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Jarno Saarinen

Jarno Saarinen.
Jarno Saarinen
Motorcycle Grand Prix Career
Nationality 22px-Flag of Finland.png Finnish
Active years 1970 - 1973
Team(s) Yamaha
Grands Prix 46
Championships 250cc - 1972
Wins 15
Podium finishes    32
Pole positions N/A
Fastest laps N/A
First Grand Prix 1970 250cc West German Grand Prix
First win 1971 350cc Czechoslovakian Grand Prix
Last win 1973 250cc West German Grand Prix
Last Grand Prix 1973 250cc Nations Grand Prix


Jarno Karl Keimo Saarinen (December 11, 1945 in Turku, Finland - May 20, 1973 in Monza, Italy) was a Grand Prix motorcycle road racer. He was the first Finn to win the road racing World Championship.

Career

Early in his career he won the ice track racing championship in Finland. He was also an accomplished motorcycle speedway racer. He had studied mechanical engineering and thus could fix his bike in addition to riding it. These skills allowed him to develop a new riding style. Saarinen was the first to ride corners with his body hanging off the bike with his knee near the ground. Kenny Roberts would later perfect the style after watching Saarinen race. The style is predominately still in use today.

Saarinen made his first appearance in the Grand Prix road racing World Championship at Imatra, Finland in 1968, finishing 9th in the 125cc class. During the 1970 season, at the age of 25, Saarinen competed in the 250cc (now GP2) class, finishing the season a respectable fourth place. Not only a racer but an unfinanced one-man team, he often caused amusement in the paddock by looking for "new" tyres and spare parts in the dumpsters of the professional teams. In 1971 Saarinen competed in both 250cc and 350cc classes. Saarinen won his first Grand Prix that year, claiming the 350cc class in Czechoslovakia. He finished third in 250cc World Championship and second in 350cc. His success didn't go unnoticed as Yamaha signed him to ride its 250cc and 350cc bikes for the 1972 season. Saarinen delivered as expected, winning the 250cc World Championship. He finished second in 350cc World Championship, giving defending champion Giacomo Agostini a strong challenge.

Yamaha developed a new, four cylinder, two-stroke 500cc bike for the 1973 season and chose Saarinen to ride it. Finally, Saarinen was ready to challenge Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read in the 500cc class with competitive equipment. Saarinen's 1973 season started amazingly well, given the fact he competed in the 250cc and 500cc classes. He jumped to an early lead in the championship race, winning the first three 250cc rounds and two out of three 500cc rounds. It seemed he was on the brink of running away with the titles.

Unfortunately, the season would end in tragedy. On May 20, 1973, the fourth Grand Prix of the season was held at Monza near Milan, Italy. A crash during the 350cc race left an oil slick at La Curva Grande, the first curve after the pit straight. Race officials had failed to clean the track surface properly between races (some forms of motorsport require a clay-based substance similar to cat litter to be applied on the track after oil leaks). On the opening lap of the 250cc race, track marshals didn't wave the yellow and red stripe oil flag warning riders of the oil slicked surface. The race leader, Renzo Pasolini fell in front of Saarinen, who was in second place. He couldn't avoid the fallen rider and the resulting crash caused a multiple rider pile up. Both riders died in the accident but the loss of Saarinen would have a major impact on the sport. Yamaha pulled out of racing for the rest of the season to honour Saarinen's memory.

Saarinen won 15 Grand Prix during his career.

Motorcycle Grand Prix results

Year Class Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Points Rank Wins
1970 250cc Yamaha W.GER
5
FRA
DNF
YUG
8
IOM
DNS
NED
10
BEL
8
E.GER
8
CZE
10
FIN
DNF
ULS
DNF
ULS
DNF
NAT
DNF
ESP
DNF
57 4th 0
1971 50cc Kreidler AUT
DNS
W.GER
DNS
NED
DNS
BEL
DNS
E.GER
DNS
CZE
DNS
SWE
DNS
FIN
DNS
ULS
DNS
NAT
5
ESP
12
17 12th 0
1971 250cc Yamaha AUT
3
W.GER
DNS
IOM
DNS
NED
DNS
BEL
DNS
E.GER
6
CZE
10
SWE
10
FIN
5
ULS
12
NAT
6
ESP
15
64 3rd 1
1971 350cc Yamaha AUT
5
W.GER
6
IOM
DNS
NED
DNF
E.GER
DNF
CZE
15
SWE
10
FIN
12
ULS
DNF
NAT
15
ESP
DNF
63 2nd 2
1972 250cc Yamaha W.GER
10
FRA
8
AUT
12
NAT
10
IOM
DNS
YUG
DNF
NED
10
BEL
15
E.GER
15
CZE
15
SWE
12
FIN
15
ESP
DNS
94 1st 4
1972 350cc Yamaha W.GER
15
FRA
15
AUT
8
NAT
10
IOM
DNS
YUG
DNF
NED
12
E.GER
DNF
CZE
15
SWE
10
FIN
12
ESP
DNF
89 2nd 3
1973 250cc Yamaha FRA
15
AUT
15
W.GER
15
IOM
DNS
NAT
DNF
- - - - - - - - 45 4th 3
1973 500cc Yamaha FRA
15
AUT
15
W.GER
DNF
IOM
DNS
NAT
DNS
- - - - - - - - 30 7th 2

Trivia

  • Saarinen is the only Finnish road racer to win a World Championship.
  • He still has an active fan club in Italy.
  • Italian Formula 1 driver Jarno Trulli was named after Saarinen.
  • He was the first European to win North America's prestigious Daytona 200, in 1973.

References

  • 50 Years Of Moto Grand Prix (1st edition). Hazelton Publishing Ltd, 1999. ISBN 1-874557-83-7

External links