Words: Bertie Simmonds
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Photographs: Mark Wernham/Mortons Archive
Simon Crafar has the strange honour of being the best rider never to have won a World Superbike race, and yet when he went to 500cc GPs he became one of the few to beat the dominant Mick Doohan…
Crafar was Malaysian Superbike champion in 1991 and he spent time in the UK too, racing a long-in-the-tooth Castrol-backed RC30 in 1992. For 1993 he ended up in 500s riding a privateer Harris Yamaha YZR, before he got signed up by Oscar Rumi’s semi-factory RC45 team for the 1994 season.
Even in the factory team, the RC45 was a fickle beast, but by 1995 Simon had ‘inherited’ Doug Polen’s factory machine, even if it still ran in Rumi colours. By the Assen round that year (where Carl Fogarty took his second title) Crafar managed a 2nd place behind Foggy but was Kawasaki-bound for 1996.
The two years with Kawasaki saw him look good on the ZX-7R and you really couldn’t miss him on the bike thanks to his colourful Shark helmet which looked like it was designed by someone on acid! Simon said: “I wanted a design that was different and that the mechanics could see from the pits and OCD designs came up with this one…”
Frustratingly, his two seasons on the Kawasaki only led to 2nds and 3rds although – famously – he was knocked off at the final round at Sentul by John Kocinski while battling for the lead, and Foggy (who himself had taken Crafar out at Brands Hatch that year) promptly gave him his winner’s trophy as he didn’t feel he’d earned it!
1998 saw Crafar head to GPs with the Red Bull Yamaha team and he beat Doohan at Donington Park, home of the British GP. He would do a few one-off rounds (he took an MuZ to 10th in 1999 at the Brit 500cc GP) but on retirement he started instructing on track days and in 2011 began his circuit training called ‘Motovudu – the dark art of performance.’
In 2018 Crafar joined the MotoGP World Feed team with Dorna and is now a cornerstone of their commentary team, using his insight and knowledge as a pit-lane reporter.