1994: How Foggy rode the 916 to title no.1

The most successful World Superbike racer ever and Ducati's number one son talks about his first year racing the 916

Whitham talks to Fogarty about the rise of the dominant 916. But it wasn't a great bike from factory, it needed work to make it the legend it is today.

Fogarty says: "Although the statistics from 1994 will tell you the 916 was a winner first time out, the reality is I never really felt at home on the bike till later in the season. The bikes arrived late and we'd done only a day's testing before the championship started.

"Initially the 916 was short and nervous and didn't suit my style. I need a bike to be stable, even at the expense of turn-in, so I can run high mid-corner speeds. That became one of my strengths. I remember saying I could do better lap times on the old 888 for just this reason.

"On paper, one of my main rivals should've been former champion Doug Polen, on the Honda. But he just never clicked with the bike, managing only three rostrums. My main opposition was instead Scott Russell on the factory Kawasaki, who'd beaten me to the title in '93. He had the better start to the year, with a win in race two at Donington and then a double at Hockenheim, helped by my breaking my wrist in practice. Another win and a second at Misano gave Russell a fair lead.

"Before the next round at Albacete we did some much needed private testing at Mugello, and it really paid off. The main changes were to front end geometry and swingarm length, and by the end of the second day we'd reduced our lap times by two seconds. I came away confident we had the speed to challenge for the title. Engine reliability was always questionable on the early 916s, especially the fragility of the crankcases. I remember in Japan at Sugo, I rode both races with engines that were mix and matched from all the ones that had popped in practice. Having said all that I only ever had one engine go in a race.

"After the Mugello test and with the 916 slowly turning into the perfect race bike for me, I scored nine race wins, including three doubles, to take the title off Scott at the last round at Phillip Island. This was the start of a long and successful partnership between myself and the 916.

"In '94 I can't remember feeling much pressure at all. I'd won 10 races the year before on the 888 and was confident that if the new bike did what I wanted I'd win on it. In a way the pressure increased after securing my first title. The expectation, especially from myself, was more somehow."

James Whitham on the 916

I rode one of only four factory 916s in WSB in 1994. Fogarty, Falappa, and Pirovano had the other three. I never felt like I really gelled with the bike, although I did get my one and only WSB win on it in Indonesia, and another couple of rostrums at Albacete. I ended the season seventh overall, and second 916 the championship.