Man Behind Carl Fogarty
Slick Bass may sound like a bottom-feeding
aquatic creature to some, but Anthony 'Slick' Bass is one of the true characters
of World Superbike racing.
by dean adams
Anthony "Slick" Bass started his
career as a racing motorcycle mechanic at age 14, accompanying friends
and racers to all the club races at Brands Hatch, Donington, Silverstone
and Mallory Park. By the time he was 18 years old, Bass was the assistant
mechanic on the factory Rothmans (British) Honda team with Isle of Man
great Joey Dunlop as the rider.
From there he moved to Brit Hero
Ron Haslam's team, and while there he happened to notice a skinny, bird-faced
young man who was always walking around the paddock poised to pounce on
each and every rival, looking as if he wanted to beat them into a hospital
room stay. The kid, even then, had very intense eyes.
Not long after, the lad, future two-time
World Superbike champion Carl Fogarty, and Bass would be drawn together
and their partnership would become one of the most successful in World
Slick remembers the first time he
saw young Carl Fogarty, "It was 1986-1987, I can hardly remember--at Mallory,
I think. I remember him racing a 250 and jumping straight off that and
onto a 750. He seemed to me to be a real angry rider. Even before he was
riding, he looked aggressive. He was so fiery, walking around in the pits
and stuff, shouting at his mechanics to do things. He was unbelievable."
Fogarty noticed Bass as well, "He
always looked to me because I was a bit more organized than the team he
was on at the time. I'm sure I looked a lot more professional," he says
with a laugh. Slick continues the story: "Carl and I got friendly and he
always wanted to work with me. Because of commitments with other teams,
I couldn't do that until 1993. We hooked up and it has worked out really
well together." As Brits are not typically known for modesty, this is a
The Foggy-Bass pairing has been hugely
successful. They've amassed 43 WSC wins together, two championships and
17 pole positions. (Fogarty, including his season on the Honda, has a record
73 podium appearances in World Superbike.) It's unusual for a world championship
caliber rider to remain with one mechanic for nearly his entire world championship
career. Scott Russell's had at least a dozen since 1992. But the interesting
facet of the Fogarty Bass relationship is that they're good friends off
the track as well. Slick confirms: "We've been the best of mates all the
way through it. That's never really changed. It's been really wonderful."
When asked about the Carl Fogarty
that he knows, Bass has this to say: "Carl is very passionate about his
racing and is one hundred percent dedicated to it. Sometimes it doesn't
look like he is, but he really cares about his riding and I don't think
he'll ever be able to take second place to anyone and like it. He wants
to do so well for everyone who supports him; there's no other way that
he'd ride. He's dedicated and quite relentless. Carl qualifying on the
third row isn't a problem. It doesn't matter where he qualifies. He knows
he's going to be up there with the front, in the hunt. "And he's a great
guy. He gets angry. . .like any rider when he can't do the laptime he wants
or finishes poorly, he gets mad. But when it's all said and done, he's
a good mate."
Bass has been a friend and confidant
of Ducati Performance rider Fogarty's since they were in their late teens.
If anyone knows what he's like once the motorhome door closes, it's Bass.
"Away from the track he's a much calmer guy. He goes back to his place
and he chills out. He'll have a few beers but he's not much of a drinker.
He hardly touches the stuff. He's funny to get drunk sometimes because
all you have to do is give him a few Budweisers, four or five, and he's
gone. That takes about an hour. The rest of the night he walks around like
a zombie," Bass says with a good-natured grin.
One of the conditions Fogarty had
when he left Ducati for the factory Honda squad in 1996 was that Slick
accompany him during his stint with the Japanese team. Fogarty lasted the
entire season on the British run Honda squad, but Bass was asked to leave
before half-season. Bass explains what made the Honda relationship for
him a disaster: "When I was young--I've been doing this for eighteen years-I
could work the Honda way, I could work any way anybody told me to. But
if you work in a European team, or an Italian team, they're so much more
lax and less regimented than a Honda team. Having worked with a Ducati
team for three years before that, it was very hard to change in the time
that Honda wanted me to change."
