The Match Races: Part 3
USA superstar surprises
Into and through the second half of the 1970s saw the Transatlantic Trophy act as a proving ground for many riders coming up and going down the ranks. Step forward one in particular who shone – Kenneth Leroy Roberts.
The performances of Cal Rayborn and Yvon Duhamel, when they shared top individual Transatlantic Trophy Series honours with British riders in 1972 and 1973, had already shown fans in the UK that America could produce road racers who could run with the best. But no one on either side of the Atlantic could have predicted what was to happen in the 10 years from 1974 onwards. The decade of the superstars was about to arrive.
Before the decade even started, there promised to be a treat in store for fans of these Anglo-american match races with the news that Cal Rayborn, already a hero with American and British fans alike, was to cut back his USA dirt-track programme and combine it with car races and, most important of all, with a road racing contract for US Suzuki. He had realised that even his faithful and familiar Harley-davidson was, by 1974, a dinosaur in road racing terms and a switch to two-stroke machinery was needed. For fans who had witnessed his incredible Transatlantic Series performance on the Harley in 1972, the thought of him on a factory team Suzuki triple in 1974 was a mouth-watering one. Sadly, it was not to be. On December 29, 1973 the man who many had tipped to be a future World Champion was killed in a crash at Pukekohe in New Zealand. He had gone there to race a car in the Tasman Series and had only accepted the offer to ride a Suzuki 500 twin at the last minute. Its engine seized as he entered a fast corner and Cal was thrown into the trackside Armco barrier – such is the happenstance that tragedies are so often made of. Life, however, went on for the rest of us and when it came time for the flag to drop at Brands Hatch on Good Friday to start the 1974 Transatlantic Series, the UK fans already had some idea of who might be the next American star of the show.
The coming of Kenny
After all, they had just read in the British motorcycle newspapers about Kenny Roberts, a brash 22-year-old California kid, who only a month or so earlier had battled throughout the Daytona 200 with multiple World Champion Giacomo Agostini until his engine overheated and he eased off to settle for second. At that time the Daytona race was not only the most important race in America, it was also the most important Formula 750 race in the world. The next most important race was the Imola 200 in Italy, where Roberts made his European debut and he finished second to Agostini again. Add to that the fact that Ago was generally held to be the best rider in the world at that point and it was obvious to all that ‘the California kid’ had to be someone special. As early as the very start of the 1972 American Grand National Championship year, Kenny had proved that to the folks back home. He did so by winning the opening race of the dirt-track season… which was, incidentally, his first-ever race as an expert-rated rider eligible for the US national series! He later went on to win ‘Rookie of the Year’ honours as the top-scoring first-year Expert class rider in American Motorcycle Association (AMA) racing. An obvious talent in his previous Junior year, Kenny had been signed by Yamaha USA to try and take the AMA Grand National Championship title away from the established brands like Harley-davidson, BSA and Triumph. And with his dirt-track capabilities needing no more honing, he was placed under the tutelage of the 1969 World 250cc Champion Kel Carruthers to help add road racing to his skills. By 1973 the Australian had quit the world series and moved to California to ride – and win – for Yamaha USA. In that year Kenny learned a lot about road racing by listening to Kel’s advice and following in his wheel-tracks. Along the way, Kenny earned a slew of useful championship points in road racing which, when added to an impressive dirt-track tally, saw him end the season as American Grand National Champion. In only his second expert season he had done what Yamaha had asked of him. He had made the company the first (and forever the only) Japanese manufacturer to win that now-abandoned but still memorable multi-discipline Championship that was comprised of four different types of dirt track competition, as well as road racing.
