Disappointments? My first major disappointment was maybe my first Daytona 200. I’d been going to Daytona since 1967 or so, since I was 5 or 6 years old. I pushed Roger Reiman’s bike in 1968. I remember Mark Brelsford’s Harley on fire in ’73—that famous photo—I was there, I saw it! He was Number 1 at the time. I won the 250 race in ’78, got second in ’79 in Lightweight. But now I’m racing against Kenny, and I almost outqualified him. But in the race we’re kind of running together, then he drops out, and I’m leading the thing. First year in the 200 and I would’ve been the youngest 200 winner; this was when I was 18. With 10 laps to go, I had a minute lead, and a rod bearing seized. That was probably my first big disappointment. But, that got me invited to the Match Races, and that changed everything. So everything happens for a reason. But it would’ve been nice to win the 200. I didn’t win it until ’83. But when you’ve raced as long as I have, 29 years, you know you’re going to have moments that are great and moments like that. So I don’t get greedy.
Spa-Francorchamps was, and is, my favorite track without question. It’s got my favorite two corners. The whole racetrack is incredible, but especially back then. It was the last track that had some “road” aspect to it, besides Assen. The front straightaway, up Eau Rouge, then the last part into the Bus Stop chicane. It was technical and it was high speed, but it had sections where you knew, if you were willing to, you were probably the only person who was going to do it. The two kinks, I could run flat into the second one, but right to the point where you’d just catch the curb. And you’d only want to have to do it once.
Now it’s really nice, and the way it should be, but then it still had some street aspects to it, trees and Armco. It was my first win, but that’s not the reason I like it. I just like the track. I went back last year for a classic event, and I mean, I would almost take a boat. I love it there. I could spend all day riding there. For the classic event last year, a guy brought a big inline [CB], and I thought I’d take it easy. But he said, “Oh no, you can rev it.” And I asked, “Well, what’s it rev to?” And he said 11. And I said, “Oh really, because our other ones were 10,700.” “Well, it’s all titanium,” he said. So I rode that and a 250 and a 500, then on Monday I rode a 2012 GSX-R1000 at a track day. The great thing about this track, is, you know, like they say about golf courses, as the equipment gets better, the courses get shorter. Spa was just as great on that Gixxer as it was on my 500 GP bike; it’s a great big fast circuit that never gets old. Lots of elevation changes. It rewards you for your willingness to use the racetrack. That first part of Eau Rouge used to be a lot tighter, the force you would take on a 500 was incredible. You’d see the bikes shaking in the old days.”
Tomorrow: In our final installment, Freddie talks about life after racing. “I always thought I was supposed to ride for Honda.”
Freddie’s first win, at Spa
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