One of Freddie’s Spencer’s many managers said in 1992 that the most interesting thing that he noticed in his association with the three-time world champion was that he was widely recognized for being “special”. A lawyer, he’d worked with a wide variety of business clients and had seen the best and the not best examples of humans.
What stood out to him was that even people who had no idea who Freddie Spencer might be already knew he was special.
“It was most obvious when we were traveling together. Freddie was just a Superbike rider then, like 17, but no matter where he went, invariably, people rolled out a red carpet for him. Flight attendants, waitresses or a clerk at a hotel. They all reacted to Freddie’s charisma. They upgraded him, took care of him first and made sure that his needs were attended to–first.”
Freddie Spencer’s autobiography “Feel” was published earlier this year by Penguin’s UK arm and has recently become available for sale in the US.
For those that know Freddie, “Feel” can be summed up as “Very Freddie” which is to say unique and well, special. It’s the story of a boy raised to be a world champion, a man that became a world champion at 21 and a world champion who set out to do what no rider in the modern era had accomplished: winning both the 250 and 500 GP titles in one year. And then it is a story of a three-time world champion who did what no man had done before who then seemed to struggle just to survive in normal life.
There are many in media who lay claim to being one of Freddie’s confidants. And on a superficial level we may have been. In reality, only one or two motojournalists were ever able to penetrate Freddie’s life: the late Henny Ray Abrams and current CYCLE legend Kevin Cameron. Freddie was contained inside a very tight cocoon when one wanted information beyond the press release. Freddie was guarded and his privacy was strongly guarded by others. I took to calling him The Fred when I spoke to him. It was probably only after the 2005 season that Freddie actually began to give any information on his racing career not available in official channels. It seemed like Freddie only trusted a few people–longtime friends– and the club was closed to new members.
And even they didn’t see much of him. “I was in the front and he was in the back,” said one of his motorhome drivers. “It’s not like we were traveling Europe together.” Freddie gave some people a vibe of being both a charismatic sportsman and a guy who slipped away so fast he may well in fact be Superman. Rumors swirled for two decades about what he was guarding so intently.
Freddie’s autobiography starts with him sleeping on his sister’s couch, seemingly at the end of several different ropes. He was divorced and struggling, his riding school shut down and Freddie selling some of his helmets and leathers on eBay. He checks into a hotel and begins to write his autobiography. He tells the story of his life and career interspersed with his new friendship with a front desk clerk at the hotel. It’s an honest autobiography; Freddie didn’t have to include some of the details that he did in this book–being separated from his family and kids, that his parents’ marriage and his relationship with his dad–for whom he is named and who brought him into the racing life–suffered with his dad’s infidelity and later Freddie Sr.’s health issues after he crashed a high performance boat.
Freddie’s autobiography helps to understand a rider who was almost as famous as an enigma as he was for being a three-time world champion. It perhaps helps to explain the reason why he was so unknowable even to some of those he held close. While he does not explain it in-depth, and what is written is certainly open to interpretation or consideration, Freddie, in his autobiography “Feel” suggests that as a boy he was sexually molested by a neighbor. He calls it an “intimate violation” and writes that the incident has haunted him his entire life, and left him with trust and emotional issues. While it’s not mentioned again in his autobiography the terrible incident does give light to why Freddie Spencer was such an enigma, and maybe help explain why he seemed so guarded.
Freddie’s autobiography “Feel” is brave and honest. The number of great racing stories he tells in the book seems endless–who knew he was blown off by Kenny Roberts for an autograph as a kid and that Honda wrote his 1985 contract for mainly win and championship bonuses?
“Feel” is available on Amazon and in book stores.