That success was why, when Kenny lined up his Yamaha TZ750 at Brands Hatch in 1974 for what was his first appearance in England, its distinctive yellow and black ‘speedblock’ colour scheme also incorporated the much-coveted and well-deserved US ‘National Number One’ plate. The winner of that opening race of the 1974 Transatlantic Series on the Kentish track was local lad and Suzuki factory team rider Paul Smart for the UK. This was after early leader Yvon Duhamel (who had been joint top scorer in the previous year’s series with British star Peter Williams) had retired his three-cylinder Kawasaki with engine problems. These were fixed in time for Yvon to take the win in the second leg, so the visitors were off to a good start, especially as second in both races over the Brands Hatch ‘short’ circuit (just over a mile long and kidney-shaped) was none other than Kenny Roberts. And more was to come from the California kid… much more! Not only did he win both races at Mallory Park two days later, but then he journeyed overnight to Oulton Park and won another! Barry Sheene won the second Oulton Park leg of the series to help the Brits to a narrow win on points. But the truly heavy – and so nearly knockout – blows had already been landed for the USA by the individual top scorer in the series – a raw young rider on his first visit to each of the three tracks involved – the 22-year-old California kid Kenneth Leroy Roberts. Take note of that middle name which, of course, is derived from the French words ‘le roi’ – meaning ‘the king’. Back in 1974 it just happened to be Kenny’s middle name but by the end of the decade everyone involved in motorcycle racing was calling him ‘King Kenny’ – and rightly so. The Transatlantic Series fans in 1974 had witnessed the arrival of one of the true legends of the sport.
And here come Romero and Castro on the TZ750S, too
Now on to Easter 1975, when the boys were back in town and ready for the first round at Brands Hatch. But not for long. Even for an English Easter, snow is not what one would usually expect. That, however, is what UK motorcycle racing fans got. Brands Hatch and the Kentish countryside were blanketed in snow after a heavy storm and back to the warmth of their London hotel rooms went the US squad, with an extra day to relax before the shortened series kicked off in the East Midlands at Mallory Park. This time the British press had already noted that the American team showed much more in-depth scoring potential. Mainly because US team organiser Gavin Trippe had managed to persuade Yamaha USA to send not only Kenny Roberts, but also Gene Romero and Don Castro on the TZ750 missiles that even by then had already made their yellow and black paint scheme an iconic image in the sport. Romero was fresh from his record-setting victory (at an 106mph+ average speed) in the Daytona 200 and he and his two Yamaha US team-mates were joined by Steve Baker, a young rider from Bellingham close to the Canadian border in America’s Pacific Northwest – so close to the border, in fact, that he was riding a factory-supplied bike for Yamaha Canada. This was finished in similar livery to the US bikes but featuring red paintwork to complement the black and white ‘speedblock’ motif rather than the now-familiar yellow of Yamaha USA. It was another colour scheme and rider combination that British fans would see a lot more of in the future. On theyamaha Canada bike, Steve had finished second to Romero at Daytona but ahead of both Johnny Cecotto and Giacomo Agostini, also on factory Yamahas. Obviously, he was already another rider to be reckoned with!
