GP back in the day: Hockenheim 1975
Over 150,000 spectators gathered on the grass banks and grandstands of the Hockenheimring Motodrom in Baden-württemberg, south Germany to watch their heroes in action.
One of the most memorable races of the year comes under the eye of Jan Burgers, for another expert slice of the good, the great and the‘gosh I never knew that’of GP racing from decades ago.
The 1932-built circuit was very much a unique outing amidst its rival venues. Hockenheim had two long straits and only five turns, four right-handers and just one left turn in the Motodrom. In simple terms it has become a real Mecca for race fans from all over the world. At this round of the 1975 500cc World Championship MV Agusta rider Phil Read once again turned up to the meeting on full song. A new modified cylinder head plus some new front forks on the MV-4 gave the bike just enough speed to follow the works Yamaha of Giacomo Agostini – an essential upgrade to Read’s chances. What added as extra drive for both Ago and team-mate Kanaya was that neither of their 350cc works Yamahas managed to get to the end of an earlier race – so both riders were keen to score a good result in the 500cc class. The potential for a scrap was high. In practice it was Finn Tepi Länsivuori on the works Suzuki who was only 0.3sec faster than Agostini. The first row of the grid was completed by Kanaya and the two MV Agusta riders Armando Toracca and Read. Stan Woods, on the Suzuki-4, was the best of the second row, with Barry Sheene and Alex George joining him on the grid in seventh and eighth places respectively. Come the start and it was Read who made a lightning-quick getaway, diving into the lead of the 20-lap race. His team-mate Toracca was second and Agostini third. Ago was pushing Toracca hard and passed him after two laps before settling down and hunting for Read. After four laps Toracca retired, as did Sheene on the works Suzuki (the machine had been having unsolvable carburettor problems across the whole weekend that kept piling the plugs). Meanwhile, a terrific 16lap long war for the lead was fought between Read, defending, and the attacking Agostini. Read was playing catch-up with Ago leading
but the tension on track was palpable, just like it was two years earlier between Read and Jarno Saarinen at the same circuit. Read got his head down and passed Ago again before finding his rhythm and leading during several laps. Everything was looking good until a horrendous 130mph slide at the fast east curve unsettled Read’s charge, he didn’t fall after the slide, but it was enough to persuade the Brit to settle for second. Agostini went on to set the fastest lap at 111.12mph and won the race by a very comfortable four seconds. Länsivuori, despite having that great qualifying and practice, had a bad start and his Suzuki decided to add to his woes in the race by misfiring and dropping off four cylinders. Nevertheless, he still managed a brilliant third place finish and crossed the line 25sec ahead of Kanaya, who was also struggling with an unwilling bike. A fine fifth place for Stan Woods on the GB Suzuki-4 was a highlight, while John Newbold
on another GB Suzuki, couldn’t manage a finish on his bike. Frenchman Christian Leon was the only König rider to finish in the points. He eventually came home in seventh. Privateer Alex George did a great job, once again finishing ahead of Brazilian Adu Celso-santos in ninth, which was Alex’s third ninth-place finish in three GPS. After three rounds Japanese Yamaha rider Kanaya was still leading the race for the championship with a three-point advantage over Read who, was just two points ahead of Agostini. It was tight at the top.
Always relaxed, the leader of the championship, Japanese rider Hideo Kanaya and his mechanic reading a comic book. Why not?
Phil Read leading Ago in front of the huge crowd at the Hockenheim Motodrom.
Above: The battle for seventh to ninth raged during the whole race between Frenchman Christian Leon on the fast König, Brazilian Adu Celso-santos and Scotsman Alex George, both on Yams.
Right: Giacomo Agostini in stalking mode, closing up to Phil Read.
Below: Australian Jack Findlay (5), Swiss Felix Harzenmoser (23), German Helmut Kassner (31) and Finn Tepi Länsivuori (3) braking hard at the end of the long straight entering the Motodrom.
Inset: Waiting for the rostrum ceremony. A tired Phil Read against a wall having his indispensable fag. Note his unhealed little finger of his right hand, a souvenir from his 120mph crash at round one of the championship.
The winner’s rostrum. Phil Read is explaining to Ago that he could have beaten him, but he didn’t. Tepi Länsivuori is just tired and overheated, as he always was after a race.
Japanese star Hideo Kanaya on the 0W23 wasleading the championship afterthree rounds.