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Motorcycle Racing GP Zolder 1980

Witnessing Johnny Cecotto for the last time on a motorcycle...

Sunday July 6th 1980 at Zolder, Belgium
Today another visit to the motorcycle races was planned. So far my number of visits to motorcycle races with Johnny Cecotto participating in it had been very little. In fact I only saw Cecotto 2 times before and that was back in 1975 in Francorchamps, Belgium where he won the 250cc and at the 500cc international motorcycle races at Raalte, Holland in 1978 where I even got the chance to stand next to him. I still was at an age you are dependent on other people and their vehicles. When an uncle of my friend Ardie offered me to go with them to the motorcycle racing Grand Prix of Belgium at the circuit of Zolder I kindly accepted. I got permission from my parents to take the same camera with me which we used at Raalte in 1978. At the circuit you had to pay to get in but also had to give a supplement amount for the standings. In the 250cc another Venezuelan Carlos Lavado had been in 3rd place the whole race but retired in the last lap. I felt sorry for him as being a compatriot to Johnny Cecotto. Between the races me and my friend Ardie got to the paddock but couldn't get in because we hadn't enough money to pay for the extra ticket. No chance to meet Johnny Cecotto today. Instead I did buy myself a yellow cap of "Yamaha world champion 1975 Johnny Cecotto" which I still have. I remember when we were sitting at the standings I got more nervous as time got closer to the start of the 500cc race. Cecotto had been 2nd fastest in practice on his production Yamaha and it was very well in this factory machine field. As the race started at 15.30 hours Johnny was lying 6th for a few laps but then lost places again and again. I tried to make some pictures but while it was a simple camera he just passed too fast to get some decent ones. Cecotto didn't pass anymore after lap 16 and had retired. He had as I found out later handling problems with his machine. Randy Mamola won the race with Marco Lucchinelli 2nd and Kenny Roberts, of which my friend Ardie was a fan, came in 3rd place. When the sidecars had begun their race we went to our cars. But it seemed everyone had the same thought and it was very crowded and we did stand in line for a few hours before we got out on the highway again. I don't recall anymore how late we got back home but it had been a very long day for us. As great as my visits were to Francorchamps and Raalte, this one had been very disappointing. At least that's how it felt to me. Afterwards even the pictures didn't work out to complete this small disaster. My mother threw away the programme magazine and tickets some time later to complete it all. At this moment I even didn't know this would have been the very last time I had seen Johnny Cecotto racing a motorcycle as for he was going to quit after 1980 and stepped into car racing. It was a surprise to me when my friend Ardie, during a removal in 2005, gave me his old pieces of programme magazine and tickets of this Belgium Grand Prix motorcycle racing of 1980. He still had it somewhere in his attic. This long time disappointing day in some kind of way did get a satisfying ending. Looking at the subject title and the words earlier in this report I always really thought this was the very last time that I would see Johnny Cecotto on a motorcycle racing bike. It was. Well, at least in motorcycle racing Grand Prix. More than 30 years (!!!) later I would see Johnny again on a Yamaha bike during the 200 Miglia Imola Revival in 2010, a Classic event. For sure I had to be there and you can see a report of that on this site. But of course I never could have imagined that at this moment back in 1980 at Zolder.....