Joining the four Yamaha factory runners in the Ustransatlantic team line-up were US Suzuki teamsters Dave Aldana and Pat Hennen, along with Yamaha privateers Steve Mclaughlin (who had led at Daytona before crashing on the 30th lap), Randy Cleek and Phil Macdonald. It was still bitterly cold up in Leicestershire for what was now the new opening round of the 1975 series at Mallory Park and this led to several riders experiencing problems with the still relatively-new concept of the treadless ‘slick’ tyres. They had only been first seen on British short circuits a year earlier and that had led to a now-famous incident when Kel Carruthers presented Kenny Roberts’ Goodyear slick-shod Yamaha for scrutineering, only to be told that no way would Kenny be allowed to start “on bald tyres!” One thing that many riders had perhaps failed to totally understand at this early stage of the game was just how important it was to have put a lot of heat into the slick tyres before pushing them too hard in the corners. Thus, in the near-freezing track conditions for the first race of the 1975 series at Mallory, it was no surprise (in retrospect at least) to see several riders go down in the early laps. First to go was early leader Stan Woods, of the UK team, who crashed at the Esses (wwhich had a fearsomely fast entry speed in th hose pre-chicane days) and he injured his ha and. He was followed soon afterwards by St teve Baker, who was unhurt, but whose machinem promptly caught fire. Gene Romero next led from Roberts, who th hen moved by his team-mate, at which point ene also slid off in the Esses… and then, to ad dd insult to thankfully little injury, it started too snow! From that point on Roberts rode at a ca arefully controlled speed to win comfortably byy more than half a lap from the leading UK rid der, Pat Mahoney. Dave Aldana and Don Castro were next up, followed by the British pairing of Dave Croxford and veteran Percy Tait – which meant that it was first blood to the Americans by 71 points to 55. In view of the weather, and with gloomy skies even threatening the possibility of darkness before the end of the meeting, the second Mallory race was cut from 20 to 15 laps. Conditions were still terrible, with a cold rain falling, but at least the whole field was on the correct wet weather tyres. Roberts won as he pleased by more than 30 seconds and was so comfortable at the front that he was pulling giant wheelies (in the wet!) out of the hairpin to entertain the crowd… or maybe to demoralise them still further. They would certainly have been demoralised by the result – American riders filled the first four places, with KR winning from Gene Romero, Dave Aldana and Don Castro, a Californian dirt-tracker who had passed both Mick Grant and Barry Ditchburn in the last two laps to relegate them to fifth and sixth. So much for US riders allegedly struggling in the wet. From Mallory, it was north west overnight to Oulton Park and when Easter Monday dawned, the weather was still awful.
Finally, a British win!
As the teams lined up on the grid for what was the third race of the shortened series, America led Great Britain by 24 points… a margin that looked like being substantially inncreased when Aldana led the opening laps rom Roberts, Romero and the young US teeam newcomer, Pat Hennen. Roberts and Romero then took over, pulling out a most comfortable lead of over half a laap – so comfortable a lead, in fact, that at oone point Gene slid off and got going again wwithout losing second place! Aldana did take the opportunity to close the gap and then actually pass Romero for second – but then he took to the grass too. Eventually Roberts won with relative ease ahead of Romero, Aldana, Stan Woods, Dave Potter, Barry Ditchburn and Steve Baker. Barring total disasters and non-finishes for the US team in the final leg, the result of the series was all but a foregone conclusion. As it happened, however, Dave Aldana, Kenny Roberts and Gene Romero all inadvertently did their bit to inject some tension into the final miserable round by all taking it in turns to first lead the race and then crash! This led to the only British race win in the series, with Stan Woods winning from Pat Mahoney. Then came Hennen, Dave Croxford and Baker. It was the only round in the series in which the home riders outscored the visitors – 66 points to 60 being the final tallies. Overall, the Americans took their first win in the series by a margin of 278 points to 243. This prompted British journalist Chris Carter to say in his Cycle News report that the second race result at Oulton meant that a potential total annihilation of the British team had thankfully been turned into only a severe thrashing.
