should improve reliability. Another thing we have had to look at are the wheel rims, one of which contributed to the deflation of Troy's tyre in race one and his crash. James suffered a similar problem with his Superpole tyre. It was obvious there was a problem because he had gone nearly three seconds quicker than his Superpole time in qualifying. But we have been working well with OZ and these things are only to be expected at this stage of the development of the bike. In the second race James gambled on a different tyre and gearing but found he was going backwards and pulled in. I can understand his frustration but it's always worth toughing it out in case a couple of guys in front come off and you end up in the points.

It was obvious that we were still lacking a bit of punch coming out of the slow corners but the fast flowing curves of Phillip Island should suit our bike a bit better, as the chassis is good at holding corner speed. Troy knows the track like the back of his hand and James went well in our test there after Christmas - so it would be great to think they will both be challenging for a top six finish. I won't be there unfortunately because of previous family commitments, but I'll be sat up with a cup of cocoa urging the guys on. I'll only have just got back from Malaysia, where I am going the previous weekend to do some demonstration laps on the FP1 during the F1 Grand Prix at Sepang.

Obviously the Phillip Island race will not be the same this year without the presence of Barry Sheene, who always caught up with us there. He was the man who made motorcycle racing famous, because of his bubbly playboy character, his world titles and his big crashes. He is the biggest name the sport has ever had. People who know nothing about bike racing still know the name of Barry Sheene - it's amazing the impact he did have.

We actually spent a lot of time together at Phillip Island on the weekend that I finished my career. We always had a laugh together and enjoyed a bit of banter through the press. And I'll never forget that he was the first person to interview me after I won my first world title there in 1994. He will be sadly missed around the circuit and the thoughts of me and Michaela are with his wife and children.

June 2003

IF I have learned one thing since we started racing, it's that I'm not a good armchair follower.

Long-standing family commitments meant I couldn't make it to Phillip Island for our second round, and I nearly missed it on the telly back in Blackburn. My alarm chose the worst possible moment to go on the blink and, if it wasn't for my mate Kevin arriving in the middle of the night to watch it with us, I might not have seen the action from race one. (Note to Kev: You are supposed to throw pebbles up at the bedroom window, not the biggest rocks you can find in the garden!)

It's definitely more frustrating watching the races at home. When you see the riders dropping back, you have no idea why until you can ring the team. So it wasn't until after the second race that I was aware both riders had suffered bad luck - James with a clutch problem and Troy's engine over-heating. Even so, Troy's fifth place in the first race (which could easily have been a fourth) was another good result.

The general feeling in the industry is that we are doing really well, yet we know we can still do a lot better. One thing we still have to work on is consistency. We proved we no longer have the same reliability problems by achieving all four finishes in Australia, which was another big stride forward. But, from the way Troy performed in qualifying, people were starting to think that there was a chance of us challenging for our first podium. However, he said that his race engine did not feel the same. This has to be expected at this stage of the project, and most people expected us to have a lot more problems.

The Ducati was incredibly unreliable in the early 90s, and today the Kenny Roberts' MotoGP team shows how hard it is to produce a new, reliable machine.

We have been a boost for the series and everyone is willing us to get on the pace with the factory Ducatis - it won't be much of a championship if we don't, and to be saying that at this stage is incredible. The first couple of rounds have probably made a rod for our own backs. Expectations are changing race by race and while we are confident we can get close to beating them this year, we are not sure when. We need to do it, though, and not only for Petronas and everyone involved in this project, but also for the millions out there watching on TV. That will include me again for the next round in Japan.

I am having the plate taken out of my leg on May 2 and the surgeon has forbidden me to fly long haul within a week of it. But, even if my alarm doesn't work again, I will have all the results delivered to my mobile with our FPR Text info service - check out

The races at Sugo, which will have taken place by the time you read this, will be a big test for us and expectations should not be too high. We have made some improvements to the engine that should produce more power and torque, but there are a lot of other factors to contend with. There are four local wild card riders this year who know the circuit like the backs of their hands. Also, we have not tested the FP1 there so every minute of qualifying will be crucial, especially for James who has never been there before. Hopefully, though, he will be able to make improvements with his set-up and start challenging for the top 10 finishes.

Before the Australia races I went to the Petronas-sponsored Malaysian F1 GP to do a few demonstration laps on the FP1. There was a massive crowd and I still barely know my way around the circuit! But Petronas  were pleased to show off the FP1 and the guys in the F1 paddock thought it was awesome - a few engineers even asked me for a job! I still haven't really got a feel for the bike though.

