It’s a long journey from the centre of the North Island of New Zealand to stepping on the top step of a World Championship Podium.
Simon Crafar went on that Journey. Simon started in New Zealand racing off road before switching to road racing in 1985. Racing a variety of machines, it was however the cut and trust of 250 production where he emerge like many riders before and since, the close battles were where he learnt his race craft .
In the 1988/89 season, he won the New Zealand 250 Production Championship.
He headed overseas to race in Japan with Super Angel Racing alongside fellow Kiwi Andrew Stroud in 1989. They would race for the New Zealand Formula 1 Championship throughout the summer of that year.
Returning to New Zealand in 1990 riding a 600cc Yamaha he would take his second national Championship.
Overseas racing once again called. The Yamaha factory backed Malaysian Team sign him to race the Superbike Championship, riding the Yamaha, he would win the 1991 Malaysian Championship. A machine he would also race back in New Zealand.
But he was looking to Europe. In 1992, the chance came racing for Team Honda, Team Rumi and Castrol Honda in the World Superbikes.
In 1993 he had a chance to race in the five World 500cc Championship races with a privateer team. He finished the year back in World Superbikes with on a Ducati.
In 1994 he signed a deal to race for Team Rumi and did his first full season in World Superbikes. In 1995 still racing for Rumi, he took two podiums.
Now an established name, he signed for Team Kawasaki for another two seasons of World Superbike. He stood on the podium once in 1996 and then seven times in 1997 along with two pole positions.
He was very close to winning his first race in the second leg at Sentul in Indonesia, when eventual winner John Kocinski hit him and Simon crashed on the last lap. Simon finished 5th overall that year in the World Superbike Championship, his best result in World Superbikes.
The ultimate lure of the World 500cc Championship once again beckoned him. In 1998 Simon rode a Yamaha YZR500 for WCM race team run by Peter Clifford. The highlight being winning the British 500cc Grand Prix at Donington Park ahead of Mick Doohan. He followed that up with a second place at the Australian Grand Prix. He also finished third that year in the Dutch TT.
He had reached a reached a milestone in his career. In 1999 the team switch from Dunlop to Michelin tyres. Struggling to adapt to the new tyres, he parted ways with WCM. He would have one other 500cc race for Team Biland on a MuZ machine.
Riding as a replacement rider for the next few years, becoming a technical mechanic with Ohlins. His final season in road racing would 2002 where he raced for Yamaha in the British Superbike Championship taking two podium finishes.
Retiring back to Andorra with his wife and family.
In 2007 Simon competed in the Red Bull Romaniacs extreme off road Enduro race in Romania. He won the experts class. Through 2008/09 he worked with the organisers in design and mapping of the course. In 2009 he was involved in a serious road accident.
Recovering from his injuries, he turned to riding training and coaching. He became a mentor for the 2011 /2012 European Junior Cup, a series which fellow Kiwi Jake Lewis would win in 2013.
His private training, DVDs and Book have been very successful.
Simon is now the MotoGP pit lane reporter.
A long Journey from small town New Zealand to the top of the Motorcycle World, another worthy inductee in the MNZ Hall of Fame
1st 1998 British 500cc Grand Prix
2nd 1998 Australian 500cc Grand Prix
3rd 1998 Dutch 500cc TT
1st 1991 Malaysian Superbike Championship
1st 1988/89 New Zealand 250cc Production Championship
1st 1989/90 New Zealand Formula 2 TT
1st 1989/90 New Zealand 250 Production Grand Prix
1st 1989/1990 New Zealand Junior (600cc) Production Championship
1st 1990/1991 New Zealand Formula 1 Grand Prix
1st 1990/1991 New Zealand Junior Production TT
1st 1991/1992 New Zealand Formula 1 TT
123 World Superbike Races / 9 Podiums
32 World Grand Prix Starts 25 500cc / 7 250cc
Written for the MNZ Hall of Fame
By Ian Dawson 2021