Freddie 'The Sultan of Silde' Spencer, one of the most talented motorcycle racers of all time. In 1985, he won both the 250cc and the 500cc world championships!!
In their October issue this year, British magazine Bike have done a fabulous story on one of our all-time favourite GP racers – none other than ‘Fast’ Freddie Spencer himself, who’s widely regarded as one of the most prodigiously gifted, naturally talented motorcycle racers ever.
Born in 1961 in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the US, Freddie Spencer remains the only man in motorcycle grand prix racing to win 250cc and 500cc world championships in the same year, a feat he accomplished in 1985. Before this, Freddie had already won the 500cc world championship once, in 1983.
‘Spencer has always been an enigma, if only because he was so different from other racers of his era,’ says Mat Oxley, who met Freddie in Las Vegas (where Freddie now lives) for the story. In the late 70s and early 80s, most racers lived the B-plan lifestyle – birds, booze and bikes. Not Spencer. He went to bed early and drank Dr Peppers,’ adds Oxley.
Dr Pepper or not, Spencer had massive talent for going fast on a racebike, and that’s something that most would agree with. Master tuner Erv Kanemoto certainly does. ‘When most riders go tyre testing, they put in a lot of laps to get up to speed and to feel and understand the tyre, and then they start pushing,’ says Kanemoto. ‘Freddie would push from the first lap on a tyre that no one had run before. You’d see giant slides and he’d just rely on himself to get out of it,’ he adds. No wonder, then, that Freddie won his first 500cc world championship when he was just 21 years old – a record that remains unbroken to this day.
Speaking to Oxley about the days when he was just getting started with racing motorcycles, Spencer recalls, ‘I’d be out in the rain, using the slick Louisiana clay, trying to learn to change direction at any lean angle. I could judge when the bike would stop sliding. Right at the apex I’d pick it up so it’s pivoting around the front and the front’s not pushing anymore, then I could just drift turn. Think how important that is in a 130mph sweeper, when you’ve got the bike on its side and you know exactly where it’s going to end up.’ ‘When I was on top of my game, I could go through that 130mph corner on a four-inch wide line, lap after lap,’ adds Spencer.
For Freddie, things were never the same again after 1985. From the heights of glory to which he climbed in that year, he then sank to the deepest, darkest depths of despair. In a tragically ironic twist in the tale, Spencer never won another grand prix after 1985. That was largely due to the fact that the immensely talented rider was bruised and battered and his body was all worn out after years of hard riding and racing. But it wasn’t something that his fans, the doctors or even Freddie himself realised back then, hence all those misguided ‘comebacks’ in the late-1980s and early-1990s, all of which inevitably failed.
There have been ups and downs in Fast Freddie's life, but today he seems content with his lot. ‘Looking back, in no way do I feel I’m not fortunate. Those championships were all unique, so even if I’d won six world titles, the ’83 and ’85 seasons would still stand out,’ he says. Amen.
These excerpts are taken from Bike magazine’s October 2010 issue, from a story written by Mat Oxley. It’s their ‘speed issue’ and it’s simply brilliant. We recommend you buy a copy of the magazine now!