We now have a fifth bike built and I'd like to ride it at a circuit I know soon - at the moment I can't relate to the feedback provided by the riders. If we had been running Ducatis, I could already have been a big help for James.

July 2003

IDON'T know why I'm bothering to write a column this month because, if you were to believe The Sunday Times, I should just be sat at home with my feet up, counting my £30million fortune.

Their annual Rich List had me in the top 1000 wealthiest people in Britian - but they were way out. It's more like £70 million! Seriously, though, I could not believe what they wrote and I found it really embarrassing. Everyone has been mentioning it and my local paper used the story on its front page, so I have been getting funny looks off people wherever I go. I just wish it was true!

Mind you, King Carl did feel like a king last weekend, when I led a bike ride in aid of my official charity, the NSPCC, through the streets of London from The Ace CafŽ to the Houses of Parliament. It was a great feeling to have the police shutting down the traffic in the nation's capital while nearly a thousand bikes followed behind. It was just frustrating at having to go so slowly, so I couldn't resist pulling a bit of a wheelie down Park Lane.

After a presentation ceremony on the terrace next to the Thames, some MPs who had taken part showed every round the Houses of Parliament and the day raised around £20,000 for the NSPCC, so there's already talk of another event next year. That night I went out with Michaela to a Japanese restaurant called Nobu and she was pleased with herself for having sashimi - raw fish - for the first time. But Japanese food is one thing that I didn't miss when my Foggy Petronas Racing team were in action at Sugo earlier this month.

It was unfortunate that I had to miss two rounds in succession but the date for removing the plate in my right leg had been set some time ago and couldn't be moved. My surgeon had told me not to do too much on it for a few weeks after the op so I tried to cram in as much trail-riding in the Lake District before the operation. And that included the day before the surgery, despite the fact that the weather in the North Lakes was appalling.

At one stage, me and my mate Kevin were lost for about two hours. If he went more than 30 yards in front I could not see him and it did get scary at times. I trusted that he knew where he was going but I realised that he didn't when the only thing that made him change direction was when we got stuck in a bog. It was a windy day, though, and all of a sudden the clouds blew away and we could see civilisation.

I have never been so tired in my life. I reckon that's why it took me so long to come round from the anaesthetic the next day. Whenever I tried to sit up in bed I would just retch, even though nothing was coming up. The doctors wanted to keep me in overnight but I thought I might as well be sick at home as in hospital. And by the next morning I was hobbling around at home without crutches.

The next round of the world championship will see our long-awaited new hospitality unit. There's no doubt that it will be the best in the paddock - and it should be for what it cost! It will be good to get back to Europe for us, although Monza might prove as difficult for us as Sugo. That weekend did not go well from the word go, with the bad weather and tyre problems at the start and reliability issues in the races.

The only positive we could take from the weekend was James' performance in the first race. Monza is a fast circuit and bikes that do not handle all that well tend to go better there. So we may not gain much of an advantage from the chassis and at the time of writing I don't know whether we will be able to use a new cylinder head that will provide more power and torque, as well as improving the cooling system. So I guess the aim here would be to have both riders finishing both races in the top ten.

First and second places are not up for grabs, as Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus will take those. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Neil wins every race in the season - it's that predictable. In fact I almost feel sorry for him as he is in a no-win situation with the main manufacturers and best riders having left the series last year. So all he can do is go out and carry on winning.

 We are not ready to challenge for that third place but, once we can resolve a few engine issues, a podium is still a real possibility this season. Keep supporting us!

August 2003

I'VE had a once in a lifetime experience this month and, no, I'm not referring to Foggy Petronas Racing's weekend in Monza! To recover from the Italian trials and tribulations, we spent a week in Spain before flying to a friend's villa in Portugal, where we swam with dolphins.

It had been booked for six months and Michaela and the kids had been revving about it - it's been Michaela's dream for 30 years. At first I didn't think I would be all that bothered, but actually getting into the pool with them was awesome. The girl in charge volunteered me to go to the other end of the pool and hold my hand out of the water. The next thing I knew one had swum up and was spinning me round in a circle with its nose. They are so powerful, but that was nothing compared to when two of them, each with a nose on one foot, pushed me from behind through the water. It felt like that scene from Jaws when the woman was being dragged along. They almost pushed me out of the pool!

