Back in the day: 1975’s GP sea­son gets un­der­way

Classic Racer - - ARCHIVE -

Im­por­tant for many rea­sons – not least of all the huge grids of the time, but also be­cause this year marked the end of the fourstrokes for a long pe­riod in the premier class.

o put some con­text to the fol­low­ing year, Teuvo (Tepi) Län­sivuori left Yamaha and joined Barry Sheene in the Suzuki works team. The ex­pe­ri­enced Yamaha test rider Hideo Kanaya came back to Europe to sup­port Gi­a­como Agos­tini in the 500 and 750 class. French­man Michel Rougerie was com­pet­ing with a spe­cial four-car­bu­ret­tor twin Har­ley-david­son. The al­ready pretty-full grid was com­pleted with a hoard of twin and four-cylin­der pri­vate Yama­has and some re­main­ing König four­cylin­der bikes. Sheene’s 1975 sea­son started in pos­si­bly the worst pos­si­ble way. Ac­tu­ally, it be­gan in pos­si­bly the world’s most fa­mous ‘bad day’ way when Bazza’s mighty works 750cc Suzuki-3 locked up and pitched ev­ery­one’s favourite racer into the world’s most fa­mous un­con­trol­lable slide along the Day­tona bank­ing dur­ing prac­tice for the Day­tona 200. Sheene was lucky to es­cape with his life and might have sus­tained more se­ri­ous in­juries had he not been wear­ing a back pro­tec­tor (an un­usual at­tribute for a rider’s kit at the time). In terms of the greater rac­ing world’s ex­pec­ta­tions about the year to come, the in­jury list was about to get a bit more crowded when MV Agusta rider Gian­franco Bon­era hit a knee on a straw bale and broke his thigh bone at high speed dur­ing the early spring meet­ing at Mo­dena in Italy. He was out for a long time while the man­gled leg healed slowly. Bon­era was re­placed by the tal­ented Ital­ian Ar­mando To­racca. To­racca’s team­mate, reign­ing world cham­pion Phil Read, had an unlucky sea­son start also when he suf­fered an almighty 120mph fall dur­ing prac­tice for the first 500cc race of the year. That tum­ble – which could have been so much more se­ri­ous than it ended up be­ing – hap­pened at the end of the Mis­tral Straight at Paul Ri­card. The quick tum­ble man­gled the lit­tle fin­ger of Read’s right hand in a bad way and ham­pered the Brit for the rest of the meet­ing. Fastest in that prac­tice was Fly­ing Finn Län­sivuori rac­ing the Suzuki-4 for the first time in a GP, while the Yamaha pair of Agos­tini and Kanaya were sec­ond and third. From the start of the race Län­sivuori led the ac­tion but came in af­ter four laps with gear­box prob­lems. Agos­tini won the race just half a sec­ond ahead of his team-mate Kanaya. Phil Read who wasn’t given the No.1 plate be­ing the world cham­pion pig-head­edly raced with No.0... yet still man­aged to trou­ble the podium even though he was car­ry­ing his hand in­jury, even­tu­ally end­ing up third ahead of To­racca. Over­all, the new bikes and ea­ger starters to the year got things mov­ing at a brisk pace right from the off with Kanaya set­ting the race record lap mid-way through the race, his best was a full sec­ond faster than Jaarno Saari­nen’s best set some two years ear­lier.

In the 1974 500cc cham­pi­onship, the MV Agus­tas fin­ished in the per­fect team or­der, un­der the steady­ing hands of Phil Read and Gian­franco Bon­era. How­ever, race fans knew that it could be the last time for some con­sid­er­able pe­riod that a four-stroke would find its way to the crown.

Words and pho­tog­ra­phy: Jan Burg­ers

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