Much requested after the “Whatever happened to: Troy Corser”, in this new episode we talk about a rider who had quite a brief career (13 years between the world championship and Superike) but who had the honour of being the first to secure both championship titles. Introducing John Kocinski.
The early years - spotted by Kenny Roberts Sr.
Born in Little Rock on 20 March 1968 into a family of Polish origin, he started riding minibikes when he was four. Spotted by Kenny Roberts Sr., in the early 80s Roberts himself entered him into various amateur championships. In 1981, he won the 125 americana and finished second in the 250 class aboard a Yamaha, while in '82-'83 he won the amateur AMA, first with a privateer bike and then with a Honda. Over subsequent years, he took part in Endurance races, up until 1987.
The 250 world championship
He made his 125 world championship debut in 1988, competing with a Yamaha in the first two races, in Japan and the US. Everyone sat up and took notice when he finished his home race in fourth place. The following year saw him win his first two races, in Japan and the US, and he rounded out the year in 14th place, with 40 points.
His only complete season in the 125 class was 1990. It brought 7 wins, 12 podiums, 223 points and his first world title.
In 1993 he returned to 250 with the Suzuki, competing in seven races and scoring two podiums, to finish the season twelfth with 80 points.
The 500 - Part one
In 1989 Yamaha offered him a race in the top class, at the tricky Spa track. In his only race of the year, John crossed the line fifth.
After his triumphant season in 250, he moved to the 500 class for '91, again with Yamaha. He won the final race in Malaysia and scored four additional podiums, finishing the season fourth with 161 points.
The 1992 season began with a DNF in Japan and two missed races in Australia and Malaysia. He started back in Spain, finishing fifth. John then reached the podium at Mugello, Assen, France and Brazil and won the season finale in South Africa. He rounded out the year in third place with 102 points.
He began '93 in the 250 class with Suzuki, but as of Brno he was back in 500 with the Cagiva. He powered the Italian bike to victory at his home race of Laguna Seca after scoring a double fourth at Brno and Misano. Eleventh for him overall that season, with 51 points.
1994 began with a win in Australia and second place in Malaysia which put him at the top of the standings. A gradual loss of power for his Cagiva C594 over subsequent races prevented him from fighting for the title. He reached the podium on five occasions but finished third overall, with 172 points. Disappointed with the final result he left the paddock and moved to Superbike.
He spent 1995 training ahead of his 1996 debut in production-derived series. With Fogarty having moved to Honda, Ducati chose the American to flank ‘captain’ Troy Corser.
In 1996 Kocinski closed the season in third place, behind Corser and Slight (finishing just 10 points behind the New Zealander). Her scored five wins and twelve podiums during that first season.
Over the winter Fogarty and Kocinski ‘swapped’ bikes, Carl returning to Ducati and John moving to HRC with the RC45. It was essentially Kocinski who left Ducati due to a misunderstanding with team manager Virginio Ferrari.
1997 was a triumphant year for Kocinski, who scored 9 wins, 17 podiums, 416 points (a career record) and his second world title. John thus became the first rider to win in both the world championship and Superbike.
The 500 - Part two
In '98-'99 John completed a final stint in the top class, again with Honda. 1998 saw him race for Sito Pons’ team, competing in ten of the season’s fourteen races and closing twelfth overall with 64 points and a fourth place in France as his best result.
In 1999 he moved to team Kanemoto. The season got off to a bad start with a double DNF in Malaysia and Japan. He reached the podium for the final time in his career in France, crossing the line second behind Criville. John finished the year in eighth place with 115 points, and bid farewell to the world championship paddock at the end of that year.
In 2000 he returned home to compete in the AMA Superbike, where he finished seventh. In 2001-2002 Yamaha asked him to develop the M1 for the 2002 MotoGP. And in that same year, he announced his retirement from racing.
John Kocinski today
What does John Kocinski do today? Having hung up his helmet, Kocinski became a businessman and is now a very successful real estate agent. Despite his new found success, the American still likes to get out on the dirt track from time to time.
Translated by Heather Watson