Seemingly, Troy Corser must be like the dinner guest you've had to your house a few times but never want to have return.
That's certainly the way it looks now with Corser, one of the very best Superbike riders in the world, officially out of his Aprilia factory ride, and until Team Foggy convinces him to ride the new Sauber, out of any ride for 2002. If he does ride the Sauber in 2002, the job will not start until half season, which means he'll have as much chance at winning the World Superbike title as you or I do.
Corser spent the last two seasons at Aprilia, where he, for the most part, put them on the map as a championship caliber team. Together in 2001 they were a threat to win the title. In fact, Corser and Aprilia led the world championship this season until Monza.
When it was good, Corser seemed to have found a manufacturer he could work well with, and Aprilia was just as happy with him. He requested changes to the machine and they made them. He requested more power, and in 2001 they delivered with a gust of speed that had their competitors shuddering. The Aprilia RSV was the fastest bike in the 2001 World Superbike paddock.
It was a marriage made in heaven as they say, but as with most marriages between two powerful entities, there were signs of strain. To the naked eye, it was just little things: Corser showed up a full day late for a 2001 pre-season test, media reports said the reason for his tardiness was that he was late flying back from his mother's birthday celebration, or he was ill. Then, Corser kept the Italian press waiting for more than an hour at the official team introduction in Venice last February, an affair he was to star in. The press were unimpressed, and from the way Aprilia president Ivan Beggio looked, apologetic to the Italian press, furious to his Aprilia minions, he was even less impressed.
All of that bad blood disappeared quite quickly when Corser came out of the gate strong in 2001, winning the first two Superbike races of the year at Valencia. Corser was fast, as usual, and the bike was faster than anyone expected it to be. It looked quite bad at that point for the competition, frankly. Aprilia winning the World Superbike title went from fanciful post-dinner chat to a possibility to a probability, all in just three years.
Corser led the championship until he and Chili came together at Monza and crashed, but even after that he stayed in the championship hunt, although he never won again in 2001.
And, at some point after Donington, where he finished eleventh in race one with a bad tire choice, a void grew between Corser and Aprilia. Insiders say that Aprilia, armed with dyno and radar gun data, thought Corser should be winning every race going away, and told him so. Corser didn't appear to like being told that, judging by the resentful way he mentioned 'being told to win' in press conferences. He, also, was very critical of the Aprilia's Dunlop tires, the same brand he'd won with the title with here in 1994. From Corser's perspective, he'd had tire problems for most of the 2001 season. He blamed the tires many times, but especially when his results were really bad, perhaps rightfully so. Yet Aprilia and Dunlop were unmoved by Corser's bad rubber talk.
Corser, by his own public admission, was told by Aprilia to win at Laguna Seca and at the season-ending race at Imola. He didn't. And by the time the season came to pass, what was once a wonderful marriage between a world-class rider and a championship caliber Superbike manufacturer became a separation and then an outright divorce. When Aprilia signed their 2002 Superbike riders, they talked to Corser, and then signed Nori Haga. Regis Laconi, who has nowhere near the impressive credentials that Corser has, but shows up on time, doesn't complain (and actually wears glasses in a sport where weak eyes are seen as an Achilles' heel), gets the coveted '02 Aprilia GP1 ride. Think office-style politics end when you enter the gates of a racetrack? They don't.
"Alone again, naturally," as the '70s song says might be Corser's theme song for this off-season. This rejection is now officially a trend with Corser. Because almost the same thing happened at Ducati when Corser rode for the other Italian manufacturer.
In his final season with Ducati-for whom Corser won the world title with in 1996-Ducati spoke with Corser, a rider who finished third in the 1999 World Superbike championship-and then signed the very raw and untested American Ben Bostrom instead. They seemed to be saying that although Corser was obviously one of the best riders in the world, life with him was difficult, and if they were going to have difficulty, they'd rather have it with someone else.
As a result of all of the above, now Corser is now on the verge of signing with Sauber and Team Foggy. For the latter, it is an unexpected windfall for their new machine to attract the services of one of the best riders in the world. For Corser, though, one hopes this is not the end. With Sauber sitting out the first half of the 2002 season and not racing until July, Corser's chances at winning the 2002 World Superbike title are nil, zilch, zero.
Moreover, he's no longer the fresh-faced boy we met at Daytona in 1994 when he finished second in the Daytona 200; Corser is 30 years old now. If he sits out half of 2002, the next time he will challenge for the championship will be in 2003. The World Superbike series, its future and which riders will ride in it in 2003 are questions without firm answers.
This is reality for Corser, that he must probably ride the Sauber next year. It's not a bad deal; he could win races, no doubt about it. But it is also a dishonor for a rider who has nabbed the title, nearly always challenged for the title when he didn't win it, won 23 World Superbike races and set 28 pole positions to be in that position.
One can only be mystified at how this has come to pass with Corser. Again.