Monday, May 20, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, May 20, 1973


  Italy's Renzo Pasolini and Finland's Jarno Saarinen are both killed during the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Italy. 


  Renzo "Paso" Pasolini was wildly popular with racing fans with his unpredictable and unrehearsed racing style.  Pasolini's rivalry with Giacomo "Ago" Agostini divided Italian racing fans (and the hearts of many a young woman) and while Pasolini's style brought mixed results, it earned him a place in Italian motorcycling lore.


  Jarno Karl Keimo Saarinen was an accomplished Speedway racer as well as the Finnish National ice-racing champion in 1963.  Unlike most Grand Prix racers Jarno didn't begin his GP career until he was 25. 



  Despite the installation of new chicanes for cars during the previous year's Formula One season (one was placed before the Curva Grande and one at Vialone), for some reason they were not used for motorcycle racing at Monza.  On the first lap of the 250cc class race Pasolini fell in front of Saarinen.  Jarno was unable to avoid him and fell as well, causing an insane chain-reaction that would involve fourteen riders and result in the deaths of Jarno and Renzo with many of the other 14 riders seriously injured.


  In 1986, Ducati introduced the Ducati Paso, named after Pasolini and designed by Massimo Tamburini, co-founder of Bimota.


  Jarno Saarinen's legacy continues to live on.  There is still an active Saarinen fan club in Italy.  The birth name Jarno became very popular in Italy of many newborn boys in the '70s.  One of them is Jarno Trulli, the former Formula-1 driver. 


  Saarinen remains the only Finn to have won a motorcycle road racing World Championship, winning 15 Grand Prix races during his short career.  In 2009, the F.I.M. inducted Saarinen into the MotoGP Hall of Fame.