Classic Racer - - PEOPLE -

It is worth point­ing out at this stage that none of the rid­ers was sug­gest­ing that the TT should be banned be­cause of its dan­gers. That was and still is an emo­tive sub­ject, and one which is still dis­cussed to this day when­ever rid­ers die on the Is­land – which they still do and, given the very na­ture of the Moun­tain course, prob­a­bly al­ways will. But in 1972, no-one was de­mand­ing the ban­ning of the en­tire event. The rid­ers do­ing the com­plain­ing at that time were sim­ply ask­ing the FIM to re­move the race from the World Cham­pi­onship cal­en­dar. Their point was, that the need for pro­fes­sional GP rid­ers to spend two weeks prac­tic­ing and rac­ing around the world’s long­est (at 37.75 miles) and most danger­ous course in or­der to pur­sue valu­able Cham­pi­onship points was a sit­u­a­tion that needed to be taken out of their ca­reer equa­tion. This was a point that had ac­tu­ally been raised two years pre­vi­ously. The rider who did so was none other than the forthright Aus­tralian, Kel Carruthers, the 1969 World 250 Cham­pion and the win­ner of the 250 TT in both 1969 and 1970. Dur­ing the course of his Grand Prix ca­reer, Kel rode in 19 TT races be­tween 1966 and 1970. Of those races he failed to fin­ish seven times but his TT credit bal­ance was mas­sively weighted in his favour thanks to those two wins in 1969 and 70, plus a sec­ond, a third and three other top six places. In the dozen TT races that he did fin­ish, he never placed lower than 12th. It was a TT record of which any­one could jus­ti­fi­ably be proud and Kel cer­tainly is. When I in­ter­viewed him for a Yamaha doc­u­men­tary film at the Clas­sic TT in 2013, he had no hes­i­ta­tion in nam­ing his TT wins as the race suc­cesses of which he is most proud. “You win a TT and it re­ally is some­thing spe­cial,” he said. Nev­er­the­less, the Aus­tralian has never been afraid to speak his mind and in 1970 had been the first star rider to speak out against the TT and ques­tion whether it should be part of the World Cham­pi­onship. That was the year in which Kel and his fel­low Yamaha rider, Rod Gould had been en­gaged in a three-way battle for the World 250cc Cham­pi­onship along with Span­ish star, San­ti­ago Her­rero on the un­fea­si­bly fast sin­gle-cylin­der OSSA. It was a battle that came to a tragic end when Her­rero crashed to his death in the TT af­ter un­ex­pect­edly en­coun­ter­ing a patch of molten tar in the chal­leng­ing left-hand cor­ner at the 13th mile­stone on the sixth and fi­nal lap of the race, while in third place be­hind Carruthers and Gould. Six rid­ers were trag­i­cally killed dur­ing prac­tic­ing and rac­ing in 1970 – an hor­ren­dous death toll which led to Carruthers very pub­licly and coura­geously speak­ing out at the prize-giv­ing cer­e­mony and stat­ing his opin­ion that the TT should no longer have a place in World Cham­pi­onship rac­ing. He backed his opin­ion with his ac­tions and never com­peted in the TT again. In fact, af­ter nar­rowly los­ing his world ti­tle to Rod Gould in 1970 he left the GP cir­cus, moved to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and es­tab­lished an­other equally suc­cess­ful – and prob­a­bly more lu­cra­tive – ca­reer as both a rider and even­tu­ally team manager with Yamaha USA.


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