'Fast' Freddie Spencer

Do you want to post a tribute about your favourite retired drivers, perhaps you want to discuss the rantings of the MIT (men in tweed). They thought they were safer when they retired, perhaps not mumblers!! How about a tribute to those that are not drivers but still in the game?

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'Fast' Freddie Spencer

Postby Petra L'ead » Sat 27 Jan, 2007 4:35 pm

My favourite rider ever was Freddie Spencer. A lot of you guys are too young to remember him aand his unqiue achievements.

In my opinion he was the most natutally talented (not necessarily the best, but the most gifted) motorcycle rider ever - including Valentino Rossi.

The Motorcycle Hall of Fame website has this to say about Freddie Spencer.

http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/hofbiopage.asp?id=275

Freddie Spencer, or "Fast Freddie," as fans called him, will go down in history as one of the greatest road racers that America ever produced. Spencer was a record setter. In addition to winning three world championships, he was the only rider ever to win the 250cc and 500cc Grand Prix World Championships in the same season (1985). He was the only rider to win three major races during Bike Week at Daytona International Speedway (the Superbike, Formula One and International Lightweight races in 1985), the youngest rider to win the 500cc Grand Prix World Championship (at 21), the youngest rider ever to win an AMA Superbike race in 1979 (age 18) and had the longest span between AMA Superbike victories (just under 16 years).

Spencer was born December 20, 1961, in Shreveport, Louisiana. Young Spencer became a racing prodigy, learning to ride at 4 and entering his first races at age 5. By the time he was 11, Spencer had already won numerous regional dirt track racing championships in Texas and Louisiana. As a teen, Spencer began concentrating on road racing and continued winning by earning national amateur and club road racing championships.

On June 16, 1979, Spencer won his first AMA National, the Lightweight (now called 250 Grand Prix) National at Loudon. He went on to win the 250GP title that season over Eddie Lawson. Spencer also raced Superbikes for the first time that season. He won the Sears Point and Laguna Seca rounds of the series and finished third in the championship. His victory at Sears Point (riding a Kawasaki) made him the youngest rider to ever win an AMA Superbike national at 18 years, 8 months of age.

When Honda officially entered AMA Superbike racing in 1980, it picked Spencer to be one of its riders. Spencer gave Honda its first AMA Superbike victory on June 1, 1980, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. That same year, Spencer got his first taste of international competition in the U.S. vs. Britain Trans-Atlantic Match Races. Spencer shocked the world when he won two legs of the Match Races, beating world champions Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts in the process. Spencer went on to finish third in the 1980 Superbike championships and second to Eddie Lawson in 1981 in what was considered the era when Superbike racing came of age. The Spencer/Lawson battles helped take Superbike racing from a second-tier support class to the series that captured the most attention and eventually became the premier road racing class in America.

Spencer split his time between America and Europe in 1981. He raced in the 500cc World Championships, helping Honda develop its NR500 four-stroke GP machine. For 1982, Spencer signed to race in the GPs full time, but before he left for Europe he won the Daytona Bell 100 Superbike race in record-setting fashion, leading all but one lap of the race.

On July 4, 1982 Spencer scored his first world championship victory by winning the Belgium 500cc Grand Prix. Spencer was just 20 years old.

The 1983 Grand Prix season turned into an epic battle between three-time world champ and fellow American, Kenny Roberts, and Spencer. It was Yamaha vs. Honda, veteran vs. youngster, the brash Roberts up against the soft-spoken Spencer. The championship came down to the final race of the season and Spencer won the title by just two points. At 21, Spencer was the youngest rider ever to earn the ultimate motorcycle racing championship. Spencer was named co-winner of the prestigious AMA Pro Athlete of the Year Award in 1983 with motocross racer David Bailey.

Spencer suffered through a sub-par season in 1984 while helping Honda develop a new GP motorcycle. He still managed to win four GPs and finished fourth in the final standings.

Spencer’s 1985 campaign will go down in history as perhaps the single greatest season in the sport. He started the year by winning the first Daytona 200 run under Superbike rules. He also swept the Formula One and International Lightweight (250GP) events. It marked only time a rider won the three major races at Daytona. Spencer then went on to win both the 250cc and 500cc Grand Prix World Championships, becoming the only rider in history to accomplish that amazing feat. Spencer was named AMA’s Pro Athlete of the Year for a second time. Spencer’s accomplishments were noteworthy enough to earn him a special citation from President Ronald Reagan.

Spencer retired from full-time GP racing in 1988, but made a couple of comebacks in the next few years. He went on to win three more U.S. Superbike nationals, including his memorable final AMA national victory on a rain-soaked Laguna Seca Raceway in 1995. There, he led by as much as 23 seconds before backing off to cruise to an easy victory. That final victory was just two months shy of 16 years since Spencer had earned his first AMA Superbike win. That span between first and last Superbike victories is a mark that is likely to never be broken.

Spencer officially retired from racing in 1996.

After his racing career was over, Spencer founded a successful performance riding school. He also served as an expert commentator for televised motorcycle races.


That is a good article and it tells you just what Freddie achieved, his unique successes and the records he set.

But it doesn't tell you of the manner in which he rode.

The man was a genius. His motorcycle control was phenomenal, I have this vision in my head of him perched serenely atop a maddened, spitting Honda, tyres sliding the bike wanting to spit him off ... yet Freddie seemed almost unaware of the turmoil going on between his legs ....

Many's the time he would simply open up an unassailable lead on the first lap, still on cold tyres he would just ride away from the pack never to be caught.

The laws of physics didn't apply to Freddie Spencer, he had special dispensation.

My favourite quote about him is from Eddie Lawson. In 1985 coming into the last race of the season the title was still up for grabs. Spencer needed to beat Lawson to reclaim the 500cc title.

On the last lap Lawson (4 times 500cc World Champion and no slouch) was leading the race. After the race he said something along these lines:

"I knew all I had to do was go around that last corner as fast as I possibly could and I would win the championship...... but Freddie came around the outside of me .... with smoke coming off of his rear tyre, his front tyre and his knee-scraper!"

Freddie wrapped up his second title of the season, becoming the only man ever to win the 250cc and 500cc title in the same year.

Freddie Spencer was the only rider I have ever seen to consider using a front wheel slide as a serious racing tactic.

Sadly his career faltered after that peak. His commitment and results seemed to tail off. He became a figure of fun, a parody.

I thought at the time that it had all come so easy to him, that at the age of 23 there was simply no challenge left, nothing left to motivate him. I was not alone; he was ridiculed widely in the racing press.

Only years afterwards did I learn that he was suffering from wrist injuries that some believe were caused by the physical strain of competing in two championships during a single season. After his historic 1985 season, Spencer never won another Grand Prix race.
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Postby Petra L'ead » Sat 27 Jan, 2007 4:42 pm

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Postby Petra L'ead » Sat 27 Jan, 2007 4:45 pm

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Postby Petra L'ead » Sat 27 Jan, 2007 4:51 pm

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Postby plutoman » Sat 27 Jan, 2007 5:36 pm

Spencer suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, a progressive nerve condition affecting his wrists. Without this problem he would undoubtedly have achieved even more. What Spencer reminds me of, however, is just how underrated Eddie Lawson has become. These two were both all-time greats of the sport, and its a shame that their rivalry was comparatively short-lived.
"I ain't heard that much worth listening to. Just a lot of guys laying down a lot of rules and regulations."
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