Jarno Saarinen: Our hero and inspiration

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The digital era has allowed history to be instantly accessible, the need for libraries and books lessened. Periods in time: decades of data, facts and figures laid bare in readiness for us to digest. We are reminded of the winners and the heroes of past sporting eras but also developments in engineering, material technology and standards of safety - how a combination of these aspects have improved the sports we follow today.

Underlying any event of a competitive nature lies man’s primeval desire to compete, to test, to challenge oneself against others. Some are born with this spirit, this talent to achieve greatness. As spectators we are left to marvel at the drive of such individuals - every generation has its gifted protege.

Motorcycle racing has always been an integral part of this publication’s DNA. It’s that heroism, that driven desire to win between man and machine we respect, acknowledge and wish to share. Back in the 70s the sport had moved on from ‘Pudding basin’ helmets and all-black leathers -the advent of full face helmets and multi-coloured, sponsor ladened leathers now ruled the day. Race bikes too had progressed they were now quicker more powerful machines no longer derived directly from their street bike ancestry.

The circuits at which they raced were becoming faster more established, more organised money making opportunities that capitalised on the draw of increasingly larger crowds. Unfortunately safety standards had not advanced at the same pace, many dangerous high speed sections still displayed only the rudimentary straw bales and car tyre barriers native to their airfield roots.

The name Jarno Saarinen appeared with the greatest motorcycle racers of the 70s - hailed by many as the sports ‘Golden Era’. He was his own man, he did things in a peculiar yet unique way: a driven individual in the same mindset as Tom Simpson. From humble Finnish origins he became the country’s first and, to date, only World Motorcycle racing Champion. Termed by most as the greatest up and coming rider of this generation, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of multiple World Champion Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read while also doubling up as his own mechanic. Often winning races against larger capacity machines by sheer skill and domination - his achievements speak for themselves.

A modest man with era defining good looks, a beautiful yet dedicated wife and above all a works contract - the world lay at Jarno’s feet. You’ll see the images of him always smiling, always relaxed, in charge of his destiny and at peace with life. He would have been 74 this year - his riding talent like his legend will always live on.