WHATEVER HAPPENED TO Pat Hennen SUBSCRIBE TO MCN AND RECEIVE AN OXFORD ROLL BAG Visit Call the hotline NOW WORTH
America’s first GP winner and Sheene’s team-mate O Easy grab carry handles O Waterproof roll top closure O External and internal pockets for small items O Wipe-clean, waterproof construction with welded seams O Padded shoulder strap for added comfort O Fr
Pat Hennen became the first American rider to win a 500cc Grand Prix when he took the Finnish round at Imatra in 1976. As team-mate to Barry Sheene in the factory Suzuki squad he would go on to take three victories – including winning the very first British GP – and 12 podiums from just 26 GP starts. He was arguably the last major GP star to tackle the TT and set the first-ever sub-20 minute lap there in 1978, in what was only his second attempt. Sadly, his career was cut short following a horrendous crash later in the same Senior race and he never raced again. He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007.
Wasn’t Kenny Roberts the first American rider to win a 500GP? No, although that’s what most people think. Hennen beat him to it by two years – Roberts didn’t win a GP until 1978. Hennen’s win at Imatra in Finland was so unexpected that the race organisers didn’t even have a copy of the American national anthem to play as Hennen stepped onto the podium.
How good was he? Good enough to finish third in the world behind Barry Sheene and Tepi Lansivouri in his debut year in 1976 and third again behind Sheene and Steve Baker in 1977. When Hennen won in Imatra in ’76, it was only his GP. Did he get on with Sheene? No. Sheene felt threatened by Hennen’s talent and was not happy about having him as his team-mate. ‘I was an American and Barry knew that if I started beating him then Suzuki GB might lose its control of GP team,’ Hennen says. ‘He was right. For him, the ideal situation was to have an all-british GP team – which is what it had been until I came along. I was fairly confident I was going to win the championship and if I had won, I was going to insist that the GP team had some autonomy from Suzuki GB.’
Could he have won the world championship in 1978? When he crossed the Irish Sea to contest the 1978 TT, Hennen was only two points adrift of Roberts in the title standings so there’s every chance he could have beaten Roberts to become