Where Are They Now? Simon Crafar

WSB's Mr Nice Guy had a stunning first year in 500 GPs beating Mick Doohan, but then what...?
Crafar, on one, on his Red Bull Yamaha GP500

World Superbike star Simon Crafar had scores of podium finishes in the 1990s on his Kawasaki, despite never winning a race. That is until he moved to 500cc GP racing with Red Bull Yamaha in 1998, where he won the British round battling against Mick Doohan. Sadly, the New Zealander with the popular helmet paintjob retired from the international scene in 1999. He made an appearance in the 2002 British Superbike series riding a Virgin Yamaha but vanished from the racing radar thereafter. So where is he now?

"I live in Andorra," explains Simon. "I needed a base in Europe and the tax advantages were the initial attraction. But then I discovered the skiing, cycling, dirt biking and incredibly good gym. It's an awesome place for a sportsman to come back to and for my kids to grow up in.

"I've always been big into fitness. I used to train with Mick Doohan who'd rather hurt himself than let you win at anything, so he'd always beat me! Now I often train with James Haydon, and in winter when it's snowing it's mainly down the gym - skiing and snowboarding is more fun than hard work. During the summer I cycle and the dirt biking is amazing, you don't get the same kind of unrestricted access anywhere else.

"My childhood dream was to race factory bikes and not have to pay - I didn't realise they'd pay me! I'd always planned to choose the right time to retire, and that was 1999. I'd fulfilled my dream, and something in my head changed. Overnight it wasn't the most important thing in my life anymore. I've been with the same woman since 1991 and I always told her racing was more important than anything including her, but suddenly she became more important. It was the start of the next stage in my life.

"My best memories are from 1997 with Kawasaki, working with a good bunch of guys and getting results. It was a big risk going from a comfortable ride in WSB to 500cc GP racing but I wanted to give it a go, and 1998 on the Red Bull Yamaha turned out to be my best year. I got a first, second and third in my first full season of 500 GPs, and Mick being in the races gives it qualification.

"Many riders struggle with the transition from racing to not racing, but I worked and paid rent before I started racing, never got carried away with the extreme highs and lows and always kept my feet on the ground. This made it easier for me.

"I spent a few months scratching my head trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. As a rider I'd always enjoyed working with the Ohlins suspension guys, so I got in touch with them and they took me on for a year as a technician. But it was tough working 60% of the time away from my wife and kids. Then one of our team asked me to race the Virgin Yamaha bikes I was working on in British Superbikes, and I agreed.

"I don't regret it as I made great friends like Paul Jones, Glen Richards and the late David Jefferies. But it was a mistake. I'd raced professionally for 13 years and I'd done what I wanted to do. I didn't have the same ability or hunger and the team was all wrong. "Throughout my career I'd been lucky enough to work with professional team managers such as Herve Poncharal, Davide Brivio and Neil Tuxworth. They'd get the money and machinery, hire the best staff, left them to get on with their job and at the end of the race meeting they'd just check what they'd need for the next round. But working for Rob McElnea was the opposite; despite all my experience it still did my head in and I feel sorry for the young guys Rob gets hold of today. It was the nail in the racing coffin for me.

"In the meantime I'd made a few good investments. I bought property in Australia and Andorra and I'm doing okay out of that so I can sit back and enjoy my sports now. Buy property not cars, that's what I say."

World Superbike star Simon Crafar had scores of podium finishes in the 1990s on his Kawasaki, despite never winning a race. That is until he moved to 500cc GP racing with Red Bull Yamaha in 1998, where he won the British round battling against Mick Doohan. Sadly, the New Zealander with the popular helmet paintjob retired from the international scene in 1999. He made an appearance in the 2002 British Superbike series riding a Virgin Yamaha but vanished from the racing radar thereafter.

"I live in Andorra," explains Simon. "I needed a base in Europe and the tax advantages were the initial attraction. But then I discovered the skiing, cycling, dirt biking and incredibly good gyms. It's an awesome place for a sportsman to come back to and for my kids to grow up in.

"I've always been big into fitness. I used to train with Mick Doohan who'd rather hurt himself than let you win at anything, so he'd always beat me! Now I often train with James Haydon, and in winter when it's snowing it's mainly down the gym - skiing and snowboarding is more fun than hard work. During the summer I cycle and the dirt biking is amazing, you don't get the same kind of unrestricted access anywhere else.

"My childhood dream was to race factory bikes and not have to pay - I didn't realise they'd pay me! I'd always planned to choose the right time to retire, and that was 1999. I'd fulfilled my dream, and something in my head changed. Overnight it wasn't the most important thing in my life anymore. I've been with the same woman since 1991 and I always told her racing was more important than anything including her, but suddenly she became more important. It was the start of the next stage in my life.

"My best memories are from 1997 with Kawasaki, working with a good bunch of guys and getting results. It was a big risk going from a comfortable ride in WSB to 500cc GP racing but I wanted to give it a go, and 1998 on the Red Bull Yamaha turned out to be my best year. I got a first, second and third in my first full season of 500 GPs, and Mick being in the races gives it qualification.

"Many riders struggle with the transition from racing to not racing, but I worked and paid rent before I started racing, never got carried away with the extreme highs and lows and always kept my feet on the ground. This made it easier for me.

"I spent a few months scratching my head trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. As a rider I'd always enjoyed working with the Öhlins suspension guys, so I got in touch with them and they took me on for a year as a technician. But it was tough working 60% of the time away from my wife and kids. Then one of our team asked me to race the Virgin Yamaha bikes I was working on in British Superbikes, and I agreed.

"I don't regret it as I made great friends like Paul Jones, Glen Richards and the late David Jefferies. But it was a mistake. I'd raced professionally for 13 years and I'd done what I wanted to do. I didn't have the same ability or hunger and the team was all wrong.

"Throughout my career I'd been lucky enough to work with professional team managers such as Hervé Poncharal, Davide Brivio and Neil Tuxworth. They'd get the money and machinery, hire the best staff, left them to get on with their job and at the end of the race meeting they'd just check what they'd need for the next round. But working for Rob McElnea was the opposite; despite all my experience it still did my head in and I feel sorry for the young guys Rob gets hold of today. It was the nail in the racing coffin for me.

"In the meantime I'd made a few good investments. I bought property in Australia and Andorra and I'm doing okay out of that so I can sit back and enjoy my sports now. Buy property not cars, that's what I say."

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