John Kocinski & the RC45, 1997
Whatever you say about him (and let's face it, he's a wierd one) this boy knows how to race motorcycles. In 1996 Carl Fogarty and Aaron Slight (and, of course, the Castrol Honda team) had managed to make the bikes work well enough to win races, but it took JK to get on and win a whole championship. He took 9 race wins out of 24, and 16 podiums. He ended the year at Sentul, Indonesia in controversy by elbowing Slight in race 1 and then knocking off Simon Crafar in race two. Crafar was looking for his first ever win on the Kawasaki, but a desparate Kocinski (who had already secured the championship) seemed to drive into him in a chicane. When he announced his move to the 500 GP class, few WSB rivals were sorry to see him go.
His bike was set up totally different from Aaron's, with a steeply-raked front end and the back pitched up high to throw the rider's weight forwards.   Perennial WSB runner-up Slight sets up his RC45 with a more relaxed stance, and he carries less corner speed, then allows the back end to spin on the exit from corners. Of course, it's more complicated than that, but the article by Alan Cathcart (in a 1998 issue of Superbike
magazine) suggests that these two riders had very different approaches to the same machine.
JK struggled to make an impression in GPs in 1998 and 1999, despite having the services of legendary tuner Erv Kanemoto. Erv had worked with John previously, and seemed the only person prepared to ride the waves of John's mercurial temperament. The lad has offended more works teams than most people would have the chance to work for, but whatever the score between them, the old magic hasn't reappeared. John has failed to really get on the pace in races, and has been known to blame the chassis which he says has been designed around Mick Doohan's riding style. Without a change of chassis (not easy when you're not the no.1 works rider, never mind in a satellite team) his chances of success were small.
He was considered a possibility to ride the RC51 race bike for 2000 when it was discovered that Slight had a medical condition, Arteriovenus Malformation. This prevented him racing for poart of the 2000 season. His place was filled by Simon Crafar for a few races. Simon is a fine rider whose potential has never fully been realised. John, meanwhile, sat on the sidelines - a criminal waste of racing talent. He did end up riding a Ducati in the 2000 AMA Superbike championship.
In 2001 Yamaha contracted him to develop their four-stroke GP bike, the YZR-M1. Little has been said about John's role, but if he can stifle the childish habits he has displayed in the past they might even let him race one. It would be good to see him back World Championship racing, but there is a still a nagging feeling that he could show some of those GP boys a thing or two. Those who remember his brilliant rides on the Cagiva C594 GP bike will know what I mean.
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