Jarno Saarinen

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Jarno Saarinen
Jarno Saarinen colour.JPG
Nationality Finnish
Born (1945-12-11)11 December 1945
Turku, Finland
Died 20 May 1973(1973-05-20) (aged 27)
Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy
Motorcycle racing career statistics
Grand Prix motorcycle racing
Active years 19701973
First race 1970 250cc West German Grand Prix
Last race 1973 250cc Nations Grand Prix
First win 1971 350cc Czechoslovakian Grand Prix
Last win 1973 250cc West German Grand Prix
Team(s) Yamaha
Championships 250cc – 1972
Starts Wins Podiums Poles F. laps Points
46 15 32 N/A 15

Jarno Karl Keimo Saarinen (11 December 1945 – 20 May 1973) was a Finnish professional Grand Prix motorcycle road racer.[1] In the early 1970s, he was considered one of the most promising and accomplished motorcycle racers of his era until he was killed during the 1973 Nations Grand Prix in Italy.[2][3] Saarinen's death led to increased demands for better safety conditions for motorcycle racers competing in the world championships.[2] He remains the only Finn to have won a motorcycle road racing world championship. Saarinen was inducted into the F.I.M. MotoGP Hall of Fame in 2009.[4]

Career[edit]

Saarinen on ice in 1963

Early in his career Saarinen won the Finnish ice track racing championship. Saarinen was also an accomplished motorcycle speedway racer.[2] He had studied mechanical engineering and thus could modify his bike in addition to riding it.[2] For example, in order for him to ride using his "hang-off" style, he lowered the handle bars and angled them downwards at an extreme angle.

Saarinen began his Grand Prix career during the 1970 season, at the age of 25.[1] He finished fourth in the 250cc class, despite missing the last three races to return to his engineering degree studies - before a DNF at the Finnish TT he was tied for second.[1] In 1971 Saarinen competed in both 250cc and 350cc classes. He won his first Grand Prix that year, claiming the 350cc class in Czechoslovakia. He finished third in 250cc World Championship and second in 350cc.[1]

His success didn't go unnoticed as Yamaha signed him to ride its TD3 and TR3 bikes. For the 1972 season, Saarinen was given the second YZ635 works 250 after Barry Sheene complained about its performance at the third round in Austria and delivered as expected, winning the 250cc World Championship.[1] He finished second in 350cc World Championship, giving defending champion Giacomo Agostini a strong challenge.[1]

Yamaha developed a new, four cylinder, two-stroke 500cc bike for the 1973 season and chose Saarinen to ride it.[2] Finally, Saarinen was ready to challenge Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read in the 500cc class with competitive equipment. Saarinen's 1973 season started well, as he became the first European rider to win the prestigious Daytona 200 race in the United States on a TZ350 against much larger-capacity opposition. He returned to Europe where, against an impressive field of competitors, he claimed a victory at the prestigious Imola 200 pre-season invitational race.[5][6]

Saarinen jumped to an early lead in the Grand Prix championships by winning his first 500cc race, then the premier racing class. His win was also the first win for the new, four cylinder Yamaha. Saarinen went on to win the first three 250cc rounds and the first two of three 500cc rounds, before suffering a broken chain in the third.[1] It seemed he was on the brink of consolidating these titles, with the opportunity to compete in the 350cc class if or when the 250cc title was certain.

However, his 1973 season ended in tragedy on 20 May 1973, the fourth Grand Prix of the season held at Monza near Milan, Italy.[2] Despite the installation of two new chicanes for cars during the previous year's Formula One season (placed before the Curva Grande and at Vialone) they were not used for motorcycle racing at Monza. The second-placed Renzo Pasolini fell in front of Saarinen. He couldn't avoid the fallen rider and the resulting crash caused a multiple rider pile up. In all, 14 riders were embroiled in the mayhem that resulted with Saarinen and Pasolini dead and many other riders seriously injured.[7]

Over the years, the crash was subjected to significant controversy. The original cause of the crash was attributed to a spill left on the track during the 350cc race when Walter Villa's Benelli began leaking on the penultimate lap.[8] Race officials failed to remove the spillage prior to the 250cc race, and one rider, John Dodds, made his concerns known to authorities, only to meet with threats of ejection from the circuit by police.[8] However, some articles have appeared showing photos of Pasolini's bike consistent with engine seizure, locking the rear wheel and causing the crash.[9] Further the official inquiry into the accident, issued in September 1973 found that the cause of the accident was the seizure of the engine in the motorcycle of Renzo Pasolini.[9]

Jarno Saarinen's grave in Turku, Finland.

