exceptionally talented and precise motorcycle racer,
Jarno Saarinen sat at the birth of Yamahas prominence
in the premier class of Grand Prix road racing. The
'Flying Finn' - 39 years after his 250cc world championship
success with Yamaha still marks him as the sole title
winner from his country sadly fills one of
the tragic chapters in Yamahas competitive history
as his untimely death at 27 years of age at Monza
ended what was a bright new dawn for the rider, company
and motorcycle racing on the whole.
A qualified mechanical engineer, Saarinens
passion for racing turned his head away from studies
even though a methodical consideration of his profession
led to an alternative and more angled riding style
and a reputation as a forward-thinking competitor.
Saarinen was the new star of the middle capacity categories
and came into the Yamaha Factory Team after using
TR3 and TD2 and 3 machinery to place 2nd and 3rd in
the 1971 350 and 250cc GP series respectively.
In 1972 he obliterated his rivals with nine podiums
to grasp the 250cc crown and was the natural candidate
to front Yamahas exciting venture into the 500cc
division with the OW20; better known as the first
ever YZR500. This potent four cylinder two-stroke
technology caused ripples through the racing world
as Saarinen won by a comfortable margin on his debut
at the fast Paul Ricard circuit for the French Grand
Prix. He was also triumphant in Austria for round
two while at the same time still finding the chance
to claim the opening three races of the 250cc competition
on the OW17.
The next event was the fateful meeting in Italy and
Yamaha withdrew from the rest of the campaign as a
mark of respect to the loss of their racing jewel.
Only 46 Grands Prix and three seasons yielded 32 podiums,
and one title could have been many more. Giacomo Agostini
would eventually provide Yamaha with their maiden
500cc championship in 1975 but it could easily have
come two years earlier. Jarno Saarinen was inducted
into the MotoGP Hall of Fame in 2009.