The Yamaha Racing Heritage Club celebrated the golden two-stroke era at the Autodromo Varano De Melegari “Ricardo Paletti” last weekend, allowing fans to see motorcycling legends such as Giacomo Agostini, Carlos Lavado, and Christian Sarron reunited with their iconic Yamaha race bikes from decades past.
The ASI Motoshow was the first of four YRHC events in 2022. A star-studded line-up of bikes and riders from the past and present lit up the atmosphere at the circuit, despite mixed weather conditions, ensuring that visitors got to re-live the sights and sounds of yesteryear. The recently formed YRHC aims to safeguard and showcase the racing history of the Japanese manufacturer. It allows owners of classic Yamaha race bikes to become members and gain access to advanced technical support by registering their machines on the official YRHC database.
To demonstrate this, the YRHC historic bikes on display in Varano spanned over 33 years of racing, including Phil Read’s 1969 350cc TR2, a selection of TZ750s from the 1970s, Kenny Roberts’ 1981 YZR500 0W53, plus the YZR500 0W81 on which Eddie Lawson won the 1986 500cc World Championship title. Twice 250cc World Champion Luca Cadalora’s 1990 YZR250 was another star attraction, along with the Yamaha YZR500 ROC that “Fast” Freddie Spencer rode in 1993, and one of the last two strokes raced in the premier class in the form of Norick Abe’s YZR500 0WL9 from 2002.
Among the show’s highlights was 15-time World Champion Giacomo Agostini being reunited with the 1977 TZ750D on which he won his last World Championship race at Hockenheim. The 79-year-old delighted the fans by taking the bike out on track alongside his son Giacomino, who rode a modern-day Yamaha R6 GYTR. Ago won 122 GPs during an illustrious racing career that lasted over 17 years, plus secured a further three 500cc world titles as a Yamaha Team Manager. He was delighted to be reunited with his old machine: “Getting back on my bike is definitely always a pleasure. I am riding my old Yamaha that I used to ride many years ago. It is amazing and something very special.”
The Italian racing legend also presented the keys to the owner of the first 35KW Yamaha R7 registered in Europe, 18-year-old Gemma Torricelli, which fittingly featured Yamaha’s 60th-anniversary white and red livery commemorating the manufacturer’s entry into its first ever Grand Prix in 1961. Gemma was delighted to meet one of her heroes and even got him to sign the fuel tank: “Honestly, it was a complete shock! I did not know I would get to meet Giacomo, and it was a wonderful moment; plus, I got his signature on the bike. I am a huge racing fan, so meeting such a legend was unbelievable.”
Agostini was joined on track for the Parade Lap on Saturday and the Lap of Champions on Sunday by two-time 250cc World Champion Carlos Lavado, with the charismatic Venezuelan showcasing both bikes on which he won titles, his 1983 TZ250 and his YZR250 from 1986. Lavado’s great rival and friend, 1984 250cc World Champion Christian Sarron, also joined in the action on his 1977 TZ750, along with Hubert Rigal and local hero Loris Reggiani, with all of the riders taking the time to pose for photographs, sign autographs and regale the fans with racing stories from times gone by.
It wasn’t just icons from the past that entertained the crowds. Andrea Locatelli swapped his Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK R1 for a replica of Johnny Cecotto’s Formula 750 World Championship winning YZR750 to join in the parade lap. Both Loka and Ago are from Bergamo near Milan, and the 2020 FIM Supersport World Champion asked the 79-year-old for advice before taking to the track alongside one of his racing idols on a two-stroke bike that is entirely different to his current steed. The 25-year-old clearly enjoyed himself, commenting afterwards: “I have never tried something like this before, it’s unbelievable and gave me a big smile!”
After such a successful first event, the Yamaha Racing Heritage Club is now gearing up for the Sunday Ride Classic at Circuit Paul Ricard in France on the 11th and 12th of June, where it will give fans a chance to celebrate the success of the Yamaha TZ250 alongside riders like Lavado and Sarron and their respective championship-winning bikes. The third event on the calendar is the ADAC Sachsenring Classic on the 15th-17th of July, followed by the Classic Motorcycle Festival from the 31st of July to the 1st of August at Donington Park in the UK.
Director, Marketing and Motorsport, Yamaha Motor Europe
“The first event of the Yamaha Racing Heritage Club in Varano has been a great success. The YRHC was set up to benefit owners of our historic race bikes, and it is the passion of these collectors who are restoring, maintaining and riding classic Yamaha race bikes that inspired us. Our aim is not only to allow us to preserve Yamaha’s racing legacy but also to let us understand how we can best support and help these owners. Each event in 2022 will allow us to celebrate our heritage and also allow us to get to know our collectors and fans better so that in 2023 we can build on this and create a dedicated event just for them. We want to share not only our passion with the myriad of Yamaha racing fans out there but also inform and excite people who may not be aware of the incredible stories behind these legendary bikes and riders.”