These days, group photos are all the rage. At every race meeting or event, all the racers competing are required to line up on or near the S/F line and have their photo taken to commemorate the event. Of course, the availability of digital photography that allows you to take, literally, thousands of photos makes this pretty easy. And the requirement for riders to be much more a part of the PR machine than what they used to be also makes this process simpler.
But it wasn’t always the way. Indeed, there were many occasions where “official” photos didn’t get taken at all and we rely now on the output of a dedicated band of amateur photographers who followed “the circus” and documented it as best they could. We are so lucky that they did, too.
Because, (yes, I know, you shouldn’t start a sentence with a subordinate conjunction, but, hey, sue me.) but for the efforts of these unsung heroes, our knowledge of racing life back then would be much less detailed than it is. In my own experience I can point to two instances where, as far as I know, nobody else but me was on hand, with a camera, to record an historic racing event. The first is my oft-posted pics of Wayne Gardner at his first-ever road race meeting at Oran Park in November 1976.
The second also dates from 1976, just a mere month before the OP pic and is from Hume Weir, the little circuit near Albury that has now vanished from sight, sadly. At a meeting that originally wasn’t even going to be held there and in front of a tiny crowd since the event had been shifted to the venue at the last minute, Murray Sayle, riding for Team Kawasaki Australia, recorded the first-ever win on their new KR250 longitudinal two stroke twin. I know there were a couple of other photographers there that day but, as far as I know, nobody else but me got the money shot of Murray taking the checkered flag for that internationally-historic win. I say as far as I know because I believe that, if anyone else HAD done so, they would have said so by now, some 47 years later.
That’s the late Steve Trinder coming home in 2nd place (obscured by the flagman)
Which brings me, in a roundabout sort of way, to the photo at the head of the article. It is also much-published but it’s worth publishing again because it is snapshot of the greatest era of Australian motorcycle road racing history. The photo was taken by an uncredited photographer, in the pits at Imola, in Italy, on the occasion of the Imola 200 race. This was not a Grand Prix race but a one-off event, staged by the Italian track as a copy of, or tribute to, the famous Daytona 200 race in the United States.
It was staged for 750cc bikes, for which there was an already-existing World Championship (which actually finished in 1979). Given that there were still plenty of 750cc two race bikes available and that the championship was still running, there wasn’t any shortage of starters. The category was still hugely popular with the fans and with the factories and the brightest and best had the Imola 200 on their calendars from when it started in 1972 to when it finished in 1985.
History will show that the 1978 race, when this photo was taken, was won by Venezuelan star, Johnny Cecotto, followed by American star, Steve Baker and the local hero, Giacomo Agostini, all of them on Yamaha TZ750s.
But, what of the photo? Well, it represents the era where more Aussies went overseas to race than at any time either before or since. While it does not include all of the Aussies who were in Europe trying to make an impression, it includes a big sample of them and we must be grateful to that unknown photographer who assembled this crowd and took the shot.
So, who is in it? I’m sure you can name nearly all of them, though the identity of the bearded man sitting at the extreme left of the photo has exercised the minds of many and the mystery was finally solved but I can’t remember now the name!
In this illustrious group is Gregg Hansford, Kenny Blake, Greg Johnson, Neville Doyle, Alan Adams, Jeff Sayle, Warren Willing (that’s his TZ750 in the photo as well), Graeme Macgregor and Ray Quincey. The lady is Greg Johnson’s partner at the time and the other names have fled for the moment. Sadly, several of these riders are no longer with us which makes the photo even more poignant.
Isn’t it amazing what one photograph can do?