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One hit wonders

One hit wonders

One hit wonders

How many glasses of good beer have been won and lost over the subject of one hit wonders in the pop music charts over the last few decades. It's the same in grand prix motor cycle racing with German Edmund Czihak joining the likes of Right Said Fred and The Bangles at the very top of those one hit wonders charts.

Not only did Edmund win just one grand prix but to make it even more important it was his home grand prix at the famous Nurburgring circuit: the 1974 West German Grand Prix, seven laps of the demanding and dangerous 22.835km Nurburgring circuit.

There was still snow on the ground high in the Eiffel hills at the end of April when the riders arrived in freezing conditions to find only a few thousand straw bales covering the dreaded armco barriers that lined the near 23 kilometres of snaking tarmac. Also the organisers, strictly against all regulations, were combining the grand prix with car races. It took a dreadful accident to a young British rider Bill Henderson who crashed into some unprotected armco, for the riders to cry enough and they refused to race. The organisers brought more straw bales but still well below the 10,000 asked for by the riders which prompted the famous Barry Sheene quote. "William Tell would have had problems hitting a straw bale round the Nurburgring that afternoon."

German riders were forced to ride by their national federation or face a ban and so Edmund Czihak went out on his Yamaha won his home grand prix in the 159.845km race that saw just four finishers, all from Germany.

World Superbike star Pier Francesco Chili almost did a Czihak 15 years later. The Grand Prix was in his Italian homeland at Misano but unfortunately for him it was called the Nations Grand Prix and not the Italian. 'Frankie' defied the top riders by going out on a wet slippery track at the circuit on the Adriatic coast after the original race had been stopped because of rain. The race had been on and off all day and only after the original race had been stopped and when the leading riders refused to race in the rain because there had been no wet practice, did the Italian decide to go out and race. The crowd loved it but the riders who refused not to race were not so impressed. World Champion Eddie Lawson stood on pit wall and gave a signal to Chili at the end of most laps that contained just one finger that certainly was not to signify that there was only one lap remaining. Despite his victory Chili admitted it had not been a good day for him or anybody else. Happily this popular rider went on to win four 250cc grand prix and many World Superbike Championship races.

New Zealander Dennis Ireland took full advantage of similar circumstances at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium in 1979. It was the year the shortened version of the World famous Spa circuit had been resurfaced and after practice all the leading riders agreed the new tarmac was just too slippery to race and so the privateers went out and competed. Ireland, riding the Suzuki, secured a victory he could have never dreamed about over Australian Kenny Blake.

Three years later Swiss rider Michel Frutschi riding the Sanvenero was a comfortable winner of the French Grand Prix at the 3.120km Nogaro circuit which was clearly not fit to stage grand prix racing. Certainly the top riders were not going to compete after the first practice session and so once again up stepped the privateers to put on a show for the crowd and in the case of Frutschi, secure a win he never expected.

Not all one hit wonders have come when the leading riders have gone on strike. Local knowledge has brought some amazing one off victories. The British round of the World Championship was held at the infamous 60.721km TT circuit on the Isle of Man until 1977 when it moved to the safer surroundings of Silverstone. Phil Carpenter won the race in 1974 to secure maximum championship points. It was the only World Championship points he even scored but what a way to do it - a 15 point maximum and victory. Mick Grant won the next year riding the Kawasaki for his only 500cc victory although he went on to win two 250cc grand prix while the late Tom Herron won the 500 and 250cc race in the last year of World Championship racing in the Isle of Man in 1976. It was the same situation in Ireland and the Ulster Grand Prix which was held on the road circuit overlooking Belfast. Local hero Dick Creith ensured a free supply of Guinness for the rest of his life with his one and only grand prix victory in 1965.

There have been plenty of riders that have won just one grand prix in their entire careers but they are not really one hit wonders. The likes of Alberto Puig, Simon Crafer, Regis Laconi, Kevin Magee were often in contention to secure more than one win. They will count themselves unlucky that only one victory came their way while Edmund Czihak took full advantage of circumstances beyond his control, to write himself into grand prix folklore.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2005

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