Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it | Pirelli

Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it

Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it 01
Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it 01

Carl Fogarty is the most successful World Superbike rider of all time after Jonathan Rea, thanks to the four mesmerising world titles that he won in the 1990s on a Ducati 888 and 916. Carl, universally nicknamed ‘Foggy', has always been known for his unmistakable riding style – which was aggressive but never dangerous. Most of all though, he became famous for his piercing eyes, which seemed to radiate far beyond his helmet visor. Those eyes formed the basis of his personal logo, which is still instantly recognised today.

Fogarty was born in Blackburn, around half an hour from Manchester in the north of England. That's the place he would always come back to after every race and win, and he still lives there now his family. He grew up through road racing, taking his first big victories in the 1980s on a Honda. He was fourth in the 1987 Junior TT and then won the Formula 1 TT title over the next two years. In 1992 he wrote history with a fastest lap on the Isle of Man that would remain unbeatable for many years: at an astonishing average of 197kph.

Foggy made his World Superbike Championship debut in 1991 with a private team and managed to win the World Endurance title the following year, riding a Kawasaki. In 1993, he was more determined than ever to win the World Superbike Championship (for bikes derived from road-going models). In his first year with a factory team – Raymond Roche's Ducati squad – Carl won 11 races but finished only second in the standings after coming off a few times: 29 points behind the eventual winner, Scott Russell.

But in 1994 it all came good and Foggy won the title after finishing first in 10 races and scoring an impressive total of 305 championship points. In 1995 he did it again, this time with 13 wins and a total of nearly 500 points, claiming the World Cup as well (for the fourth and final time) at the famous Phillip Island race in Australia.

Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it 02
Carl Fogarty: the eyes have it 02

In 1996, Carl switched to Honda but this didn't work out, as he never really established a proper feeling with the rear of the bike. So he returned to Ducati the following year, where he fought for the championship right up to the end with some incredible battles against John Kocinski. The American just got the better of him and eventually won the title that year.

In 1998, Italian Davide Tardozzi became Ducati team manager and Carl rediscovered his winning ways. At the Sugo race in Japan, the Englishman beat his former team mate Troy Corser and arch-rival Aaron Slight to claim his third World Superbike Championship title. The story was repeated the following year, where Foggy was unbeatable all season, lifting his fourth and final title in 1999.

Towards the end of 2000, the four-time world champion decided to retire as reigning champion: an announcement that sent shockwaves throughout the paddock and his wider fan community. The year had begun badly in any case: at the second race of the season on Phillip Island, Foggy tried to fight back after a less than perfect start but was caught out by a wet and slippery track, hitting Robert Ulm and coming off his bike. Carl was taken straight to hospital, where a broken left arm was diagnosed that would require at least 40 days of recovery time. He eventually returned, but on September 20, Carl announced his definitive retirement from motorbike competition and the World Superbike Championship that he had made his own.

He was back in the World Superbike Championship paddock in 2003 though – but this time as team manager of Foggy Racing, which ran the Petronas FP1 ridden by Corser. By the end of 2006 this chapter of Fogarty's life was also over, after four seasons without any great success.

Yet this would be no gentle pipe and slippers retirement. Carl continued to ride in various small bike competitions for fun even in recent years, while in 2014 he took part in – and won – a famous reality show on British TV: the catchily named “I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!”

He finally hung up his helmet for good in 2017, following a bad accident during a dirt track race: the Dirt Quake at Kings Lynn in England (coincidentally, the birthplace of former F1 driver and Sky Sports commentator Martin Brundle). Having won five of the six heats that were taking place that weekend, Carl was thrown off his Triumph bike in a brutal tank-slapper. After being airlifted to hospital in nearby Norfolk with a broken shoulder, two broken ribs and a punctured lung, he promised that it really was all over now: he would never take part in another bike race. Is that a promise he's actually going to keep this time?