‘Steady’ Ed­die Law­son

finds out how the four-time 500cc champ lives his life now

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Features - Mat Ox­ley

They say the 1980s were a golden age for Grand Prix rac­ing. At its heart were a grid full of an­gry, snarling twostroke 500s rid­den by an­gry, snarling Amer­i­can su­per­stars. And ar­guably the best of them all was the enig­matic and ever so slightly grumpy Ed­die Law­son.

Didn’t they call him Steady Ed­die? Yes, and he didn’t like it. How could he be steady when he beat Fast Fred­die? Ed­die Law­son’s ca­reer was largely de­fined by his ri­valry with fel­low Amer­i­can Fred­die Spencer. Law­son won more world ti­tles – four to Spencer’s three – but he’s less well re­mem­bered.

Why have peo­ple for­got­ten him? Pos­si­bly be­cause you don’t see him at the myr­iad clas­sic rac­ing events that have prop­a­gated across Europe. Law­son hated leav­ing home when he was rac­ing, so why would he bother now? Spencer, Wayne Gard­ner and many more are reg­u­lars at these shows, but Law­son just isn’t in­ter­ested.

He sounds like he was a bit surly Well, yes. Law­son never had much time for the me­dia and fans. He was a bit like Casey Stoner, but two decades ear­lier. He re­alised that say­ing nice things to jour­nal­ists was never go­ing to win him a world cham­pi­onship, so why bother?

So is he still surly? No, not at all. He’s as happy as a pig in dirt, liv­ing in the Ari­zona desert and muck­ing about with bikes, boats and karts. “I do a lot of screw­ing off: play­ing with jet-skis, rid­ing dirt bikes here in the desert and in Cal­i­for­nia,” he says. “I’m goof­ing off a lot, but I’m al­ways busy. There’s never enough hours in the day – we’re ei­ther build­ing a kart, restor­ing an old bike or go­ing out for sun-up-to­sun-down desert rides on quads.” So, how can he af­ford to goof off in­stead of earn­ing cash at clas­sic events like his con­tem­po­raries? Be­cause he in­vested wisely when he raced. “Some of the guys spent a lot of money on silly things,” he adds. “I lis­tened to my man­age­ment. They said you can have a mil­lion-dol­lar mo­torhome or you can buy a mil­lion-

dol­lar piece of dirt which might be a lot more use­ful when you get old. So I bought a few prop­er­ties.”

Didn’t Ed­die have a big fall­ing out with Kevin Sch­wantz? Oh yes. They were mates un­til they took each other out at Assen in 1992. Law­son re­tired at the end of that sea­son and when he walked out of the pad­dock for the last time, Sch­wantz called af­ter him, “Hey, good rid­dance and don’t ever come back!”

Maybe that’s why he doesn’t do clas­sic events – he’s scared of meet­ing Kevin? Could be. More likely it’s the fact that he never needed ap­plause and still doesn’t. He prefers to stay at home and do what he likes do­ing. In his fi­nal years as a GP rider the only rea­son he kept go­ing was be­cause be­fore each GP his man­age­ment sent a he­li­copter to col­lect him from home and take him to Los An­ge­les air­port. He was fed up with the traf­fic jams.

What made him such a great racer? He was ef­fort­lessly smooth, hence the Steady nick­name. He won four 500cc world ti­tles, three with Yamaha, then de­fected to Honda in 1989 to be­come the first rider to win back-to-back premier-class ti­tles on dif­fer­ent bikes. He also won two US Su­per­bike ti­tles on a Kawasaki Z1000, two Day­tona 200s, on a Yamaha FZ750 and a YZF750, and the Suzuka 8-Hour on a YZF750.

Any chance of see­ing Ed­die at Good­wood this sum­mer? You never know, but don’t hold your breath.

Law­son saw lit­tle point in the glitzy side of rac­ing Yamaha-mounted Law­son leads old ri­val Wayne Gard­ner in 1988


Fi­nan­cially se­cure and en­joy­ing life, Law­son doesn’t need to join the clas­sic cir­cus


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