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Crafar’s career in motorcycling fuelled by family



New Zealand's Simon Crafar during the 1998 Australian motorcycle Grand Prix held at Phillip Island. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Former top New Zealand motorcyclist Simon Crafar says he will be forever grateful to his parents for helping him to achieve a childhood dream.

In the 1990s, the 54-year-old competed in both the 500cc world championship and Superbikes, and he was still involved in the sport as a pit reporter for MotoGP.
Crafar reached the podium three times and won the 1998 British Grand Prix in his two years in the 500cc division, while he had 122 starts in Superbikes and achieved 10 podiums.
Crafar, who was born in Waiouru, went about the central North Island with his father, a shepherd, station manager, and farrier.
He attended most of his schooling in Taihape, and being on the land sparked his interest in motorcycles.
Crafar acknowledged that if it hadn’t been for his parents, Kevin and Gayle, he would never have started.
“They bought my bikes and Mum worked two jobs, which was a huge sacrifice on their part to allow me to pursue my dream,” Crafar said RNZ.
They were huge supporters of his motocross career, as well as his transition to road motorcycles.
Crafar lived like a vagabond when he initially left New Zealand, bunking down and traveling with anybody he could find to assist him get to races.
Fortunately, he was fast enough from the start for people to notice, and it wasn’t long before some of them started giving him bikes to ride.
His racing career progressed from there, but he never aimed to be a world champion. Instead, the mechanism piqued his interest.
“I just wanted to be able to ride the bikes I saw in magazines with pull-out posters of Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer.”
“I wanted to ride that machinery on the world’s best circuits without having to pay for it.”
“I managed to do that for a few years and I would have loved a few more years at it, but very few people get this opportunity and even less get to win one so I’m pretty happy.”

Former New Zealand motorbike racer Simon Crafar Photo: Supplied / X


Crafar knew that it was hard for any young sportsperson to crack it on the world stage, but admitted in his day he had one thing in his favour.
“Back then you were chosen more on your talent, whereas now you’re chosen on your talent and what backing (financial) you bring to a team.”
While his racing career may not have been as long as he would have liked, it has provided him and his family (wife Kirsten and two teenage daughters) a comfortable life in Andorra.
The principality between Spain and France reminded him a bit of New Zealand and it allowed him to ride his dirt bike.
Crafar gets the chance each MotoGP weekend to ride the course which allowed him to give a riders perspective for the television viewers.
However the thought of racing on one of today’s 500cc bikes scared him.
“The bikes of today are less raw, the modern bikes have so much electronics with the computer doing more ao therefore there is less (control) in your hand.
They’re beautiful and faster and probably safer, but because I’m so much older I don’t want to get near them.

Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia during the Austrian Grand Prix. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Ducati won the MotoGP title again this year with Italian Francesco Bagnaia retaining his title and the Italian manufacturer claiming the top three places.
However Crafar was sure Austrian manufacturer KTM, who had Brad Binder finish fourth this season, will mount a serious challenge in 2024.
“They are so determined to catch Ducati, they’re the only ones who keep bringing parts and are closing the gap.”
However the Japanese manufacturers were struggling with Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo the best placed in tenth place this year.
Suzuki exited MotoGP at the end of 2022 and this year the Japanese had just one race.
When the Japanese were dominating the European manufacturers were allowed more engines and greater testing time, but that extra assistance will now go to the Japanese.
“A massive leg up for the Japanese which is huge.”
The 2024 season starts in Qatar in early March with the 22 round championship finishing in Valencia in November.
The major rider change for next season is the move of eight time champion Marc Marquez from Repsol Honda to Gresini Racing Ducati



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