Land­mark larks at Assen for Bazza

Classic Racer - - FRONT PAGE -

In 1971 he scored three GP wins on the ex-stu­art Gra­ham 125 Suzuki at Spa, Bel­gium; An­der­storp, Swe­den and Ima­tra, Fin­land. He’d even won the 50cc GP in Brno, Cze­choslo­vakia, as guest rider for the Van Veen Krei­dler team, but his re­sults dur­ing the fol­low­ing years on the con­ti­nent were a faint shadow of that suc­cess­ful sea­son. Look­ing for the right ma­chine in the big­ger classes in com­par­i­son to the tid­dlers he’d found the top of the podium with, Barry signed for Yamaha in 1972 to race 250 and 350cc bikes but, again, the GP sea­son ended up a dis­as­ter for Barry. He didn’t get on with a quar­ter-litre race bike with a ten­dency to seize and throw the youth off its back. Barry had lost con­fi­dence in the wa­ter-cooled works 250Yama­hayz635 and the bike was swiftly handed over to Jarno Saari­nen by Yamaha bosses – Saari­nen went on to be­came a world cham­pion on it...

So Barry went back to Suzuki again and found ma­chines he could re­ally hus­tle, be­com­ing the win­ner of the 750 FIM Cup in 1973. In 1974 he was an of­fi­cial works rider for the big S along with Paul Smart and Jack Find­lay in the GPS, the trio rid­ing the then brand-new four cylin­der RG500 Suzuki. Sheene crashed again at Imola and fin­ished sixth in the cham­pi­onship be­hind Find­lay. Early on in its devel­op­ment, the RG500 sim­ply wasn’t yet ca­pa­ble of get­ting out there and beat­ing the MV Agus­tas of Phil Read and Gian­franco Bon­era plus the works Yama­has of Tepi Län­sivuori and Gi­a­como Agos­tini. In fact, the start of the 1975 sea­son was (again) a dis­as­ter for Barry when he crashed at high speed at Day­tona be­cause of a punc­ture. He was out for sev­eral months with the sea­son pass­ing him by un­til, back to some strength at least, he turned up to the Dutch TT at Assen on June 28. Right from the off Sheene was on the pace, sur­pris­ingly (to those watch­ing) bag­ging a 2.58 lap time in Fri­day’s prac­tice ses­sion – that was the fastest lap ever on this cir­cuit at that time. Talk about set­ting out your stall early!

Agos­tini was sec­ond on the Yamaha and Barry’s team-mate Tepi Län­sivuori was third. Last place on the first line of the grid was taken by Franco Bon­era on a MV Agusta. Phil Read, on the other MV was only 0.1 sec­ond faster than Alex Ge­orge. The MVS were still suf­fer­ing with han­dling is­sues and even Read con­tin­ued to be plagued with the prob­lem even though his bike was fit­ted with new rear shocks. In an ef­fort to sort out the prob­lem, Bon­era re­verted back to the old rear shocks – Read tried them too but de­cided to stay with the can­tilever sys­tem that was sup­ported with two ex­tra con­verted shock ab­sorbers. Try as MV might, it was ob­vi­ous that the Yama­has still per­formed much bet­ter. Come the Dutch race it wasn’t just Sheene re­turn­ing to form af­ter ear­lier in­jury, be­ing joined on the front row by the equal­ly­hob­bling Bon­era and Län­sivuori. Only the phys­i­cally smaller Län­sivuori still had prob­lems bump-start­ing the heavy Suzuki four at the start of the race – so much so that he fi­nally got un­der­way dead last off the grid. Alex, who did a great job by fin­ish­ing third ear­lier in the day dur­ing the 350 race, was forced to re­tire when Yvon Duhamel’s Kawasaki caught the rear brake pedal of the Scot’s Yamaha, break­ing the rod dur­ing a hec­tic scrap for the lead dur­ing the first lap of the race. Over the first chunk of the race it was Agos­tini, Sheene and Read who swapped the lead. A few laps later, things had set­tled down to a fast pace but it was clear that both Ago and Sheene were bid­ing their time – al­low­ing Read to lead the ac­tion as the laps ticked down. Find­lay crashed the RG500 Suzuki but was un­hurt. Län­sivuori rushed through the field af­ter his bad start, how­ever he was un­able to pass John New­bold on an­other Suzuki four who fin­ished a fan­tas­tic fourth. He might not have got any higher than fifth place but it was a great ride by Tepi.

On the fifth lap, Ago and Sheene both de­cided to pass Read. Barry held wing­man po­si­tion for an­other two laps and then passed Ago – the Brit couldn’t shake the Ital­ian though and the pair were locked in a mem­o­rable cat and mouse game for the rest of the race. It all came down to the fi­nale though and as both rid­ers en­tered the fi­nal turn, Ago closed the gap pro­fes­sion­ally but Barry had a game plan and darted to the other side of the Ital­ian’s bike. Pass­ing Ago on the out­side, Sheene used all of the Suzuki’s punch out of the turn to take the che­quered flag. The MVS of Read and Bon­era even­tu­ally fin­ished third and sixth and with John Wil­liams cross­ing the line in sev­enth place it meant that the Brits left Assen hav­ing scored 1-3-4 and 7. Barry Sheene was the un­ex­pected win­ner in what turned out to be a glo­ri­ous show of skill and race­craft also tak­ing the new lap record with a best time in the race of 2m 55.5s.

Barry Sheene bid­ing his time be­hind Gi­a­como Agos­tini and Phil Read.

Above: Tepi Län­sivuori work­ing very hard be­fore he ar­rived at place five af­ter his bad start. Be­low: Yamaha works rider Agos­tini can still be found chat­ting with his old MV me­chan­ics.

Above: Teuvo Län­sivuori in a pen­sive mood.

Right: Barry Sheene on the way to his first 500 GP win. Be­low: Big bat­tle for place four be­hind the lead­ers just af­ter the start. Among them Karl Auer (9), Gian­franco Bon­era (2), Alan North, Bernard Fau (25), John Wil­liams (8), Cliff Carr (17) and Mick Grant.

Above: Tony Rut­ter (11) is lead­ing Teuvo Län­sivuori (3), Cliff Carr (17) and Rob Bron (35). Only Län­sivuori fin­ished in the first 10 in fifth place.

Right: An Ago fan show­ing his tat­too.

Left: A happy Barry Sheene on the win­ner’s rostrum. Left: The spec­tac­u­lar style of Barry Ditch­burn on the 500 Kawasaki. He and his team-mates Mick Grant and Yvon Duhamel didn’t fin­ish the race. The only points Kawasaki scored in the 500 class in 1975 was at the IOM TT.

Right: Phil Read lead­ing Ago and Sheene at the Strubben bend dur­ing the first lap.

NEXT TIME Can Sheene do it again a week later at the pic­turesque and su­per-fast cir­cuit at Spa-fran­cor­champs in Bel­gium?

Above: John New­bold do­ing a great job fin­ish­ing fourth in front of Län­sivuori and MV Agusta rider Bon­era.

Right: Jack Find­lay had to walk a long way back to the pad­dock af­ter he crashed his Suzuki. Nanou is giv­ing him a proper re­fresh­ment.

Be­low: No need to tell Barry how to en­joy such a mo­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.