Rider Of The Week focuses on an exceptional rider and Freddie Frith was up there with the greatest. Known as ‘the Galahad in leathers’ Frith gained a reputation for being a stylish and skilled racer. His accomplishments include winning the 1935 Junior Manx Grand Prix and becoming the first 350cc World Champion.
Frith was born in Grimsby in 1909 and came from a well-known stonemason family. He inherited his motorcycle enthusiasm from his dad, even though he started working in the family business. He went on to become a motorbike retailer in his hometown, but he always had a need to be on the road.
Frith managed to earn a sponsorship from Nigel Spring, who was part of a family known for owning a jam and curd factory. His first ride occurred in the Isle of Man at the 1930 Manx Grand Prix and he came third. The bike he rode was a 350 cc Velocette KTT. Frith enjoyed major success in 1935 when he won the Junior 350 cc.
This win inspired him to turn professional and he joined the Norton team in 1936. His success continued when he won the 1936 Junior Tourist Trophy, setting a new race record lap of 81.94 mph. He followed this up with a second place position in the Senior 500 cc race, losing out to Norton teammate Jimmie Guthrie. In 1937, Frith won the Senior TT, becoming the first man to lap the course at over ninety miles per hour.
Frith served at the Infantry Driving & Maintenance School stationed in Keswick during WW2. He was set to participate in the 1947 TT, only to suffer a crash at Ballacraine during practice, dislocating his right shoulder. This stopped him from racing, but he came back strong in 1948 and won the Junior race in the European championship.
In 1949, the Moto GP was created and it became Frith’s most successful season. He went on to win every round in the Junior class, including the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy and became the first 350 cc World Champion.
At the end of the season, Frith retired, winning his final race at the Ulster Grand Prix. In 1950, he received royal honours, being awarded the OBE for his service to motorcycle racing.
Very few racers can claim to go out on the top of their career, but Frith was happy with the success that he’d earned. He passed away in 1988, having lived a satisfying life.