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.

Classic Racer - - IT HAPPENED THEN -

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!

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