Assen 1962: Auditions (250) and Bold (350)

Fifty-seven years ago, exactly on 30 June 1962, the spectacular and treacherous 7.704 km track of Assen was the fourth world championship round of a technically superb and exciting season. Among other things, the 50cc class debuted, fought between the micro-bridds of the Rising Sun (Honda, Suzuki) and those of the Netherlands (Kreidler), and for the first time the Finnish GP was run, as well as for the first time in the world carousel in single races a woman, Beryl Swain on the Itom 50, took part in it.

The Japanese, with the Honda (350, 250, 125, 50, then the 500 and with Suzuki first 50, then 125 and 250) – soon Yamaha and then Kawasaki will arrive – tried to break the only industry that still resisted their tsunami, the Italian one, on the field with MV Agusta in the 350 and 500, with Bianchi in the 350 and 500, with Morini and with Benelli in the 250, after the forfeit at the end of ’57 of Guzzi, Gilera, Mondial.

The strongest and most representative Italian pilots were Tarquinio Provini (at that time 29 years old, he passed from the MV Agusta 125 single and 250 official twin-cylinder to the Morini 250 official single 4-cylinder 4-ton engine) and Silvio Grassetti (at that time 26 years old, riding the Benelli 250 official 4-cylinder 4-ton engine and the Bianchi 350 and 500 official 2-cylinder 4-ton engine, in 1963 he passed to the MV Agusta 500).

There were also, occasionally, Tino Brambilla, Alberto Pagani, Gilberto Milani, Remo Venturi, Emilio Mendogni, Francesco Villa, Bruno Spaggiari before the arrival of people of the caliber of Renzo Pasolini, Walter Villa, Angelo Bergamonti, Giacomo Agostini etc.. The Varese-based MV Agusta in the world championship focused on English-speaking drivers, in this case the world-class Mike Hailwood and Gary Hocking.

On the windy plain of Assen, between a gust of water and a ray of sunshine, 250,000 spectators enjoyed a truly superb spectacle. I, the 13-year-old, was one of them at his debut in Assen as… an “interested spectator”. The main classes were the 250 and 350 where Honda was presented with an array to say the least superb: Phillis, Redman, McIntyre, Taveri, Minter, Robb.

Grassetti in 350 and Grassetti in 250, already acclaimed protagonists in the opening of the season of the Mototemporada Emilia-Romagna (memorable the triumph of Cesenatico of the combination of Pesaro Grassetti-Benelli “4” on the world Phillis-Honda and Redman-Honda) as well as the overture world of Montjuic and Clermont Ferrant, were the protagonists of two races “historic”, to frame. Only bad luck deprived the two Italians of their well-deserved triumph on a circuit made even more difficult by the continuous downpours.

In the quarter-litre, Provini was mowed by Robb at the first turn after the start, rolling battered to the ground. Rising up and back on the track furious, the Italian threw himself into a chase in his own right, overtaking more than 40 opponents and recovering something like 50 seconds! Like a hurricane, Tarquinio reached the fugitives Redman and McIntyre in the braking of the last curve with the latter to close the trajectory of Piacenza, which remained only the satisfaction of the third step of the podium after a race not without polemical trajectories up to the paddock.

At Provini and Morini, in addition to the applause, the icing (of great technical significance) of the fast lap-record at Kmh. 137,989! The same was true of the 350, this time starring Silvio Grassetti. Also the driver from Pesaro was slowed down in the initial fray, passing last at the end of the first lap. From there, among a thousand twists, the great comeback with the final coupling and the overtaking of Hailwood (MV Agusta) and Redman (Honda). One more lap and it would have been the apotheosis.

On the contrary, in the middle of the last lap, the bizarre candle makes the white-celestial twin-cylinder lame, forcing the ace from Pesaro to finish sad, third after the Rodesian and the English driver. Also for Grassetti the satisfaction of the lap-record at the average of 140.862 Kmh, in the wet! What a time, guys!

They were years of glory and mourning. In that year 1962, in every world championship weekend, a quarter of the riders did not finish the race due to falls. In that season, unfortunately in line with the previous ones and with those that will follow, there were 14 fatal falls. Among the others lost their lives the iridati Tom Phillis, Libero Liberati (in training), Gary Hocking (in F1) and other great champions such as Bob McIntyre. The motorcycling of: “The days of courage”, but also of anger and pain.

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