Steve Baker steps up
For 1976 the American team still looked good: Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero, Steve Mclaughlin, Steve Baker, and Pat Hennen from the 1975 squad, along with Gary Nixon, making a welcome return to the series after missing two years with injuries, then his fellow Kawasaki team riders, Ron Pierce and Hurley Wilvert, plus up and coming Californian, Pat Evans – a frequent winner for Yamaha in West Coast races. And once again, it was an American who was the individual star of the series – but this year it was Baker’s turn. He started his weekend by surprising everyone in the Brands Hatch grandstands and winning both the first two races, on a circuit he had never seen before except in 1975 when it was covered in snow! Not only that, he also surprised the whole of the British opposition on track and his own team riders by carving past everyone to win comfortably after a slow start and a 150-yard deficit at the end of the first lap. Second was Roberts, with Sheene third followed by Nixon, Ditchburn and Hennen. That second leg was won by Baker from Roberts, with Sheene, on the factory Suzuki square four run by the Suzuki GB squad, following the two Yamahas home. Fourth on another Suzuki (privately entered) was Phil Read, the veteran who had scored his first of his six Isle of Man TT wins up to that point no less than 15 years previously and won the first of his seven Grand Prix world titles 10 years earlier! Perhaps more relevant was the fact that he had won his last world titles (for MV Agusta) in 1973 and 1974, and had given the faster Yamaha of Giacomo Agostini a good run for its money in 1975. Following Phil home at Brands 1976 was a rider at the opposite stage of his career. The young American Pat Hennen was back again, but this time not on a US Suzuki entry. He was riding a Suzuki GB 500 square four as he would be staying in Europe for the 1976 season as team-mate to Barry. From Brands Hatch the series moved on to Mallory Park with the Yanks 15 points ahead. But valuable points were lost in the first leg at the Leicestershire circuit when Steve Baker made a bad tyre choice by running a ‘wet weather’ tyre in damp conditions but one that shredded its tread as the track dried and dropped him to fourth behind Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts and Mick Grant. Pat Hennen this time got the better of Read to place fifth, with another veteran, Gary Nixon behind them in seventh. In the second leg at Mallory, it was an American one-two again, Roberts this time winning from Baker, with Sheene third from Barry Ditchburn, Pat Hennen and Phil Read. The series moved on to the final round at Oulton Park with the Americans trailing by a single point. And considering the form being displayed by Baker, Roberts and Hennen it looked as though another US win was still very much a possibility. It still looked that way after the first Oulton leg as Baker won from US team-mate, Roberts. The UK team leader, Barry Sheene, was third ahead of Hennen, however, while Ron Haslam and John Williams led a midfield dominated mainly by Brits. This solid UK effort left the home team just ahead by a narrow margin and the series result was still very much in the balance. The USA team was trailing by only five points and a quick assessment showed that a win for the visitors was still possible, judging by the previous year’s Oulton results. That was until Kenny Roberts crashed while in second place. His machine burned and a chunk of valuable points went up in smoke. The winner of that last race was Baker – who had been ahead of Roberts since the opening lap, and who did all he could possibly do, including setting a new lap record in the process. In the early stages a US victory had still looked a possibility – even after Roberts’ crash – as Pat Hennen and Gary Nixon had been in third and fourth places behind him. It was an inspired ride through to second place by the UK’S hard-charging young debutant, Ron Haslam, that essentially swung the balance, especially as Mick Grant and John Williams followed him past Hennen, while Barry Ditchburn came up to take more critical points from Nixon.
