Simon Crafar was a motorcycling sensation during the late 90’s. With an impressive career, he accepted this interview for Wheelies.
How old were you when you had your first bike? 

I learnt to ride at 10. It took me 12 months to convince my parents I needed a bike of my own.

What bike was it? 

A beat up Suzuki TM 75 and I loved it.

You launched in 2011 MotoVudu – Dark Art of Performance. What was the main reason behind this decision?

Wow, that’s hard to give a short answer, but I’ll try. I had not found what I wanted to do after racing. I’d tried a few things and not really found my niche. I had instructed on circuit for 3 years for another company and to my total surprise I was good at it. I was a shocker at school and I’d never taught anything in my life. I liked the feeling of helping someone achieve their goals. Its rewarding, but I didn’t like how the company I worked for restricted how I did my job. Then I had a the biggest accident of my life. I hit a car head on while going to get fuel on my Enduro bike. I had 11 months to recover and to think about the years I’d wasted not making the most of my life since racing. With my wife’s support (just like racing days) I decided to go out on my own and do what I know best and to the best of my abilities. That is Motovudu.

Going back in time once again, you raced in both Superbike and 500 cc. What did you prefere more? A Superbike motorcycle or a 500 cc?

I loved both. Both is racing beautiful motorcycles for great teams on great circuits while travelling the world, but GP is on more beautiful Motorcycles on an even better calendar of circuits for even bigger and more experienced teams.

 Can you describe for the fans the difference between a Superbike and a 500 cc in technical terms?

A Superbike is based on a production 750 or 1000cc motorcycle, but modified to hell (too much and in my opinion and it’s why grid depth is sad). 500’s were a purpose built racing 2 stroke motorcycles made from the best materials possible, so much lighter and in my opinion more beautiful.

Who was the most gifted man you ever raced against in your Superbike time?

If it’s only ‘Gifted’ we are talking about, not work ethic and determination (which is just as important) it has to be Anthony Gobert. I remember saying about him at Philip Island that I don’t believe anyone alive would have beaten him on the same motorcycle. The problem with a ‘gift’ is, you never quite appreciate them like you would if you worked hard for it.

What’s the fondest memory you have from that period of time?

My dream was never to be world champion like I hear others say. My dream growing up was to ride the exquisite factory bikes I saw in the magazines, against the best guys in the world, and my parents or I don’t have to pay for it. I didn’t realise that when I got there they’d pay me!

You rode for Red Bull WCM Yamaha for nearly two seasons. What was the atmosphere inside the team?

The atmosphere was excellent in 1998 when I was on Dunlop and exceeded all expectations (3 podiums including a win), but after we changed to Michelin and I couldn’t get on with the tyres (so results were bad) the atmosphere could not have been worse. I’d never been in a team that didn’t want me. After fighting my whole life to get there it broke my passion to be in the paddock and to continue racing.

People still remember that insane qualifying session from Assen when you nearly scored the pole. Can you describe that  moment for the younger fans?

I think the first time you are at the top of the timing screens in the premier class of motorcycle racing will be memorable for anyone who has achieved it. Mick Doohan though, proved that day (and many other times in his career) just how much he wanted it. He went back out there with 2 mins to go and put an awesome lap together, risking his body to steal back the top spot. Hat’s off to Mick.

And then came Donington. You absolutely dominated from start to finish. Unfortunately that was the only time when you won on a 500cc bike. How did you feel during the race? 

From the start I ran, trying to get the biggest possible gap on Mick, hoping to hold it as long as I could. My plan didn’t change until I saw I was 12 seconds ahead with not far to go and it dawned on my that I may have done enough. It was an incredible feeling to beat my hero (and friend) and win a GP for Yamaha breaking their 3 year drought.

And afterwards?

I didn’t race for money, but in the shower I realised I’d won some silly amount of prize money and bonuses. My wife came running when she heard me yelling at the top of my lungs.

People still suggest that Donington 1998 was the most surprising win of the 90s in the 500cc category. What do you feel about this perspective?

Yeah, I’ve heard something similar before, but as you mentioned I almost had pole the weekend before, then went on to lead that race at Assen ahead of Mick and Max Biaggi for a while in the middle, then a week later I qualifed on pole for Donington. I don’t think it was too much of a surprise if you were watching closely. I guess everyone had got accustomed to Mick and the Honda’s winning.

1998 was an awesome season for you. What were you expectations for ’99?

More of the same. Bummer, but hey at least I got the opportunity. Most don’t.

Did the tyre change from Dunlop to Michelin had any effect on your not so good results from the early stages of 1999?

Hell yes. It was the only ingredient we changed.

After you ended your road racing career you started to participate in hard enduro races. What are your memories from the Red Bull Romaniacs?
It’s the most physically demanding thing I have ever done, and I was prepared. I loved my time in Romania with Martin and his crazy race. I was a bit lost as I mentioned and it gave me a mission, kept me busy. After the year I won the Expert Class I decided not to race but did a deal with Martin to work as track manager, building the track for day 2 and 4 of Romaniacs. I have awesome memories of the most beautiful trials I have ever seen.
Coming back to road racing and your time spent in the 500cc. Who do you regard as the most valuable rider you ever raced against in the 500cc? 

GP’s are full of awesome riders, but Mick Doohan is the best all round rider I have ever ridden against. A rear balance of talent and drive/work ethic.
Any motorsport heroes?

Surprisingly few since my Motocross days of watching Jeff Thorpe, Harkan Carqvist, Brad Lacky. Once I went to road racing from MX I admired all the guys that were where I wanted to be, riding a factory bike in world championship.

Who do you regard as the greatest rider of all time?

Mick and Valentino, but I loved watching the Kevin Schwantz v Wayne Rainey battles.

What advice would Simon Crafar give to the young kids who are in the early stages of their careers?
You’ve got to want it more than anything in your life. If you don’t, invest your time and money more wisely and do the odd trackday for fun.
A final word from Simon Crafar for Wheelies fans?
Whether you are the middle of nowhere Hiking and lying on your back looking up at the stars, or standing on the podium above your hero’s,  life is only as good as you decide it is.
photo: crash.net