With a career that has included ten World Superbike podiums and that memorable Grand Prix win at Donington Park in 1998 - where he beat a certain Mick Doohan (and became the only non-Honda rider to win that year), Simon Crafar is a name every biker knows. With Öhlins being a key partner throughout his career, he continues his relationship with the brand on his groundbreaking Motovudu training project. Over to Simon to explain a little more...
"I started racing when I was a kid doing motocross and then when I left school I did a five year apprenticeship as a Motorcycle mechanic.
I won my first road championship at 18, and the New Zealand F1/Superbike class at 21, and in doing so became the youngest ever champion in the premier class. That year was also my first on Öhlins so you could say the partnership started on pretty good terms! That was 1989 and remained riding Superbikes until 1997, winning national championships and securing 10 podiums in World Superbike on the way. I rode on Öhlins almost all this time and was relieved to be on Öhlins product in 1998 when I moved into 500 GP's. That first year I completed a dream of mine to race in grand prix on top machinery, but then to get three podiums and a win in my first year was almost unbelievable.
I am still very proud that I was able to get to know, race and beat some of my all time hero's.
Öhlins have always remained a key part of my racing career. I've ridden with other suspension makes but in my experience the thing that really sets Öhlins apart were the technicians at the track. They would make the changes that I wanted right there and then during the session, rather than discussing possible internal settings with the factory overnight - that level of speed and skill is vital as a rider as it makes it possible to test a new direction before the end of the session, rather than waiting for the next day - giving us a critical advantage.
This level of commitment to racing is one of the reasons I decided to put my mind to becoming an Öhlins technician in MotoGP when I stopped racing. Over the winter of 2000 I was welcomed by Mats Larsson and the other great guys at the Race Department in Sweden, where they set about teaching me the technical side of the suspension, to back up what I knew already from my experience as a racer and mechanic. Then in 2001 I was working as a fully fledged Öhlins technician at every Grand Prix event and tests with the Antenna 3 Yamaha riders Norick Abe and Jose Luis Cardoso in 500GP's and the Aprilia factory riders of Roberto Locatelli and Franco Battaini in the 250GP class.
I really enjoyed this job from the start, I was already at ease with being part of the huddle of technicians that group round the rider when he comes in off the circuit having once been that very rider.
I found that I had a headstart on translating what it is the rider wanted and felt out on the track as I had felt these things myself. What you don't often see as a rider though is the work that goes on back at the race truck after the session, the collective experience of the Öhlins team means they can find a solution to pretty much any problem, and fast.
After working with Öhlins I went back to racing and spent the season in British Superbikes but at the end of the year I retired for good. I was stumped as to what my next move was, it was tough giving up what had been the most important thing in my life for the past 20 years. I threw myself into my hobbies and started to do a bit of instructing on the circuit where I soon found that I had a talent for teaching people – which was pretty surprising as I've never taught anything in my life before!
Seeing the pleasure people got from learning to ride faster is really rewarding. I instruct riders from all different levels, from complete novices to professional races. Having raced for over two decades I learnt how to ride fast myself but teaching on the circuits taught me how to put into words exactly what fast riders do on the track. I tried to always find what each client needed to get going as everyone is different. After a year or so people began to say I should put it all into a book, so I spoke about it with a few good mates who were all in agreement and were also pushing me to do it, so after a few enquiries Motovudu was born.
The book and DVD are an in depth, easy to understand guide that contains all the rules to going faster on a race track while minimising the risk of crashing.
I'm very proud of the response Motovudu has received from the motorcycle racing and track day worlds and it continues to go from strength to strength. It's currently available in English and Spanish and the French version will be out before the end of 2012, with the German version planned for 2013.
I'm also still continuing to travel round Europe to different race tracks where I'm out on my Motovudu Öhlins shod GSX-R1000 giving one-to-one tuition as well as being the mentor and series instructor for the European Junior Cup which is a support class at the European WSB events.
Any future Motovudu projects? Watch this space..."
For more on the amazing Motovudu experience visit www.motovudu.com