After this it was off to Oschersleben for round five of the championship. Following Monza, expectations were not running high. That was a weekend I would rather forget. We knew it would be our toughest test, but not quite that tough, and nothing much seemed to be going our way. The main problems are related to engine cooling and air temperature, which were aggravated by the heat generated down the long straights. Both Troy and James were black-flagged in the second race when their bikes caught fire. There were no problems with the exhaust silencers, they just couldn't cope with the heat being generated and we have since introduced some new titanium silencers to tackle that issue.

At the time of writing we're preparing for Silverstone and we spent a day at the wind tunnel at MIRA to try and come up with some aerodynamic solutions to help the cooling. We have had to cut another hole in the side fairing and bellypan, which we hope will help until we modify the cylinder heads.

Unfortunately we will only have one set of data from this weekend as we found out two days before the event that James' injuries from Oschersleben are worse than at first thought. He has been having a rough time of it and I was hoping that Silverstone, a circuit that he knew pretty well, might have been a turning point for his season. But his nasty crash in race one in Germany damaged a disc in his neck, which means he will also miss the next round at Misano. We are currently looking at replacing him for that round but it won't be easy.

At least in Italy and Germany we had our new hospitality unit, although it's a bit embarrassing having the best unit in the paddock when track results aren't very good. But that situation won't last forever and success, when it comes, will be all the more sweet. We might now have to wait until next year, but it will happen. The appeal of this project was the challenge. There is nothing hard about running a team with a proven bike like a Ducati. Having to create a bike with Petronas from a blank piece of paper and compete with the best manufacturers in the world - that's a challenge and one we will meet.

When Germany was over the pressure release was immense. We left for a hotel in Hannover straight after the second race and spent the night reminiscing with a few friends about kiddies' TV programmes from our era - like 'Monkey' and 'Captain Pugwash' - and songs from the early seventies. The trouble was, the hotel roof was made of glass and I was sure Michaela was going to bring it crashing down the longer the night went on!

On Monday, it was back to home sweet home. No such luck. On Tuesday there were five builders, three lads doing the rendering, a landscape gardener, a painter and decorator, two people laying the floors, an electrician and someone measuring for new curtains. It was a madhouse. I had to go round to a mate's just so I could go to the toilet in peace!

September 2003

There have been three rounds since my last column and, in keeping with the rest of this season, there is a real mixed bag to report. Silverstone was probably the low point for the whole team. We learned in the week leading up to the races that James was unable to ride, so we only had one bike on track. Troy had very little experience of the circuit and qualifying was a bit of an ordeal. It ended with him missing out on Superpole.

The guys were working desperately hard to try and make a set-up change to his favoured bike before he went out on a qualifier, but they ran out of time and Troy was left outside the top 16. Then, on race day, we were unable to secure a single point after a mistake on the first lap left him chasing down the back markers to finish 16th, before an electrical problem in the second race forced him to retire.

After all that trauma, we needed a lift in Misano. After the first day it didn't look like that was going to come. A young Italian kid that we had brought in to replace James, Lorenzo Mauri, crashed on his out-lap of the afternoon qualifying session, badly breaking his tibia. He had been recommended by Davide Tardozzi, the Ducati team boss, and he had been making good progress in the morning. But his enthusiasm probably got the better of him and he was caught out by the cooler temperature of the tyres at the start of the session. He has since had an op to pin the leg back together and we are all hopeful he makes a good recovery.

Temperature control was our biggest worry for Misano but a combination of the wind tunnel work we did prior to Silverstone, and increasing the pressure in the cylinder heads by putting restrictors in the outlets in order increase the temperature at which the water boils, seemed to do the trick and Troy was able to complete his first top 10 double of the season. That is about all we are going to be able to hope for the rest of the season really, until we are able to make the necessary changes to the engine.

Troy rode well and I could tell he was up for it in Italy, whereas I hadn't been so sure in Germany and at Silverstone. Troy maintained that approach at Laguna and his eighth place was again as good as we could have hoped for. Sure, there were a lot of front-end crashes that helped us, but there always are at Laguna. My eyes were probably more on James. When things go wrong for him, they go wrong in a big way. In the first race he crashed when a split water hose covered his tyres in water and in the second race he was wiped out by the guy behind him. If his luck is going to change anywhere, what better place than at Brands Hatch?

There seem to have been as many ups and downs off the track as there have been on it this month. For a start the Goon Squad was out in force at Misano. They consist of my mates Kevin Moore, Howard Rigby and Mark Winstanley, and my stomach was killing me from laughing by the time we left Italy. The best bit was in Cattolica on Saturday night when, after we had finished dinner, Mark tied a 10 Euro note to some dental floss. Then, when anyone bent down to pick it up, he yanked it away from them. One woman was holding onto it for grim death!

