The 1975 Swedish 500 Grand Prix
A British one-two-three, total domination by a man approaching the peak of his powers... another Brit battling it out for the world crown... it has to be 1975 and Sweden. As Scandinavian songsters Abba would sing, the Winnertakes it All... but for Barry S
Barry Sheene goes out in search of his second top of the podium in the premier class. Anderstorp always was good for an extra bit of drama in the 500cc world.
It was a case of second time on the top step for Barry Sheene at the twisty Anderstorp Raceway hidden in the sprawling woods of Sweden. The British favourite eventually scrapped his way to being first across the line at the end of an eventful 500 outing. Right from the start of the weekend’s events Sheene was in sensational form, showing no signs of any nerves that may have been lingering following his clash with Giacomo Agostini the year before – both riders had crashed heavily during their 1974 battle. In fact, over the course of that race weekend, Barry clocked up 110 laps at Anderstorp in both the Formula 750 and the 500cc world championship races. If that wasn’t enough he also took on the clock and set the lap records in both events. It was a dominant performance. At the start of the 28-lap race Sheene needed his usual extra-long push to start his bike (he would later admit to being rubbish at
push-starting bikes, not least because of his ongoing battle with the metal holding his legs together) and after a comparatively sluggish start it took Barry several laps to make it up to the back wheel of race-leading Phil Read. While Sheene was making his way up the order, first lap race leader Tepi Länsivuori ended up on his backside after losing control of his Suzuki on lap four when he hit an oil patch.
Agostini was intent on being part of the final lap fun, riding hard to stay in second place to Sheene until two laps from the end when he crashed thanks to a rapidly deflating front tyre that had picked up a puncture. Any hopes fans at Sweden might have had of a dramatic conclusion were quickly dismissed though, because with race leader Sheene not in the running for the world title there was little point in Read risking a fall and robbing himself of a hatful of useful points, all for a scrap with Barry who was not to be denied his second moment of 500cc glory. So it was that Read comfortably toured around in second place, seriously increasing his prospect of another 500 title. It was John Williams on a 380cc Yamaha who did a great job by finishing third, beating the works MV of Gianfranco Bonera. Both Kawasakis of Barry Ditchburn and Mick Grant didn’t get to the finish due to ignition problems but Ditchburn did have something to smile about, being the second heat winner of the 200 mile F750 race and overall second on the 750 Kawasaki to Sheene. It was a comfortable 500 race for Sheene who eventually won by a huge margin of 51 seconds. German Dieter Braun finished after a long battle with Bonera fifth ahead of Finn Pentti Korhonen, Frenchman Gerard Choukroun, Brazilian Edmar Ferrera, Australian Jack Findlay and Finn Pekka Nurmi, all onyamahas. Out of 31 starters only 15 finished the race and only seven of them weren’t lapped by Sheene – it really was an impressive performance by Barry in Sweden. Overall there were only two more races to happen in the season and it was boiling down to a heated scrap between Read and Ago – the only candidates left in the battle for the title. With just six results counting out of 10 finishes it had so far been Agostini, who only scored four times. Read had scored
seven times already meaning that only a win or a second place would increase his total of points-scoring finishes. However, with two wins or two second places, Agostini could still be crowned as the 1975 500cc world champion. With it all still to play for, Ago had to be right on his game to grab the crown. With a 1-2-3 win ‘it was a great day to be British’ headlined the papers. In motorcycle racing history a completely British podium in the premier class had only happened 11 times before and what makes this particular result all the more iconic is that this was the last time that such a thing happened in 500GP.
Left: Programme cover from the 1975 Swedish GP Main: Start of the 500cc race. From right: #37 Pekka Nurmi SF Yamaha – #24 Charlie Williams GB Yamaha – #22 Pentti Korhonen SF Yamaha – #6 Dieter Braun D Yamaha – #(11) Mick Grant GB Kawasaki GB – #1 Phil Read GB MV Agusta – #3 Armando Toracca IT Suzuki – #36 Philippe Coulon CH Yamaha – #25 Tom Herron N–IRL Yamaha – #42 Bo Granath SV Husqvarna – #28 John Williams GB Yamaha – #5 Tepi Länsivuori SF Suzuki – #(31) Tapio Virtanen SF Yamaha – #(26) Karl Auer A Yamaha – #33 Björn Hassli N Yamaha – #2 Gianfranco Bonera MV Agusta (still pushing) – #45 Ingemar Larsson SV Yamaha – #4 Giacomo Agostini IT Yamaha – #46 Olivier Chevallier FR Yamaha – #8 Jack Findlay AUS Yamaha – #10 Patrick Pons FR Yamaha – #18 Chas Mortimer GB Yamaha – #32 Gerard Choukroun FR Yamaha – #(12) Barry Ditchburn GB Kawasaki – #20 Mimmo Cazzaniga HD – #15 John Newbold GB Suzuki (still pushing) – #27 Alex George Scot Yamaha – #7 Barry Sheene GB Suzuki.
Below: A thirsty Sheene enjoying an apple juice and the inseparable fag after his second 500cc Grand Prix win.
After the first lap Tepi Länsivuori is leading Phil Read, Giacomo Agostini, Pekka Nurmi, Pentti Korhonen and John Williams. Barry Sheene had a bad start and can be seen in 12th place at the back of the following group led by Patrick Pons.
Above: Tepi Länsivuori leading Barry Sheene and Barry Ditchburn in the F750 race. Barry Sheene was the overall winner of the two-heat event ahead of Ditchburn on the Kawasaki.
Above: Arturo Magni and his crew working in the open air on Read’s MV. It seems that after decades of absolute power the Italian machine es’ domination had come to an end.Right: No need to tell Barry how to celebrate.Left: It took Barry Sheene some time e to get up to the leaders Phil Read a and Giacomo Agostini.
Two Brits following MV Agusta rider Gianfranco Bonera – Charlie Williams and John Williams. Charlie had a DNF and John did beat the MV rider on the 380 Yamaha.
Phil Read on the MV Agusta on his way to second place and valuable points.
An all-british 500cc Grand Prix rostrum, the very last in the history of motorcycle racing. Barry Sheene is supplying the bubbles for the photographer and Phil Read is enjoying the attention of a podium friend. But John Williams is the happiest of them all finishing third in Sweden, a great job after his second place at the IOM.