‘Fast’ Freddie Spencer is one of the greatest motorcycle racers of all time. When he clinched his first 500cc World Championship in 1983, he became the youngest ever to have done so at that time. But as if that wasn’t enough, just two years later he pulled off a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since the great Giacomo Agostini and may never be accomplished again, winning two world titles in the same year.
But growing up as a kid in the south of the United States of America, even he admits winning the 500cc and 250cc World Championships in the same season didn’t seem like a realistic possibility.
“I started out as a kid in a state that didn’t even have a road racing track. In fact, in the Louisiana state hall of fame, I’m the only person in motorsports,” an honour he was awarded in 2009, eight years after being named a Grand Prix ‘Legend’ by the FIM.
“There was no road race track and it was only me seeing a picture in the back of Cycle News when I felt I should go and road race. And I asked my dad when I was 11 to get me a road race bike."
“I was the first in that area in the southern part of the United States, the little area I was in - we got the opportunity as kids to dirt track and then after that, it was graduating to bigger bikes on quarter-mile ovals. But still it was riding in my yard that taught me everything I know about understanding a bike’s movement and riding on the dirt."
Spencer had his first full season of Grand Prix racing in the HRC-backed Honda team in 1982, having just ridden in two Grands Prix in 1980 and 1981 prior to getting the factory ride. The Louisiana resident admits it was a baptism of fire: “I only knew one track, which was Silverstone. All the other ones were new. Brand new motorcycle, brand new team, so the learning curve was pretty dramatic.
”You’re racing on tyres, and again on a 500, that you never raced, get a chance to ride in the United States or in any other series. So, from that standpoint, there was no coming up the ranks. I went from nothing right into the 500s."
You can listen to ‘Fast Freddie’ talk in-depth about his extraordinary career including all of the extreme highs he enjoyed, and subsequent devastating lows he had to endure, in the latest MotoGP™ podcast - available now!
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