Legacy[edit]

The tragedy at Monza was a shock to the motorcycle racing community. Two of the sports best riders had been lost and racing teams banded together to demand safer conditions at race tracks. However, only forty days later, three riders in a Juniors race were killed in the same turn.[2] The factory-teams of Suzuki, MV Agusta, Harley Davidson, and Yamaha joined together to fight for better race conditions. One month after the Nations Grand Prix, race teams took a stand and boycotted the Yugoslavian Grand Prix held at the treacherous Opatija Circuit due to dangerous track conditions.[10] Yamaha went further by withdrawing from racing for the rest of the year to honour Saarinen's memory.[2] At the time, many races were held on street circuits with hazards such as telephone poles and railroad crossings. Dedicated race tracks of the time were also dangerous for motorcyclist due to the steel trackside barriers preferred by auto racers.[2] The deaths of Saarinen and Pasolini led to safer conditions for motorcycle racers.[2]

Jarno Saarinen's legacy continues to live on. There still is an active Saarinen fan club in Italy, and the name Jarno became very popular in Italy in the '70s, one well-known bearer being former Formula-1 driver Jarno Trulli.[3] Saarinen remains the only Finn to have won a motorcycle road racing world championship, winning 15 Grand Prix during his career. In 2009, the F.I.M. inducted Saarinen into the MotoGP Hall of Fame.[4]

Motorcycle Grand Prix results[1][edit]

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Points 15 12 10 8 6 5 4 3 2 1

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position; races in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Points Rank Wins
1970 250cc Yamaha GER
6
FRA
4
YUG
4
IOM
-
NED
3
BEL
4
DDR
4
CZE
3
FIN
DNF
ULS
-
NAT
-
ESP
-
57 4th 0
1971 50 cc Kreidler AUT
-
GER
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
-
CZE
-
SWE
-
NAT
6
ESP
2
17 12th 0
250cc Yamaha AUT
8
GER
-
IOM
-
NED
-
BEL
-
DDR
5
CZE
3
SWE
3
FIN
6
ULS
2
NAT
5
ESP
1
64 3rd 1
350cc Yamaha AUT
6
GER
5
IOM
-
NED
-
DDR
-
CZE
1
SWE
3
FIN
2
ULS
-
NAT
1
ESP
-
63 2nd 2
1972 250cc Yamaha GER
3
FRA
4
AUT
2
NAT
3
IOM
-
YUG
-
NED
3
BEL
1
DDR
1
CZE
1
SWE
2
FIN
1
ESP
-
94 1st 4
350cc Yamaha GER
1
FRA
1
AUT
4
NAT
3
IOM
-
YUG
-
NED
2
DDR
-
CZE
1
SWE
3
FIN
2
ESP
-
89 2nd 3
1973 250cc Yamaha FRA
1
AUT
1
GER
1
IOM
-
NAT
DNF
- - - - - - - - 45 4th 3
500cc Yamaha FRA
1
AUT
1
GER
DNF
IOM
-
NAT
-
- - - - - - - - 30 7th 2

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rider Statistics - Jarno Saarinen". MotoGP.com. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The darkest day". motorsportmagazine.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b "Jarno Saarinen 1945 - 1973". mylifeatspeed.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  4. ^ a b "MotoGP Legends". motogp.com. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Imola 200 Miles". agv.com. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  6. ^ "Imola 200". cyclenews.com. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Jarno Saarinen at Motorsport Memorial". motorsportmemorial.org. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  8. ^ a b "Jarno Saarinen". mcnews.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26. 
  9. ^ a b "www.TZ350.net". Archived from the original on August 21, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-21. 
  10. ^ "Preluk - Opatija". racingcircuits.info. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 

External links[edit]


Preceded by
Phil Read
250cc Motorcycle World Champion
1972
Succeeded by
Dieter Braun