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focus 06-43

coMMENT 44-47

BIKE LIfE 48-71

sPoRT 92-104

04.04.2012 Wednesday

41

Imola 500GP grid, 1977

Now that’s what you call a grid As we await MotoGP 2012 this weekend with 21 bikes on the grid (a number boosted by the introduction of production-engined CRT bikes), here’s 30 500cc two-strokes, four and five abreast, jostling for position before the 1977 Italian 500 GP at Imola, 35 years ago. At the previous race at the Nurburgring there were 45 starters. Of course, it was dead-engine starts back then: that tingling moment of silence, the pitter-patter of feet, the clatter of clutches engaging… an explosion of ear-splitting noise as 120 two-stroke cylinders fire into smoky, angry life… heads under the bubble, legs dangling behind, front wheels kicking skyward, collisions avoided by mere inches as the pack hurtles towards Imola’s infamous Tamburello curve. There are some legendary names here: reigning world champ Barry Sheene on pole, alongside champ-to-be Marco Lucchinelli, ex-MV man Franco Bonera, the USA’s first world champ Steve Baker and French privateer Michel Rougerie on his tiger-striped Suzuki RG500. Square-four RGs were the mainstay of the 500 grid at the time and cost £12,000, which is £62,000 in today’s money. Makes modern-day MotoGP sound like a rip off, doesn’t it? On row two is Giacomo Agostini, the most successful bike racer of all and blessed with the number-one plate for his home race, even though he wasn’t the champ. Ago must be deep in thought, for this was his last Italian GP at the close of a 14-year GP career. At the top of the third row is Virginio Ferrari, who chased winner Sheene all the way in the race. Alberto Torraca (46) came in a close third, two seconds down on Sheene. At the bottom of row three, dear old Aussie privateer Jack Findlay bravely resists the fashion for those new-fangled full-face helmets. Findlay started his GP career on a Manx Norton way back in 1961! He won his final GP just a few weeks before Imola, after the top riders walked out of the Salzburgring following a fatal pile-up. Findlay probably needed the petrol money to get to the next race. Look even further down the grid and you’ll spot Graziano Rossi in his 500 debut and Britain’s Steve Parrish. getty images

THE WEEK 04-05

US MotoGP, 2011: fewer than half the riders. No wonder Dorna hit the CRT panic button


41_Apr4 p40-41 Big Picture.CDP