Then, on the Monday after the race, we stayed on to go to an amusement park called Mirabilandia. I couldn't understand it when, on the Nemesis, this Italian guy appeared to chuck chocolate milkshake off the ride. When the ride finished it was clear that the contents had come from his mouth and not a cup. From then on, we saw him everywhere we turned, and he was getting greener as the day went on. His mates seemed to be genuinely concerned, which is more than the Goon Squad would have been if it had been me!

October 2003

There has been a lot of discussion about proposed regulations for the future of the World Superbike championship - and a lot of negative comments. But I actually think that these changes, if implemented, could safeguard the future of the championship and help it regain some of its former glories after something of a transition year.

The fact is that World Superbikes is different from MotoGP and you will only ever have one class for prototype racing, like F1, so that's where the factories will spend their development money. So World Superbikes needs to build on the fact that it is a production series, racing bikes as close as possible to the ones the punters can buy themselves. And I think what Flammini have come up with is a way in which they can make this series bigger and better.

Sure, especially where tyres are concerned, riders will always have a whinge about being told what tyres they have to use. That's just because every rider will have his own preference.

But, from a team owners' perspective, it makes sense to have everyone on the same tyre. The exact details have not been announced yet and, sure, we would prefer the chosen manufacturer to be Michelin as we have a year's development with them under our belts. But, if it is someone like Pirelli, nearly everyone will be in the same boat. It also makes sense to try and reduce the engine development costs. What's the point spending so much on developing an engine only to have the output reduced by a tuppeny-bit air restrictor?

If the new regulations, when they are announced, encourage bigger grids and closer racing, through more tightly controlled costs, then everyone's a winner. The arrival of the Honda FireBlade and, fingers crossed, a more competitive FP1, already look like making next year's championship even more exciting anyway.

Brands wasn't very enjoyable. We didn't get the best of luck again, as the rain on the first two days hindered our efforts to get a base set-up that the British guys would certainly have already had. That showed in the races, but I was still very impressed with Shakey. I'm not sure it was supposed to be in the script that the new British champion was supposed to beat the new World champion quite so easily - and on a year-old privateer bike. That was certainly some achievement. Troy was unlucky once more in having to retire with a lap and a half remaining of the first race, with another decent finish in his sights. James struggled again, which was a disappointment as this was a big race for him. But he failed to get anywhere near Troy at a circuit that he knows well and that's the only benchmark on which we can really judge him.

In fact, we have decided not to renew James' contract next year. I genuinely feel sorry that things haven't worked out for him, but it just seems as though his riding style didn't suit the FP1. We are currently searching for a replacement to work alongside Troy, who has another year of his contract left, in challenging for wins next year.

After Brands I went on a ride-out with Jamie Whitham and a couple of mates in the North Yorkshire Dales near Settle. Kev warned us, when we were about to go through one farm gate, to expect trouble from the farmer. Sure enough, he came running out and stood in front of the gate, blocking our path. It seems the same thing had been happening for the last 15 years to James, yet the farmer has never done anything about it. So everyone decided that it was time to sort it out and the police were called in. But the copper was unable to find out whether it was a by-way, as we claimed, or a bridleway, as the farmer claimed. It did cross my mind whether to charge the gate. But I think the farmer's wife started warming to us, especially when I asked if there was any chance of a cup of tea! She suggested she got some arsenic instead! After an hour and a half they let us through, but on the condition that it gets sorted.

November 2003

I was properly put through my paces a few weeks ago, during our test session at Valencia.

I was still in Spain on holiday, so obviously went along. We had a young English lad, Jamie Morley, out there on a fifth bike, as we had so many things to test in the two days. But, when James Haydon woke up on the first morning with seized neck muscles, there was a bike free and I quite fancied having a go.

While I had never raced at Valencia, I had tested there so knew the circuit better than somewhere like Sepang, where I have been on the FP1 before, so it was my first chance to ride it in anger. It was actually more like a Sunday afternoon ride. It felt uncomfortable and I was uncomfortable with the speed factor. I had no confidence on a bike that I didn't know. It was hard to judge the speed from the high-pitched noise, compared to the grunt of a Ducati, and I didn't want to find out the hard way.