In the end the scoreline was 415 points for Team UK to 384 for Te eam USA, meaning that the British ri iders had got their revenge for the 19 975 drubbing and the UK fans went home happy. Nevertheless, not lost on British riders or fans mu st have been the fact that the top two individual points scorers in the series had both been American – Baker ahead of Roberts. And although hometown hero Sheene had been third on points s, he hadn’t been very far ahead of the still relatively inexperience d American Hennen – the youngst ter who would be joining him in the Suzu ki factory team for the season to come. The Transatlantic Trophy pend ulum swung back to the American sid de in 1977 – curiously with the exact same e margin of victory as the British had enjoyedoyed in the previous year, but this time for the other team. In 1976 31 points had been America’s deficit to the British victors. In 1977 the tables were turned and Team USA had the final advantage by the same points difference, this time with 410 points to the 379 scored by Team GB. An on-form Kenny Roberts had won the 1977 Daytona 200 and he totally dominated the proceedings at both Brands Hatch and Mallory Park, winning all four series races at those venues. This alone guaranteed that he would once again be top scorer in the series – which was just as well, as things didn’t work out anywhere near as well in the final round at Oulton Park. Kenny’s Yamaha engine seized in the first race, thus allowing a sole UK series win thanks to Barry Sheene. And in the second and final leg, Kenny was leading from Steve Baker when he crashed and handed victory to his fellow US team star. Roberts had been top scorer in the 1977 series, so one can only imagine how British fans must have felt in March 1978 when they learned that not only had he won that year’s Daytona 200, but he had lapped the entire field in the process! But despite Roberts still maintaining top form for his annual UK visit for the Transatlantic Trophy match races, the eventual outcome of that year’s series wasn’t the one that manyay Britishts pesspessimistssts hadad forecast.o ecast
1978 ( Sheene’s brilliant Brand ds Hatch)
The first race of the 1978 series at Brands Hatch was a good one for the home team when Sheene put in a great ride to win from Roberts and Hennen, while racking up points in the critical higher midfield places were Barry Ditchburn, Ron Haslam and Dave Potter. In the second race the USA saw more valuable points slip away when Kenny Roberts first dropped back with a sticking throttle and then exited the proceedings altogether when his Yamaha went on to only one of its four cylinders. Hennen, by now Sheene’s partner in the Suzuki factory GP squad, won the second heat, leaving Sheene in second place and angry at the aggressive way in which Pat had forced by to take the win. “I was riding for the USA in this one, not Suzuki GB,” was Hennen’s later response. Meanwhile, British riders again packed the importantpotat midfieldded popoints-scoring places with Skip Aksland the only US rider to get into the top six. He followed Barry Ditchburn and Mick Grant to take fifth place ahead of Dave Potter. Two days later, at Mallory Park, the weather was cold and wintry but that didn’t deter either Pat Hennen or Kenny Roberts. In that finishing order they took a relatively easy one-two in the first leg and repeated that result in the second. Behind them in race one were Barry Sheene, Dave Potter, Mick Grant and Roger Marshall filling the remaining leaderboard places. In race two however, the Americans had a greater share of the spoils. Hennen and Roberts were up front, as already mentioned, with Dave Potter and Barry Ditchburn in third and fourth after Sheene had retired early with mechanical problems. In fifth, sixth and seventh came Gene Romero, Dave Aldana and Team USA newcomer Mike Baldwin. Riding his own Yamaha TZ750, Baldwin had been racing for fourth spot in the early stages… a fine effort for a series ‘rookie’ and laying down a marker as being another American name to look out for in the future. The winning performances of Hennen and Roberts, coupled with better scores by the American midfielders at Mallory meant that for yet another year the series went to the final round at Oulton Park with the team honours up for grabs. Things looked to be going the Americans’ way when Barry Sheene slid off at Esso Bend on the third lap and neither Dave Potter, Barry Ditchburn nor Roger Marshall were able to offer a challenge to the winning pair of Kenny Roberts and Pat Hennen. In sixth through eighth came Skip Aksland, Dave Aldana and Mike Baldwin; so once again the final race of the series was wide open for either team to take the overall honours.
Then, even befor re the start of the showdown, the American team’s chances were severely compromised. Gene Romero had been racing with Dave Potter for third place in race one when the engine of his Yamaha cried enough and it was too badly damaged to contest the last race. Next to drop out was Aksland, whose Yamaha had terminal problems on the warm-up lap, and Team USA reserve Bruce Hammer had already blown the engine of his TZ750. In the race Hennen won yet again but this time only after Kenny Roberts had led for 11 laps before dropping back with ignition problems. At that point Kenny had enough of an advantage over Barry Sheene to hold on to second place, while behind Barry came Aldana, Potter and Roger Marshall. The result of all this was that Team GB took the trophy back from the Americans