RACE nights in the Legends Lounge at Blunsdon won’t quite be the same when the new speedway season gets underway in March, following the death of two-time world champion Freddie Williams.

The Welshman died at Great Western Hospital in Swindon on Sunday morning at the age of 86, leaving behind three children from his marriage to Pat, a former Olympic skater.

Despite never riding for the Robins, Williams had been both a regular and popular visitor to the Abbey Stadium in recent years, attending most home meetings in the Legends Lounge with his younger brother Ian, who himself rode in close to 450 meetings for Swindon between 1952 and 1963.

The older Williams became the first British rider to win two world crowns following his victories in 1950 and 1953, a feat only matched by Peter Craven, and claimed five national league titles during his time with his only club Wembley Lions.

Williams also presented the winner’s trophy to Chris Holder at last year’s British GP in Cardiff, on the same day his son David took charge of golf’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles as tournament director. Ian, himself 81, paid tribute to his brother and was not surprised in the slightest by how much he achieved during his glittering speedway career.

“Of course we are sad, but it was coming I think,” he said.

“As well as a brother he was always a really good friend to me all my life, and I will of course miss him very much. He always smiled and even in the hard times he was happy.

“He was dedicated to his riding and that came first, and he was a very good rider.

“Winning two World Championships was a great achievement, and we were all very proud of him.

“We all expected it of him because he was riding really well, and we were not surprised at all when he won his titles because he was very good.

“I enjoyed going to meetings with him at Swindon, and speedway looked after us very well, and although he never rode for Swindon they took him in as part of the family.”

Robins team manager Alun Rossiter always enjoyed spending time with Williams, and insisted he learnt a lot from him when they met at the Abbey Stadium.

“It was always nice to see him, and it was good that he was able to come and watch the speedway because he only lived in Newbury,” he said.

“He was a really nice guy and a true gentleman, and he always had a smile on his face and was pleased to talk to people.

“It is always good to remember the people that have made a big contribution to our sport, and I learnt a lot from talking to him over the years.”

The funeral will be held on January 30 in Welford near Newbury.