Legends: Franco Uncini
What a difference a year makes! Franco Uncini should be remembered for his classy victory in the 1982 world 500 championship. Competing in the perhaps biggest field of works bikes in 500 GP racing to date, the 27-year-old from Recanati Macerata in Italy won five races and never finished lower than fourth.
He secured the title for Suzuki with several rounds to spare and, bizarrely, did not finish the last three races. This in a season boasting 13 works bikes, fierce tyre competing between Dunlop and Michelin, and the talents of Kork Ballington, Graeme Crosby, Virginio Ferrari, Takazumi Katayama, Marco Lucchinelli, Randy Mamola, Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene and Freddie Spencer.
Sadly, Uncini is better remembered for one image, beamed live across Europe and endlessly replayed since. It was the sickening impact when Wayne Gardner’s front fork leg split Franco’s helmet as he tried exit the track after highsiding on lap two of the 1983 Dutch 500 TT.
Uncini did return to racing, but he didn’t win another GP. He later became the GP safety inspector.
Suzuki was at its zenith in 1982. It took a new generation of machines and the arrival of Kevin Schwantz to win the next GP in 1988.
Uncini first came to prominence with two podiums on a Yamaha 350 in 1976 and two victories on a works Harley-Davison 250 in 1977. He was second to Mario Lega (Morbidelli) in the ‘77 250 title
Moving to the 500 class on a Suzuki in 1979, Uncini impressed with his intelligence and pace, only bettered in the championship by four works riders. He finished fourth in 1980 and finally secured a number-one works ride when Lucchinelli left the Roberto Gallina Suzuki team to ride for Honda in 1982.
(Assen was shortened the year after Uncini’s accident, cutting out Bedeldijk corner.)
By Don Cox
British Grand Prix 1982: (3 parts) 1st place Uncini
Dutch TT 1982 – 1st place for Uncini