In addition to his inability, or
unwillingness, to adapt, Bass has quite a reputation in WSC as a skirt-chasing
party boy. And that more than anything may have contributed to his exit
from the Honda squad.
Bass says that the Neil Tuxworth-run
Honda team was never specifically critical of his work, and perhaps it
was a case where they just didn't personally like him. "They never told
me how they wanted me to work. They just kept telling me that I was doing
it wrong all the time. It was very frustrating. I would have never left
Carl. . .I would have preferred an engine building job, because I was struggling
with the job. I could do it my way, but I couldn't do it their way."
Castrol Team manager Neil Tuxworth,
a friend of Fogarty's father, George, fired Bass. "At the end of the day,
when they told me I had to leave, I respected Neil for that because he
made a decision based on what he felt was best for the team and best for
Carl. I didn't take it that bad, really. In my mind, it wasn't right, but
he did it for the right reasons."
Strangely enough, it wasn't the Japanese
at Honda that Bass couldn't cope with; it was his own countrymen, the Brits.
"I didn't have that much of a problem communicating with the Japanese at
Honda. There were two or three things that I said that they listened to
and it improved the bike a bit. It surprised me that they did it so quickly,
I thought it would take a long time to make the changes but they got on
with it straight away."
Slick takes partial responsibility
for the Honda parting: "Carl's adaptation to the bike wasn't as quick as
it should have been and he had a lot of frustration with that. With me
being so close to him, I was getting frustrated. I guess being such close
friends with Carl, I hated to see him upset. It made me a bit more aggressive
to people in the team that I should have been. I learned a lot from that
and don't want to let it happen again. That's the second time I've been
sacked by Neil (Tuxworth) at Honda, and the first time it was for no reason.
But never mind about that," he says with a laugh. He then says, "The Honda
team is a very good team and a very professional team. They have been successful
as you can see by them winning the championship last season. They run a
very tight ship. That's all well and good, but what they don't understand
is that I've been in racing for a long time and I do things my way. The
Carl and Slick relationship was very close and they wanted it to be Carl
and Castrol Honda."
Bass has been a race mechanic in
one form or another for more than 15 years and the season-long grind of
plane, hotel then racetrack then another plane have begun to wear on him
greatly in the last two years. He feels that 1998 or 1999 may be his last
year as a full-time mechanic in World Superbike. But much of that depends
on Carl Fogarty. "When I was young, I loved my life. Now I miss living
at home and I miss having a regular girlfriend, a house or somewhere I
can call my home. I've been living out of a suitcase for the last five
years and I'm not in love with it any more.
"I am thinking about taking a few
years off after next year or maybe starting next year. Obviously, it depends
on what Carl does: if Carl continues racing next year, I'll probably stay
with him for another year. But if he stops, I'll probably stop and have
a couple of years to myself. I'll find a life and figure life out a little
bit I'd imagine. I could always come back to this life if I'd like to."
It'll be interesting to see if Bass
can make the switch to another rider and have the same success as he's
had with Foggy. Maybe he won't have to; Bass thinks an engine building
shop or a post Europe career of tuning Superbikes in America might be in
"I'd like to get my own machine shop
and get myself a dyno and build engines for people. I'd like to get hooked
up with someone with some money and get on it (laughs). I like America.
I think a decent job after I retire would be to work in the American championship.
Foggy has been critical of the 916-based
Ducati Superbike ever since he re-joined the Italian squad last season.
The power delivery of the machine is too hard, the suspension action too
harsh, and it simply isn't the same bike he rode to World Championship
glory in 1995. Slick says that changes were inevitable. "Any bike that
has been in Superbike racing for more than three years is having a tough
time." However, he feels that the Ducati fuel injection system and excellent
chassis might make the process of growing old easier on the 916 than it
has been for four-cylinder Japanese bikes. Says Slick, "I reckon there's
still a fair bit left in the Ducati 916--especially with the electronics
and things like that. Depending on the riders, I think it could be competitive
for quite a long time. It just depends on the opposition and how quickly
they improve over the years. Every time we get more power, we get more
problems with the chassis and the suspension. At one point with the Ducati,
the chassis and suspension was the best, now it's a problem to get it dialed
in at some tracks. That's because of the extra horsepower, but I do think
it's got a few more years left in it."