with a score of 435 points to 379. But as far as the stars of the show were concerned, the status was still quo. For every year since 1972 an American team rider had been at the top of the individual points standings. Honours had been shared with British riders in 1972 and 1973 but since 1974 the likes of Kenny Roberts (1974/75/77), Steve Baker (1976) and Pat Hennen (1978) had not given the home riders even the ghost of a chance. This time Hennen, by now well familiar with UK tracks thanks to his 1977 rides with Suzuki GB, had handed out quite a comprehensive beating to Kenny Roberts by winning four of the six races in the series and scoring 92 points (out of a possible 96!) to the 79 racked up by KR. Pat Hennen is a name that may not now be a familiar one when thinking of past American stars in the Transatlantic series or on the World Championship Grand Prix scene, especially to younger readers of this magazine. In fact, he was a genuine superstar in the making and could well have ended up as America’s first World Champion had his career not been ended by a life-threatening 170mph crash in the 1978 Isle of Man Senior TT. If asked the question at a club quiz as to who was the first American to win a Grand Prix, most fans would answer “Kenny Roberts in 1978”. In fact, Pat Hennen beat him to it by two seasons when he took the Finnish round at Imatra in 1976, his debut year on the GP scene. Pat’s win was so unexpected that the Finnish race organisers didn’t even have a copy of the American national anthem to play as he stepped onto the top step of the podium! As team-mate to Barry Sheene in the factory Suzuki squad from 1976 until that devastating TT crash in mid-1978, he would go on to take three Grand Prix victories and 12 podiums from just 26 starts. These statistics meant that he was good enough to finish third in the world behind Barry Sheene and Tepi Lansivouri in his 1976 debut year and third again behind Sheene and Steve Baker in 1977. Midway through the 1978 season, in the year that Kenny Roberts won his first world title, Pat was second in the standings, just two points behind with more than half of the races still to come, several of them on tracks that were his favourites, and – as his Transatlantic Trophy success had shown – he was at the peak of his form. Who knows where things may have gone from there… But then came that fateful TT crash, when he was racing for the lead of the Senior race and had just become the first rider in Isle of Man history to lap the Mountain course in under 20 minutes, setting a new lap record of 113.83mph in the process. Thankfully, Pat survived his life-threatening head injuries but he did suffer brain damage. From this he made a long and slow recovery to a normal life but he still suffers from the effects to some degree. This is the reason why he is sadly not one of the Transatlantic series stars who make periodic and popular returns to the UK. The fact that Pat was still in the early stages of his long recovery from his TT injuries sadly meant that the American team for the 1979 round of the series would be without its leading star of 1978.
The teenagers: Randy Mamola and Mike Baldwin
Then, early in the year, came more disturbing news from the USA. Kenny Roberts, by now the reigning World Champion and a regular high points-scorer in Transatlantic action, had been injured in a test session crash in Japan and would be struggling to get fit for the next GP season, let alone the Easter series in England. This left Dave Aldana to captain a team with only three other names familiar to series fans. These were Steve Baker, Gene Romero and Mike Baldwin, who been crowned as the first winner of the inaugural United States Road Racing Championship in 1978. They would be joined by that year’s Daytona winner, Dale Singleton, plus Wes Cooley, John Long, Rich Schlacter and a precocious teenager by the name of Randy Mamola. Of these, Baker’s capabilities were unknown as he was having his first race since severely breaking his left arm and leg in the Canadian F750 Championship round at Mosport in the previous October – and the arm was still very weak… Aldana was a popular choice as team captain as he had been at every one of the match race series since its inception eight years previously. And he stressed to the new boys on his team just how important their contributions would be, even if they were not racing with the leaders. He pointed out that when America lost, it was usually because the Brits packed the midfield positions where valuable points were earned. Therefore, it was just as important to race hard for the places from seventh to 12th as it was for the lead – especially as there was only a single point difference between each of the places… from 16 for a win down to one point for last.. Aldana stressed the team aspect from the start and to