That SNAP­SHOT mo­ment from 1985 when Fred­die thought it was all over

1985 will be for­ever re­mem­bered in mo­tor­cy­cle Grand Prix cir­cles as be­ing the year of the Spencer 250/500 his­toric dou­ble. Though it so nearly wasn’t...

Classic Racer - - FRONT PAGE - Words and pho­to­graphs: Don Morley

This was the mo­ment that Fred­die Spencer gen­uinely be­lieved that his chances of a dou­ble world ti­tle – the most fa­mous crowns in a sin­gle sea­son in mo­tor­cy­cling his­tory – had gone. And it was all down to his good friend Chris­tian Sar­ron! It was a very wet 1985 at Assen and I was sta­tioned at the 90 de­gree Haar­bocht cor­ner, won­der­ing if Dutch rain­storms ever ended, when the 500cc pack honed into view. Now, this was a day more prone to aqua­plane-type crashes than I have ever seen be­fore, or since. It was the day when the 80cc world champ Ste­fan Dor­flinger crashed, re­mounted and still won, it was also the day when side­car stars Steve Web­ster and Tony He­witt aqua­planed for what seemed like hun­dreds of yards be­fore crash­ing into a very deep dyke. It was that day when Chris­tian came into the tricky cor­ner too fast, too hard on the brakes – and caused may­hem. In short, Chris­tian hit the Yamaha’s front brake just a frac­tion too hard. The bike aqua­planed be­fore he fi­nally slid off, leav­ing the YZR500 to lit­er­ally tor­pedo Fred­die amid­ships. The crash dam­aged Spencer’s Honda to the point where it wouldn't restart. Ed­die Law­son, who could see what was hap­pen­ing from fur­ther be­hind, avoided the bed­lam and car­ried on to take a com­mand­ing race lead. So com­mand­ing in fact that if he fin­ished the race at the front, he would then take over the top of the ti­tles chase, knock­ing one Spencer F down the or­der. Although un­hurt, Fred­die was both ut­terly in­con­solable and also very close to thump­ing his oth­er­wise good friend Sar­ron. The French­man, in turn, knew full well that he most prob­a­bly had just caused his friend to ruin any chance of hold­ing on to his 500cc ti­tle, and also any chance of do­ing the dou­ble on both the 5 and the 250 Hon­das. No words of mine can de­scribe Fred­die’s ob­vi­ous an­guish at the time. I re­mem­ber clearly how he could do noth­ing but sit on the side­lines and watch with Chris­tian, my­self and a gag­gle of oth­ers as Law­son lapped in fine form, build­ing up a mas­sive lead. That was, un­til Law­son him­self slipped off. At that point Law­son was look­ing com­fort­able and was head­ing for a five point over­all lead in the ti­tle race. Fred­die’s face as we watched Law­son sweep through the race was dis­traught. And then, at the half­way point, Law­son slid off hav­ing built up a need­lessly mas­sive lead. In­cred­i­bly that meant zero points for both Spencer and Law­son at a point where ei­ther could have racked up a hugely use­ful up­per hand in the sea­son. Fred­die could hardly be­lieve his luck. At that very mo­ment he knew he was back in the game.

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