I did four laps, had a rest, then went out for another four laps and already my knee was hurting. Even after a rest for lunch it was a struggle, although I was knocking a couple of seconds off my time each lap - which shows how slow I was going. I got into the 40s on my last lap, but decided there was no point in pushing any further. So, that's it - I'm officially old! It did help me understand some of the problems that Troy has been having, and in particular the fact that when you let go of the brakes and want to open the gas, it can crack open and send you wide, like the Ducati did in 1997. However, the new cylinder heads that we tested for the first time, and used at Assen, has made the bike a lot more rideable by smooth- ing out that power curve.

Those improvements helped a little bit at Assen, where Troy had a great ride in the first race to finish sixth. It was the first time we have really been overtaking people, as he moved from eighth on the last lap. That was certainly the time to do it as they would probably have come back at him down on the straights if he had made his move earlier. Bearing in mind the disappointments we have had at the British rounds, it was good to show this progress in front of so many British fans, and at a place that was so special to me in my career where I had more success than any other circuit. We still know we can get a lot more power from the engine and we need that before we can regularly be in the top three.

It was nice to see Neil Hodgson clinch the title in the first race. I congratulated him on the grid before the second race and told him that he would be able to relax in race two. I can't see any reason why he won't do very well in MotoGP. It's all about having the right team and the right bike and, when he has those things, I am sure he would feel he can beat anyone in the world.

Our championship seems a little bit up in the air at the moment, with various people unhappy with the proposed new rules. We are just staying out of it. What it does mean, however, is that we don't need to rush into choosing a new rider, after deciding that James would not be retained for next season. We wanted to tell him early, as there is nothing worse than hearing rumours that someone else is looking for your ride. We were at the stage where we had started speaking to people and I would have been uncomfortable if that had got back to him. Ideally, I would like to replace him with another British rider. We have two or three options but, until the dust settles and we know which teams will be around next year, it is difficult to make any decisions.

December 2003

YOU WON'T HAVE seen many shots like this during this season, but the last round at Imola was a pleasant surprise.

The picture was taken after Troy had finished his Superpole lap, having set the fastest time with six riders still to go out. The others, with the exception of Chris Walker, all went quicker but to qualify in sixth was superb. In the run-up to Imola I had been trying to play down our prospects a bit. Troy had just had good results at Assen but none of us thought that Imola, with its uphill drags from slow corners, would suit our bike at this stage of its development. But for Troy to qualify sixth and then finish seventh in both races, his second best points haul of the year after Australia, was excellent and it was good to be able to show a bit of emotion.

There's no doubt that Troy is riding really well and, over a couple of the splits, he was as fast as anyone throughout qualifying. That was really encouraging, especially when we know that the changes to the bike throughout this year have not been big. It was a credit to Troy and the rest of the team, who have worked really hard all year. It's good to know we have got Troy for next season, as we signed him on a three-year deal. If the new rules do result in closer racing, then his skill and experience will be a real asset. As for a second rider, we still have a few options open and, although we want to make a decision as quickly as possible, we can only make an announcement when the ink has dried on a deal. We know we will have a good package for both riders next year and I am convinced we will be able to challenge for the rostrum on a regular basis.

And, who knows, that might just come sooner than expected. At the time of writing we were preparing for the final round at Magny-Cours. For the first time this season we will be going to a round with the same circuit knowledge as the other riders and teams after everyone tested in France last week. And this was another very positive test for us. Troy had an off on the first day when he missed a gear going into turn two, but by then he had done a 1:41.3. From the information that we have nobody went quicker, not even the Ducati Fila boys when they tested a couple of days later as I was told that Neil Hodgson only did a 1:41.5. I have been back-pedalling a little bit on predictions for our first top three but you just never know!

I've spent the rest of the month trying to get a bit fitter. I was never a great one for fitness when I was racing but the one thing that I did enjoy was running. Since breaking my leg two years ago I haven't been able to do any but I have just been getting back into it. I ran round the track a couple of times at Imola, getting closer to Michaela who is a good runner. I was in the second group with Boz, while Jo, James Haydon's girlfriend, managed to stay a short distance behind us. It wasn't until afterwards that we found out she had been getting lifts on scooters all the way round.

I am off to Kuala Lumpur straight after Magny-Cours for the launch of the FP1 road bike. There has been a lot of interest and a lot of pre-orders - including quite a few celebrities - so I'm not sure how many, if any, will go on the open market. The day after the launch I will be riding the bike around Sepang in front of Malaysian and selected European media. It will be a proud moment for Petronas and a proud moment for me.