My friend Betty Hudson is as enthusiastic about motorcycle racing as you can get!
You can’t miss Betty Hudson. She is the slim, slightly-stooped but feisty woman in the oversized, well-worn white nylon jacket, scribbled with the signatures of all the greats, then and now, of motorcycle racing. Her formerly long blonde hair is now short, silver and curly. Since the age of eight Betty has been going to ‘meets’, firstly with her Mam and Dad, and brother Vic, who still shares her passion for racing.
Fifty-odd years later she has her entry lanyard ready for the start of the 2015 season, and she cannot wait!
Her coat draws its own crowd. People stopped Betty to scrutinise her coat for the signatures of their favourites: Rossi, or Josh Brooks, and many others. Over the years she has met them all.
Some Of the riders are no longer with us, but their memory lives on every time the jacket is seen in Pit Lane.
I followed Betty around for the day at the trials at Donington Park, Castle Donington in Derbyshire. This was an open trials day, free to the public. It was quite an experience!
Cars stopped. The drivers asked if she would be coming on Easter weekend. One was the Managing Director, another from top racing management.
All the riders seemed to know her. They would see her coming and smile, ready to take the felt-tipped marker and find a space to write on her sleeve.
Loaded down with lanyards from past races plus a Union Jack on which to extend her signatures, you would not think her an ordinary housewife in her spare time, married for over forty years to long-resigned Terry, who has ceased trying to keep up.
Betty’s son, Darren, has followed in her footsteps, though his opinion of his Mother’s iconic coat is best left out of print! He prefers to photograph the action on the track.
Even daughter Lorraine knew to organise her wedding around the racing season if she wanted her Mother to turn up on the day!
Betty is welcomed in Pit Lane because she knows her stuff. She can tell any of the riders what they just did wrong, and they agree!
She knows the commentators and could well sit in the box and run the commentary herself, though her turn of phrase in the local vernacular may need translation!
Betty has been given a special pass that allows her in Pit Lane, because she has been involved for so many years. On this day the public were allowed in Pit Lane too, to peer into the workshops and get the feel of life in the fast lane.
For Betty it is the interaction with the riders, discussing their other races, even their families, with them that adds to the pleasure of watching them on the track. If they get hurt her concern is genuine.
For the riders meeting Betty can be a release from tension; a bit of banter with someone who pulls no punches, but knows when to move on and let them get back to work.
“I knew you when you were in short pants!” She airily informs a tall leather-clad legend, and he grins.
There can be a lot of waiting around, while their complicated machines of shiny metal with expensive artwork are fine-tuned and fiddled with. Betty provides a welcome distraction. They know she shares their passion for speed, appreciates their control over machine and each differing track, their overcoming of fear to push man and machine to the calculated limit.
Despite the driving rain and severe winds the bikes out on track were reaching 140-150 miles per hour. New machines were being tested in twenty minute brackets. The throaty roar with that supersonic whine as they shot past was really thrilling. Australian Josh Brookes had plenty to tell his crew in the debriefing after his twenty minutes trial on track. We watched from the back of the Yamaha workshop.
On track there were tumbles;
in the media room there were interviews under way, while
in the pits in each workshop there was intense concentration.
It was a different world!
This was the same blonde and shapely young woman who had once gone up to one of the glamorous Italian riders for his autograph – followed by a kiss “..and I held on tight!” she chortles, saying she enjoyed reminding him many years later. The woman is incorrigible, and quite a worldwide celebrity, known by riders and fans from Australia to Brazil, wherever her coat goes.
Watch the video slideshow on Youtube at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFki1ICuMCk