Classic GP: Anderstorp 1974

Drama rears its racing head for Barry Sheene and Giacomo Agostini in Sweden.

Words and photographs: Jan Burgers

The eighth round of the 500cc World Championship took place at a quiet, open place in the woods of Sweden. Part of the circuit was an airstrip and it was at this very fast part of the circuit that a drama struck two works riders.

The start of the FIM 750 race gives an impression of the start area. Apart from a 3/4-mile-long airstrip this was the only other straight on the circuit. The 750 race was won by Chas Mortimer on a 351 Yamaha. The FIM had banned the Yamaha 700cc bikes from Formula 750 and the race was declared an open race by the Swedish organisation. Apart from the John Player Nortons, no serious 750 contenders competed.

With only three races to go, Phil Read, Giacomo Agostini, Tepi Länsivuori and even Barry Sheene were still in the race to win the world title.

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During practice flying Finn Länsivuori set the fastest lap on the four-cylinder Yamaha. Second and third on the row were Sheene on the works Suzuki and Agostini on a works Yamaha.

In the second lap of the race Sheene crashed at 130mph, just before the brake point at the end of the 3/4-mile-long airstrip. Phil Read could just avoid the crash, however Agostini, who was right behind Sheene, panicked, slammed the front brake and also crashed into the steel wire netting. Both riders were very lucky that at the end of that airstrip there were no Armco barriers. This time it was not the gearbox but a seized water pump that caused the crash. Both riders were transported to hospital and Ago was diagnosed with severe shoulder damage and a broken collarbone. Sheene hurt his ankle badly, had a stiff neck and concussion.

Meanwhile, Pentti Korhonen was leading the race on an Arwidson 351 Yamaha, just in front of his countryman Länsivuori on the Yamaha 500.

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MV Agusta riders Read and Gianfranco Bonera were duelling for third place. However, Bonera’s MV suffered from gearbox problems and nearly threw him off the bike, as had happened before in practice.

Jack Findlay, who rode behind, could not avoid Bonera, who was struggling to stay aboard the bike and crashed into the MV. Findlay fell off the works Suzuki and Bonera miraculously controlled the MV and continued the race.

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