From the catwalk to running a motorcycle racing team
A former beauty queen has swapped the glamour of the catwalk for the thrills and spills of helping to run a motorcycle racing team.
Sue Spencer heads up the finances and logistics for a team that boasts eight riders, numerous machines and a real passion for the sport.
And with her husband, Bill, she is determined to add to Spencer Racing’s achievements, which includes nine championships and success on the iconic Isle of Man roads.
The couple, who were married in 2009 four months after meeting up again after losing touch for 20 years, run the racing team from their home on the outskirts of Worksop.
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Their riders are headed by new boy James Ford, who returned to the Isle of Man this month for the two-week Manx Grand Prix – his fourth successive year of racing at the iconic venue.
James, of High Peak, joined the team this year and has quickly slotted in to the friendly set-up overseen by the last holder of the Miss Motorcycle News beauty title.
Sue who also won other titles in the 1980s, explained how her love for the sport began in that decade.
“Bill and I were just good friends back in the early 1980s,” she said. “We were part of a large group supporting and assisting motorbike racers, travelling around the UK race circuits to various club meetings, including what were known as the Marlboro Clubmans Championship rounds.
“Bill has always had a passion for motorbikes, starting with trials bikes as a schoolboy. As soon as he was old enough, he had a bike on the road.
“My interest in bikes started watching Barry Sheene race and as I grew up my interest continued. I loved riding pillion whenever I had the chance.
“In 1986 I won the Miss Road Racing title, which was awarded by Motorcycle Weekly. In the same year I also became, what turned out to be, the last holder of the Miss Motorcycle News title.
“I always kept an interest in motorbikes and that was really rekindled when I met up with Bill again in 2009.”
Sue explained how the couple bumped into each other at the Sainsbury’s store in Worksop, arranged to meet for dinner the following evening, and 15 weeks later were married.
“We didn’t want to waste anymore time,” she said.
Away from her racing team, Sue is Business Support Manager at NFT Distribution, based at its Alfreton headquarters, and with Bill also looks after two dogs, ducks, chickens and a goose at their home.
Although Spencer Racing is based in north Nottinghamshire, they have strong links to Derbyshire with many supporters and riders coming from the county.
They have numerous Yamaha FZ600 and XJ600s bikes, a Honda 460-4, Suzuki 400-4 and Honda 125cc among other machines and take part in the CRMC Championships (Classic Racing Motorcycle Club) and the BHR Championship rounds (British Historic Racing).
Sue said: “During the race season, which normally runs from April to October, things are pretty full on with maintenance and repairs between meetings and ensuring all the riders have the information they need for each meeting.
“A couple of years ago we took the decision to ask each rider to maintain the bike they ride from their own home, which has freed up at least some spare time for us at evenings and weekends.”
Bill who is now retired, has had a lifelong interest in motorbikes, mostly trials and road racing. He formed the racing team around 2001 and found success as his friend, Terry ‘Brock’ Brocklehurst, rode Bill’s 1966 Suzuki race bike to a championship victory.
In total Terry claimed eight championship titles with the CRMC; won another on a Honda 350 and is currently riding high on a Suzuki 350 in the CRMC Aircooled 500 class.
Bill, who has his own Triumph 1050 ST on the road and is starting to get back into pre-65 trials bikes, said: “Brock and I were brought up about 250 yards from each other in Clowne, where his dad had a motorcycle business. We have been mates since we were four.”
James Ford heads the team’s riders and will ride an ex-Ray Stringer Wickes/MEDD Racing Kawasaki World Superbike machine under the Spencer Racing banner at the Manx Grand Prix.
At the Pre TT Southern 100 road races on the Billown circuit on the island in May, James recorded the fastest lap on the team’s Yamaha 600 – the oldest bike in the race. Last year he was placed in the top five.
James, who started road racing in 2009, also races a Honda 125 and two Yamaha 600s with the Classic Motorcycle Racing Club in the Championship series at circuits throughout the UK, including Donington Park locally.
Other riders are ‘Swervin’ Ervin Wallace, who came close to winning a championship in 2012 and was eighth last year in his first full CMRC season; Oli Bingham, in his second season of racing and his first with Spencer Racing; Jenny Westwood; Paul Rogers, who owns Trentside Garage, Nottingham, and Trentside Racing; Steve Panter, who runs Allen Performance, Nottingham; Martin ‘Digga’ Dyke, of Sutton-in-Ashfield, who has been riding since he was 10; and Brocklehurst, who claimed his ninth Championship win two years ago in the over-55s class on a Honda 350.
James and Ervin both claimed third places on Spencer Yamaha 600s at the Donington Classic Motorcycle Festival at the start of August.
The racing team also includes Neil Holden, team photographer, who ensures the bikes are cleaned and prepared for each meeting.
Sue said the team also gets a lot of help from Nigel Parker, of NRP Exhausts, Bilsthorpe; Kev and Dawn Pickering, of Discount Fascias, Worksop; Pete Newcombe Saddlers, Worksop; and Foxy Fowler, Worksop; to make sure their seasons run smoothly.
Spencer Racing have supplied machines and support to numerous riders over the years and currently put prize money into the Classic 50cc racers and BSA Gold Star 500cc classes within the CRMC.
Sue said there had been numerous reasons to be proud of the team’s success over the years, including winning the Ultralightweight Championship eight times with a Suzuki 200, James Ford finishing the Pre-TT race this year and Erv Wallace getting his first win.
“Hopefully the list will continue,” she said. “We will continue to support our riders, hopefully have fun and most importantly aim to stay safe.”
For more information about Spencer Racing go to www.spencerracing.co.uk/results