Tepi refuses to roll over
If it was written as a Hollywood script, it'd be unbelievable. The Finns had a chance of their boy winning the world crown but it'd take something dramatic on home soil first. Drama, they got.the wrong sort.
The penultimate race for the 500cc World Championship took place within a stone’s throw from the Russian border at Imatra in Finland. Due to the severe frost during winters in this country the roads that had to be raced on were bumpy and surrounded by a countless number of trees and high pavements. Nevertheless most riders liked to go to the Finnish Grand Prix even though they had to deal with such basics as the ‘simple’ paddock facilities. The organisation did its utmost to present riders and press with a welcome home every year and it’s just as well, because most of the riders arrived as early as possible after the Swedish Grand Prix that was held a week earlier. Plenty of time to do the laundry, read a book or go to the sauna with friends... Obviously the circuit was dangerous but riders were used to that and knew to respect what they’d been given to race around and upon. Besides, compared to a ‘safe’ track like the Dutch TT, the statistics of what you’d call severe accidents and casualties show that Assen was in fact a much more dangerous place to race. After the debacle of the Swedish GP where Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini crashed into the steel wire fences that lined the circuit and were injured, there were only two championship contenders left for the title as the penultimate round rolled into Imatra. Phil Read on the MV Agusta needed only one more win and his rival Teuvo (Tepi) Länsivuori on the works Yamaha four cylinder needed two. Before the 500 race had started Read’s chances of winning the title had grown considerably.
Home-grown hero Länsivuori didn’t want to disappoint more than 35,000 Finns who had gone to see their man battle for the crown and wanted to put on a good show in the 350 race, but things were about to go from bad to worse. Luck cruelly played a part in Tepi’s title aspirations and a burst rear tyre saw the end of the year’s hard work. The rubber woes forced the Finn to crash hard in the first turn directly after the start and he was transported to hospital for assessment. Unexpectedly, he arrived back at the circuit just before the start of the 500 and limped, battered and bruised, to his machine on the grid. Nobody thought he would win the race given how battered and bruised he was. Read and his team-mate Bonera led the first laps but then the Finn dug deep. Picking his line as he made his way up the order, Länsivuori set a new lap record and came closer and closer to the two MVS. Tepi had a great battle for many laps with Gianfranco Bonera trying to pass him and he even came within a few seconds of the leader. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Read though – the MV was behaving as it had a week before, suffering from gearbox problems, and his teammate Bonera did all he could to be the perfect blocker, preventing Länsivuori from getting any closer to Read.
Tepi tried his very best but in the end it was Phil Read and MV Agusta who crossed the line first at the end of the GP and were the winners of the 1974 500cc World Championship. Bonera got rewarded in the last Grand Prix of the year in Brno by Read who towed him to second place in front of Länsivuori once again. The small Finn had fought so hard all year long on the huge Yamaha and was rewarded with a comparatively disappointing third place in the 500cc World Championship. MV Agusta one and two, Yamaha three and four, Suzuki five and six. All of them were four-cylinder works bikes followed by a fleet of 351 Yamahas from places seven to 15.
Below: The back of the circuit during the 500cc practice. A very bumpy road with ditches, electricity poles and traffic signs alongside. Real road racing!
Right: Phil Read has just lit his usual after-race cigarette.
Above: Tepi Länsivuori Yamaha (21) and Gianfranco Bonera MV Agusta during the nearly race-long battle for second place.
Below: View of the circuit and the many trees surrounding it. It was just impossible to cover all trees with hay bales. Länsivuori is still leading Bonera who stayed this close to him for the whole race in order to slow Tepi down as much as he could.
Right: Phil Read and Franco Bonera on the rostrum.
Above: Suzuki works rider Jack Findlay is followed by the privateers John Williams and Swiss Werner Giger on the smaller 351 Yams. It was Werner Giger’s last race. He crashed two days later during practice of the F750 race at Hämeenlinna and died after hitting a barrier at only 30mph.
Right: The new world champion Phil Read on the MV, fighting with gearbox problems.
Below: Time again to organise a Moto-x competition in the paddock, with Neil Tuxworth’s mechanic acting as the starter of another heat. Riders are Swiss Bruno Kneubuehler and mechanic Alistair Taylor.
Bottom: Phil Read full speed on the MV at the back of the circuit.
Right: Pentti Korhonen in great style on his way to place five in the race.
Above: The early arrival on Tuesday allowed Jack Findlay to relax and read a book. He does it the Australian way!