‘Steady’ Eddie Lawson
finds out how the four-time 500cc champ lives his life now
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