Former Grand Prix Racer Pat Hennen Dies Aged 70

Pat Hennen, who in 1976 became the first person from the US to win a 500cc motorcycle Grand Prix, has died at the age of 70

Pat Hennen, 1976 500cc Finnish Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

Pat Hennen, arguably the original Grand Prix hero of the US, has died aged 70 on 6 April.

Hennen became the first American rider to win a 500cc Grand Prix in 1976, the Finnish GP at Imatra.

Imatra now forms a part of the international road racing scene, along with other races like the Macau Grand Prix and the Isle of Man TT, the latter of which Hennen elected to race in 1978 in the middle of a season in which it is believed he could have been champion. That year, he finished second at the first round of the season in Venezuela, before winning at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jarama. A retirement in Austria was followed by two second places at the French Grand Prix at Nogaro, and the Nations Grand Prix at Mugello.

After he raced the 1978 TT, though, Hennen never raced again. He set the first-ever sub-20-minute lap of the TT’s Mountain Course on his 500cc Suzuki on the penultimate lap of that year’s Senior TT, and then crashed at Bishopscourt on the final lap. The injuries Hennen sustained in the crash kept him from lining up again.

Famously, the 1978 500cc World Championship was won by the rider who would become regarded as the original American hero of Grand Prix racing: Kenny Roberts, who won in Austria, France, the Nations Grand Prix, and Britain in ‘78, beating Barry Sheene, who had won in 1976 and 1977, in the final standings by 10 points.

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