a man his team responded. Despite race wins for the Brits by Barry Sheene and John Newbold, the Yanks picked up many of the midfield placings at all of the races. It was very much a reversal of the usual situation. Sheene won both races at Brands but Mike Baldwin took a second and third, with captain Aldana taking the points for a fourth and a second. Daytona winner Dale Singleton also showed well with seventh and sixth placings and young rookie Randy Mamola followed him home for eighth in the first leg. Thanks to their combined efforts, the US team left Brands for Mallory Park with a narrow lead of 142 to 138. The leading points-scorer for the USA over the first two rounds was Mike Baldwin, as he added to his Brands Hatch tally by chasing Sheene home in the first leg and placing third behind Barry and Newbold in the second. Gene Romero followed Ron Haslam and John Newbold into fifth place in the first Mallory race, with Mamola, Aldana and Dale Singleton filling the valuable points places from fifth to seventh. Meanwhile, Baker was struggling to get back up to pace with his still-weak left arm but did get a fourth in race two, behind Newbold, Sheene and Baldwin, but ahead of Potter and Mamola. American team hopes did take a blow in this race, however, when Dale Singleton crashed on the seventh lap and was out of the rest of the series with a separated shoulder and concussion. But although Team GB’S Barry Sheene and John Newbold won each of the legs at the Leicester track, consistent riding by the Americans meant that they had increased their lead to 20 points and stayed ahead by 285 points to 265 as the travelling Transatlantic circus moved on to Oulton Park. By now the Yanks were in no mood to be beaten and all but swept the board at Oulton. They were aided to a degree by the fact that Barry Sheene was out of the first leg with machine problems even before the start and lasted only six laps in the second, although by then the overall result was essentially a foregone conclusion. Gene Romero had put a new engine in his TZ750 overnight and he stormed to victory in both Oulton races, Mike Baldwin took two second places and teenage prodigy Randy Mamola was twice third. Rich Schlacter was fourth in race one and Dave Aldana fourth in race two. There wasn’t a British rider within sniffing distance of the podium places in either race and the US thrashed Team UK by the biggest margin in the history of the series to that date – 448 points to 352. And once again an American rider topped the individual scorechart, Mike Baldwin scoring 88 points out of a possible 96 with Randy Mamola second in his series debut year with 67. Then came Dave Aldana and the first Brit, Barry Sheene, with 63 each, followed by Gene Romero with 57 and Rich Schlacter with 52. The rest of the British team were conspicuous by their absence from these leaderboard positions. Moreover, it should be noted that the Americans had been without two of their established top scorers, Kenny Roberts and Pat Hennen and with a third, Steve Baker, struggling to overcome the injuries that would eventually lead to his retirement. But Mike Baldwin and Randy Mamola – a teenager, no less – had stepped up to the plate, picked up the baton and run away from Britain’s best with it. The American star-making machine was still ticking over nicely – and there was more to come!
There’s a special Classic Racer prize up for grabs for the first correct letter or email we receive that correctly identifies every rider on this grid. It’s not as easy as you might think with a first glance... Malcolm is the final judge on who arrives first, just so you know.
Below: Dick Leitell points out where the rev limit line is to a taped-up Don Castro before the racing gets underway at a cold Brands Hatch.
Above:the King in early form. Kenneth Roberts flying. Left: Don Emde works on the bike between races. Bottom left: Eddie Dow pulls Kenny onto the microphone pre-race. Note the tie and rolled sleeves – it was a different era. Right: Steve Baker (5) tucks in tight while Mick Grant (9) lays the Kawasaki reet over at Mallory!
Above: Barry Sheene picks the line at Oulton Park in 1976.
Top: Dave Aldana (16) takes a long look at Roger Marshall (1) as he getsge outdrafted by the Brit, while B arry Ditchburn (12) chases hard. All th hree are on Yamahas and it’s 1978 at t Oulton. AboveA right: 1976 at Mallory and Pat H ennen fights the Suzuki’s front end. AboveA left: 1976 at Oulton and British te eam captain Phil Read comes into vi iew at Lodge Corner on the Yamaha. Le eft:the USA team lines up for the ob bligatory squad photo.there’s some ha air going on there!
Above: Randy Cleek (29) leads Steve Parrish (12) with Pat Evans (51) and Mick Grant (4) chasing at Oulton in 1976. Below left: Mallory 1978 and Mike Baldwin rounds the Hairpin in front of a capacity crowd.