Last 350cc World Champion: Anton Mang
Historically the 350cc motorcycles have integrated the various competitions which were progressively held as of the beginning of the 20th century. It was one of the two classes at the start of the very first Tourist Trophy in 1907. It was a part of the first Road Racing World Championship held as from 1949. Near the end of the 70s, it was decided to put an end to this class, considered too close to the 250cc in cubic capacity and in performances to the 500cc. Besides, many riders were competing in both 250cc and 350cc classes. The end was scheduled by the FIM for the 1982 season. The last years of the 350cc were dominated by one brand and two riders: Kawasaki, South African Kork Ballington and German Anton Mang. Ballington won both 250cc and 350cc in 1978 and 1979, while Mang won the 250cc in 1980 and 1981 and the 350cc in 1981 and 1982 – which underlines the points in common between both classes.
Anton Mang had started his racing career in 1975 after having been Dieter Braun’s mechanic. His first win was at the German GP 1976 on the Nürburgring in the 125cc class riding a Morbidelli, which brought him to the attention of the Kawasaki people – and four titles in the early 80s. After two unsuccessful years in the 500cc (83-84), he went back to the 250cc, riding for Honda in the 1985 season with Freddie Spencer and finishing runner-up.
Anton Mang would win a fifth world title in the 250cc five years after his last title: it was in 1987, riding a factory NSR 250 Honda at the age of 38 (he was born in 1949). He started the 1988 season with a victory, but a crash suffered in Rijeka forced him into retirement.
Text Marc Pétrier – Photo FIM (M. Büla Collection)