Yamaha Stars Roll Back The Years At Spa

There are few more historic and scenic motorsport circuits in the world than Spa Francorchamps, situated in the depths of southern Belgium. The venue was an appropriate setting for the 2008 Bikers' Classics, an event attended and enjoyed by 40,000 people over three days that saw a glittering and nostalgic array of machinery and former world champions, Grand Prix victors and racers from a by-gone era turn back the clock.

The Bikers' Classics is unique and nowhere is there such a gathering of motorcycles and riders able to offer such a splendid visual reminiscence of a very different racing age. From the immaculate gleam of the restored and preserved engines to the black leathers and the polished 'pudding bowl' helmets, Spa seemed to revel in the echo of the past and brought 'black and white' images to life for new generations.

Like all those years ago Yamaha was at the core of the paddock and was present through the Yamaha Classic Racing Team with 26 vintage machines, most of which were steered by their original pilots. The team was born from the vast tradition and success of the manufacturer throughout the classes since their entry into world championship racing in the 1960s.

One of Yamaha's star attractions was Giacomo Agostini, winner of the most premier class world titles and Grand Prix, on his Yamaha 500cc 0W23 with which he claimed the 1975 title; the first two-stroke to do so, and the bike which signalled the end of an Italian era of technical dominance.

Other Yamaha legends included Christian Sarron (500cc winner in 1985), Steve Baker (world championship contender in 1976), Chas Mortimer (up until recently the last British winner of a 125cc GP), Carlos Lavado (former 250cc champion), Kel Carruthers (250cc champion and the technical force behind names such as Kenny Roberts and Eddie Lawson), Rodney Gould (250cc number one in 1970) and Dieter Braun (250cc and 125cc champion) to name but a few.

Fans were able to see the stars up close, take the opportunity to chat with them and the mechanics, relive old race memories and complete autograph collections. When the hallowed relics and examples of former cutting edge motorcycle racing technology were not the on track then a slew of privately owned machines carefully prepared and lovingly presented by a vast crowd of enthusiasts enjoyed the Spa asphalt.

On Sunday the meeting culminated in a parade, a procession that started from the grid and although not competitive still saw heroes of the past such as 65 year old Gould hurtle around famous corners such as La Source and Eau Rouge with fearless abandon.

Manager of the Yamaha Classic Race Team Ferry Brouwer, proud owner of most of the machines, commented: "It was a great event and I am very proud to bring Yamaha's enormous racing heritage to this wonderful circuit again. We have shown what Yamaha stands for, and seeing the faces of all those fans when the bikes were started and passed through corners like Eau Rouge makes it all worthwhile."

The team are due to turn out again in a matter of weeks with the Salzburgring in Austria hosting the next date on July 19/20th.

Yamaha Classic Racing Team
Giacomo Agostini
Steve Baker