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11 hours ago
By Nick Harris

Northern soul

Nick Harris looks back at MotoGP™’s previous visits to Finland

Tags MotoGP, 2019

There has been plenty of midnight sun, ice racing, vodka sampling, saunas in the forests by the lake, smorgasbord, Mika Kallio and even the end of the Abba era but there has been no grand prix motorcycle racing for nearly three decades but this could change in the future.

The long awaited and much anticipated return of MotoGP to Scandinavia took a giant step forward with the first test at the brand new KymiRing circuit in Finland.

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MotoGP™ look to Finland

It’s 29 long years since the last Swedish Grand Prix was held at the Anderstorp circuit. You have to go back another eight years to the last grand prix to be staged in Finland in 1982 at the legendary Imatra circuit.

Two more contrasting circuits both on and off the track would be hard to imagine. Anderstorp the flat aerodrome track south of Gothenburg which you entered through an industrial estate. Imatra the road circuit snaking through the forest next to the lake and the outskirts of the town just a couple of kilometres from the Russian border.

Anderstorp where it was difficult to buy alcohol and where a gang of Hells Angels had set up camp in the nearby forest. Imatra where buying alcohol and especially vodka was never a problem and where the partying in the midnight sun was a legendary part of the weekend.

Anderstorp where many a Championship was won and lost because the Swedish Grand Prix was always near the end of the season. Freddie Spencer and Kenny Roberts had a mighty coming together on the last lap in the penultimate round in 1983. Freddie surprised Kenny with his aggression to take a famous victory to set up his first World 500cc title. Two years later Freddie clinched the 500cc part of his historical double. I celebrated Barry Sheene’s last grand prix win with his great friend Marco Lucchinelli clinching the 1981 World title and Wayne Rainey blew away his Championship chances in 1989 when he crashed chasing Eddie Lawson’s Honda.

Imatra was so different and so dangerous. I will never forget my first visit in 1980 with the smell from the massive wood pulp factory a constant reminder of how close was the Russian border, the midnight sun, the long nights of partying and those white leathers of Dutchman Wil Hartog flashing between the trees at over 200 kph on route to his last grand prix win.  Barry Sheene took me down to the infamous corner where the riders raced over the railway lines. Barry, who a year earlier had burnt down the appalling paddock lavatories, told me the only surprise about the track was that they actually stopped the trains running on race day. The 500cc machines stopped a year later and in 1982 grand prix racing tragically came to an end following the fatal accident of my great friend World Sidecar Champion Jock Taylor.

The new era of grand prix racing starts in Scandinavia at the KymiRing next year. Welcome back but beware of that midnight sun and vodka.