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The accident happened shortly after the start of the 250 cm3 class race of the "Gran Premio delle Nazioni" at Monza, fourth round of the 1973 World Motorcycle Championship. While approaching the first bend, the Curva Grande (also named "Curvone"), Renzo Pasolini's Harley-Davidson suddenly skidded on the left side. His speed was estimated to be about 220 km/h. Pasolini fell down, hit the straw bales and crashed into the guard-rail, being immediately killed. Upon the impact his motorcycle lost the saddle and the tank, dumping a large amount of fuel which was immediately burning. The machine bounced in air striking Jarno Saarinen on face in the middle of the track, causing a pile-up in which more than twelve riders were involved, amongst them Hideo Kanaya, Walter Villa, Victor Palomo, Fosco Giansanti, Borje Jansson and Chas Mortimer, several of them suffering considerable injuries.
Jarno Saarinen, the reigning 250 cm3 World Champion, was thrown into air landing on his back some 40 meters ahead, being killed at the scene, the wreckages and straw bales caught fire. Dieter Braun who was leading the race in his Yamaha, and Mario Lega, Teuvo Länsivuori, Emanuele Maugliani, John Dodds and Roberto Gallina who managed to avoid the debris and the bodies of the fallen riders, went on until 3rd lap when the race was stopped. The event was abandoned and all remaining activities as the 500 cm3 class race were cancelled.
According to former motorcycle rider Gilberto Milani, who at the time was the team manager of Aermacchi–Harley-Davidson, the cause of the accident was believed to be a piston of Pasolini's machine, using a water-cooled engine for the first time, that broke. The expert’s report by Sandro Colombo, former Gilera, Bianchi and Scuderia Ferrari engineer, confirmed this version. According to the booklet about the Monza tragedy "Documentation of an Accident" that was edited by Yamaha, the overwhelming conclusions for the reason of the crash came from oil on the race course spilled by riders, during the 350 cm3 event that preceded the fatal race. Possibly Walter Villa’s Benelli lost oil riding with a strong oil-smoke behind him during the last laps of the race. Riders who were in that race, as John Dodds and others, and journalists warned the organizers to postpone the start and clean the track, but they decided to start the 250 cm3 event as scheduled. Other eyewitness reports were pretty controversial, someone said Pasolini's wheels skidded, presumably due to an oil patch or an irregular junction of the asphalt, other versions stated he lost control of his machine due to sudden mechanical failure.
250cc World Championship
Nations Grand Prix
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