Baldwin Leads Underdog Yanks

Feature number four of the yearlong Jim Greening photo series of the Transatlantic Match Races. Previous installments can be viewed here, here and here.

Mike Baldwin leading Ron Haslam in the 1979 Transatlantic Match Races. This photo is from Brands Hatch. Baldwin, coming off a broken collarbone injury suffered at Daytona, led all scorers helping the Americans to score the biggest victory to date in the popular event. (The Jim Greening Collection)

Mike Baldwin leading Ron Haslam in the 1979 Transatlantic Match Races. This photo is from Brands Hatch. Baldwin, who was coming off a broken collarbone suffered at Daytona, led all scorers helping the Americans earn their biggest victory to date in the popular event. (The Jim Greening Collection)

The American team wasn’t supposed to have a chance in the 1979 Transatlantic Match Races. Leading American rider Kenny Roberts was out with a back injury and Pat Hennen, who was the leading American scorer in ’78, was forced into retirement from racing after suffering a head injury at the previous year’s Isle of Man TT. Even Skip Aksland decided to skip the Match Races in favor of competing in a conflicting stateside Winston Pro Series event.

The British motorcycling press was practically guaranteeing a victory with the headline flashing “WE WILL WIN!”

The American team was a mix of young up-and-comers like Mike Baldwin, who’d won the American Formula One title and beaten Kenny Roberts by 40 seconds in the Canadian round of the FIM Formula 750 Series at Mosport the previous season, and a freckled-faced Randy Mamola, who at he time was better known for his skills on 250GP bikes than on the big 750s. Other young guns on the American team included Daytona winner Dale Singleton, Superbike racers John Long and Wes Cooley and a New England club racer named Rich Schlachter, who the British completely wrote off as mere canon fodder. The veterans on the American squad were Dave Aldana, Gene Romero and Steve Baker, coming back from a long injury-forced layoff.

The Brits were led by the legendary World Champion Barry Sheene, a slew of seasoned veterans with international experience like Dave Potter, John Newbold, Tom Herron, Barry Ditchburn Mick Grant and Steve Parrish, plus their own young guns in Keith Huewen and Ron Haslam.

Instead of a lopsided Union Jack victory predicted by the British press, it turned out exactly the opposite with the Americans thrashed the Brits in the most lopsided victory to that point of the nine-year history of the series. After two races each at Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and Oulton Park the Americans tallied 448 points to the British team’s 352.

AMA manager of competition Bill Boyce pointed to the strong leadership of team captain Dave Aldana as a big reason for the American domination. Aldana’s instruction to his teammates was simple: “If an American is in front of you, follow him. If a British guy is in front of you pass him. And if there’s an American in front of you and British behind you, block like hell!”

Mike Baldwin led all scorers in the individual points followed by Mamola and Aldana. Sheene was the leading British scorer, tying Aldana for third.

2 thoughts on “Baldwin Leads Underdog Yanks

  1. Mike was awesome to watch Larry at Loudon on his NS 500 triple.I think he was the record holder for the old circut,not sure though.

    Like

  2. Rick

    I too had the good fortune to watch Mike race at Loudon. He was a special talent. I was pumped when he came back late in his career and rode a Vance & Hines Suzuki in AMA Superbike and then a Bimota in WSBK. The old WERA offices in South Carolina used to have a huge poster of Baldwin on the wall as you walked in. He had his TZ laid over on its side, clear visor and you could see the concentration on his face.

    Larry

    Like

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