Foggy has been pleading with Ducati
to give him his 1995 bike back because of the power-delivery problems of
the Ducati 995 Superbike. Bass explains why: "It's been quite difficult
the last year and a half with Carl and the power delivery problems we have
now with the Ducati. It's obviously very much like a switch. All you can
do is take the notes, give them to the factory and hope that they'll come
back with something better. It's getting better for us because they're
improving the bike all the time now. The bike will get better over the
next year or so, no doubt.
" Carl wants his 1995 bike back,
for good reason says Slick. That season the bike and the team were perfect:
"That was dream bike and a dream year. We smoked that championship. The
bike was so perfect, and he was riding it great and it really fit him.
There was no one that was going to stop him that year. The thing that hurt
us was having the bike that good, that tailored to him, and then missing
out on one year of development with it when we went to Honda. When we got
back, it was all changed around and it was like a completely different
bike. Especially after riding the Honda for one year, which messed with
his style as he had to rev the bike more and things like that. The Ducati
was quite a different animal when he got back on it."
One of Bass' strengths with Fogarty
isn't just that he understands and admires the former champion, but he
can sense The Fog's moods and knows when to help start a fire within. "1997
Laguna Seca was bad for us. We qualified on the fourth row. I just kept
telling him, 'it doesn't matter, when the light turns green -- you go to
the front'. And he did! He came good and finished second in both races--puking
in his helmet in the end. And in 1993 at Hockenheim, when he was first
looking like he could win a race or get on the podium with the (Raymond)
Roche team, we had a problem. The engine was puking oil out of every gasket
it had. That's death to a rider. They see that and they don't even want
to go out. We sealed everything up and he actually got on the podium. He
came through where other riders would be worried about getting oil on the
tire and crashing, to having the perfect set up and finishing third. I
was in tears. That was his first WSC podium finish."
Even in a general sense, Bass feels
he understands riders and knows how to play them like a violin. "They're
all like kids," he says. "That's why I work well with them, I'm still like
a kid. From a mechanic standpoint, you have to be as positive as you can
every time the rider goes out, believing in what you can do and in what
he can do. If you doubt if he can do it, that'll piss him right off and
change his whole outlook and mental preparation. You have to look at him
like it's not a problem, just go out and do it. (It) doesn't matter if
you're qualified on the fifth row or the bike is in pieces in the garage,
you have to let him know that it's no problem and that he can do it. And
you have to know when to say something and when to keep your mouth completely
Through it all, winning championships
and races with Ducati and the disappointment with Honda, Bass has some
special moments with Fogarty that he will remember for the rest of his
life. "When we won the championship in 1995 at Assen, we were all in a
packed bar near the track having a bit of a celebration and all the British
fans were singing "We Are the Champions". Carl and me were singing and
it was a wonderful feeling. It was a very special moment. We won it with
three races to do, so the rest of the season was just a bit of a cruise.
It was unbelievable."
Anthony Slick Bass Rates the World
Any of the guys in the top ten are
awesome guys, says Bass. But he thinks these men have more than the others
John Kocinski: A very, very
talented rider. He has some strange quirks, but most riders do. I think
he's very good.
Aaron Slight: He has it within
him to win a world championship. He dedicates himself to winning and deserves
to win. He has the confidence too, but at times, things don't go right
for him. Probably the unluckiest guy in racing.
Scott Russell: A wonderful
personality and brilliant rider. He goes with his moods, if his mood is
down he doesn't do well, but if he's in a good mood, he could be the fastest
guy out there.
Colin Edwards: An up and comer,
one for the future.
Anthony Gobert: He's been
a bit victimized, and he put it on himself, but having a smoke after a
race when you've done well isn't the right thing to do but at the same
time it isn't that bad. Drugs are bad, but I think more should have been
done to help him than that. He's an awesome talent. I actually quite like
the guy and that's probably why I'm a bit biased.
Pier-Francesco Chili: He's
been around, racing 500, 250 and now Superbikes. He's got a lot of experience
and can never be counted out of the championship. Like Slight, he's an
unlucky guy; he has moments of just sheer unluckiness. I wish him good
luck in a season but we're going to beat him anyway.
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