Photos & Musings: Other Riders

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Willie Simpson

This is one of my favourite photos of all time, of Scottish rider Willie Simpson, father of current GP star Shaun.

Willie Simpson was a GP legend. Never blessed with outstanding ability, Willie made up for it with dogged determination and a never-give-up attitude. Willie was always there, plugging away, scoring regular points and occasionally breaking the top ten.

He raced GPs for what seemed like an eternity, and with his wife Vanda they drove all round Europe, away for weeks at a time in their Fiat 60-10 panel van. “Och Aye… It’s a Fiat Panda” is what Willie would tell the Ferry ticket office as he convinced them that his van was in fact a little Italian car.

For the Simpsons, hailing from Fife in Scotland meant an 8 hour drive just to get to Dover, the gateway to mainland Europe. As such, for them, it wasn't worth going back home very often, so they’d spend weeks away, living like Gypsies, and being totally self-sufficient.

Willie had no mechanic, and so Vanda would help drive, clean his gear, cook, help Willie work on the bike. She’d even help fix the van when the gearbox blew.

With no mechanic can you imagine how tough it is to race 45 minutes in sweltering heat, then have to immediately start cleaning and prepping your bike for the second moto? The above photo just sums up Willie’s dedication.

Willie never got much support, but made a decent living from prize money (remember that?) and start money at French Internationals (remember those?).

In his last couple of years the toddler Shaun went too. Now, nearly 20 years later, the Simpsons are once again on the GP trail, with Shaun’s own impressive career. .

One of the nicest, most respected riders there has ever been, and a true icon.

An exhausted Willie preps his bike for the next moto. Enlarge image