I was struck with the parallels between Hugh and another 'colonial': Michelle (then Mike) Duff. Both became proficient in their home country, then left for Europe in 1960 with British singles. Both raced for Arter Bros. Both got coveted contracts with fledgling Japanese manufacturers of two strokes.
At the end of 1965, only 5 people had won more GPs than him: Redman, 43; Hailwood, 40; Ubbiali, 39; Surtees, 38; and Duke, 33. Hugh had won 25, but in only 4 years, therefore averaging 6.25 wins per year, only behind Surtees at 6.33/yr., Hailwood at 6.66/yr, and Redman at a remarkable 8.6/yr.
Hugh's decision to quit roadracing at the end of '66 seems to be based in part on feeling that he had nothing else to prove and a changing atmosphere in the Suzuki team. He was having less control over the set up of his bikes as decisions were being made more in Japan than at the races by the riders, and therefore they were having less reliability. Plus, he had always really enjoyed riding in the dirt and was looking for a new challenge. In '67, '68, and '69 Hugh raced motocross on the National and International level with the occasional MX GP and the odd grass track event. Though he wasn't the GP star that he had been in roadracing, he had a good deal of success considering that he was in his 30's and his left knee was deteriorating.
One thing that struck me in Hugh's book was his depiction of Ernst Degner. Some years back, I read an excerpt from Max Oxley's book 'Stealing Speed', about Ernst Degner defecting from East Germany and the MZ roadracing team, and taking the secrets (and some hardware) of his mentor, the genius Walter Kaaden, to Suzuki. I got the impression that Mat painted Degner as the Bad Guy. Some time afterwards I saw Mat at the Isle of Man (Mat is a TT winner) and I suggested that he was being a bit hard on Degner. After all, Degner was escaping the despotic, corrupt, grey life for him and his family for freedom in the West. Yes, Mat said, but from his interviews with Degner's widow, son, colleagues and friends, he got the impression that Ernst wasn't a nice man.
So, I was struck when I read in Hugh's book "Over time Ernst became my mentor, and we often worked into the night together on our bikes when the other team members were out on the town. Even the fact that his help meant I was able to beat him on the track did not change his willingness to keep giving me advice."
"Very few sportsmen are capable of such a selfless attitude. It was a sad day when injuries forced Ernst to retire and then he lost his life, far too soon, from a heart attack. To me he was a special person and a man who always seemed in good spirits."
Reading this cause me to get a copy of 'Stealing Speed' to get Oxley's full picture of the man. This is another fascinating book which illuminates the relationship between Degner and Kaaden, but also the changing technology and Coldwar politics of the era. As I read it, Oxley portrays Kaaden as a genius who was an innocent victim of the politics of his homeland, first the Nazis, then the Commies. Degner he portrays as a capable racer and technician, but someone who was self centered, greedy, and perhaps shallow.
During WWII, Kaaden worked on rocket technology at Peenemunde where the V-1 Buzz Bomb and V-2 rockets were developed, until the Brits flattened it in August of '43. Rocket development was then moved to the Harz mountains in central Germany, underground in an old gypsum mine. Kaaden worked on a air-to-surface guided missile launched from bombers, then on the Me 262 jet fighter, and along side the group working on the V-1, arguably the first cruise missile. the V-1 was powered by a pulse jet engine, and that's where Kaaden first learned about pressure waves, which he later applied to two stroke exhaust and induction.
While Oxley is painting Degner as the rat who stabbed his mentor in the back for his own personal gain, he paints Kaaden as an innocent victim was was apolitical who was just interested in knowledge and who had no choice. I'm sure there's some truth to this, but I suspect the reality was less black and white and that both men lived with contradictions.
Oxley contends that Degner was vain and filled with avarice. "It seem like Degner was getting greedy.....Other friends also noticed that a fat factory contract had changed Degner. 'He was a vain man, but when he was at Suzuki he became a bit of a prima donna,' says Gitti Stoepel. 'He had a nice contract, maybe that brought it out more.'" Gitti Stoepel was the sister of Degner's and Anderson's teammate, Frank Perris' German wife.
But, on the next page Oxley quotes Perris: "Ernst was a super friend, a wonderful person", recalls Perris, who holds a higher opinion of the man than most" (but not apparently than Hugh Anderson who evidently Oxley never interviewed). "I like to feel I'm a gentleman and Ernst was the same. I can't imagine anyone disliking him, quite honestly. He was a pal and then he was a team-mate. He was a fabulous team-mate until he had that accident." Perris is referring to the final GP of '63 at Suzuka where, after finishing 3rd in the 125 race, he crashed on the first lap of the 250 race, was knocked unconscious, and engulfed in burning fuel, and suffered severe burns that required many skin graft operations, and kept him out of racing for almost a year. And, terribly disfigured a handsome and vain man's face. And, caused great pain, which may well have gotten him addicted to painkillers.