I can remember the 1975 125cc Mettet race, apart from the near win, Kent Anderson the reigning World Champion introduced himself to me, after I qualified 2nd quite close on time. I also saw (and felt) what a works Yamaha was like in the race. I liked Kent straight away, he was approachable, funny, spoke English like a native and swore like a front line infantryman. He made his company so comfortable I resolved that when I am the World Champion I would be as cool as him, in fact when I meet anyone famous I treat them like an ordinary “Joe”. I’m certain it is what most want anyway, although I am equally sure there are those who want to be treated like a queen but Fuck them!
In the 1974 event the 125 was a 2 leg race I won the first leg and was dead chuffed with myself. I also led the second leg right up to the run to the flag, the uphill long, long straight, I loved Mettet for those straights, the speed and the 14000 rpm that was held for soooo loaang you thought it would blow up or seize when you flicked it down a gear for the super fast corners. I loved those 5th gear curves as well, massive balls were required, whatever you were riding. God alone knows what size goolies were needed on a TZ750 for the left-hander after the start/finish line though?On a 125 it was a very exhilarating flat out laying on the tank. On a 250 it was ” right THIS time I won’t shut off” but a benefactor would mysteriously tap you on the shoulder just before the apex and say very softly ” it’s all right son, close it, try it again next time”. When you got through it you would swear and shout “you bastard leave me alone will ya! Just wait, next time I won’t listen to you”! What a race track, what a thrilling race track!
By 1975 I’d recovered from the “pop” that blew one of my exhaust pipes off it’s cylinder leaving me with almost no power for the last kilometre to the flag, I managed to loose all but 10th place as I crossed the line. The heart break was difficult to deal with, not just for me but Sue as well The combined results made me 6th. No room for the star of the show on the rostrum this time, the British national anthem was played however but for Neil Tuxworth, my friend and rival, ouch that hurt!
I led the 1975 race right up until the last same kilometre as before, when Kent came past like an absolute missile, I dodged into his slipstream and my rev counter nearly bent the needle and the side waft as he came past was palpable. I couldn’t stay in his draft however and he won by about 50 meters. It was a salutary lesson from a works bike, I did get a “works bike” 7 years later, it was a works Armstrong and typically, due to some British standard that I am still unaware of it had to be slower, only a bit mind, than the standard production bikes. Not when you are on a works Yamaha though, I guess they hadn’t heard of BS——– whatever it was, and what’s more even if they had would have said “Fk that”!
After the race Kent told me he had been trying to use his slipstream and superior power to “suck” a friend and fellow Swede up to me and hopefully passed so he could finish second, but his compatriot just wasn’t committed enough, so Kent thought If he didn’t get his finger out and pass me when he did, he could have been beaten by a Clive “who”? The fellow Swede was miles behind me at the flag, his name I believe was Hallberg? 4th was yet another Scandanavian, in desperate need of a haircut, whom I was to meet again a couple of years later. He went by the name of Pehr Carlson, nicknamed Bam, I don’t know why? maybe he was known for throwing tantrums like “Bam Bam” the flintstones baby, who knows. When I met him though he was a real cool dude very relaxed and quite a nice bloke ( for a Viking that is)!
It is a shame Mettet went the same as all exiting fast exhilarating places, they get emasculated eventually. It wasn’t long before they added a shitty chicane before the start and finish, this one took us through an industrial estate on poor quality tarmac in an effort to reduce the entry speed into the left hander I mentioned earlier. I shouldn’t complain, I know, I had my only Belgian win on this particular layout 4 years later. This wasn’t without drama either. I led this race from the start until I crossed the line for the penultimate time when my engine cut out! I was freewheeling round the now legendary downhill left hander when Bengt Johansen ( yes another flaming Swede) came passed! For some unknown reason the engine caught again and I set off after him, accompanied by all the fury I could muster, when I came by Sue who was lap timing on the opposite side to the start line, she was wondering “what the”? The other laps I had passed miles in front, now second? I got Bengt though, in that industrial estate, justice was done!
The crystal vase I won that day, recently (Dec2011) broke and in doing so slashed my finger open. What’s all that about?