Jaroslav Falta - Rest in Peace

Posted on March 28, 2022

Sad news today with the passing of one of the true characters of the 1970 Grand Prix scene, Jaroslav Falta. Falta passed away yesterday at the age of 71 years. Good friend and former GP rider Roger Harvey called me today with the news. Harvey raced in the same era as Falta, although in the 125cc GP’s, while Falta raced the 250cc class.

Falta is best known for the 1974 250cc World championship in which he should have been crowned World champion, only to have some controversial occurrences in the final round of the series.

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In 74 250cc World championship three riders battled for the number one plate, with the main battle between Soviet KTM rider Guennady Moisseev (who unfortunately passed away five years ago) and Czech ČZ rider Jaroslav Falta which ended in controversy at the final race of the season and Harry Everts playing a support role.

Moisseev won the first moto and took the overall victory at the season opening Spanish Grand Prix, before Falta won both races at the Italian Grand Prix followed with a win in the first moto of his home Grand Prix in Czechoslovakia (similar Jeffrey Herlings in Oss). Falta however suffered two breakdowns in Poland while Moisseev won both races. Falta won a moto in Yugoslavia and at the halfway point of the season and trailed the Russian rider by 20 points. Each rider took a second place at the West German Grand Prix but, Falta won a moto at the Dutch Grand Prix to close the points gap to five points going into the final race of the season in Switzerland.

Falta took the lead in the first race of that final round and appeared to be heading for victory while Moisseev was being slowed by a rear suspension failure. When Falta came upon the slowing Russian rider and tried to pass him, the KTM rider made an attempt to obstruct him allowing second and third place riders, Harry Everts and Håkan Andersson to catch up. When Falta attempted to pass Moisseev, the Russian rider collided with him causing him to fall off his bike. Falta was quickly able to remount but, finished the race in third place. Falta had to win the final moto to have any chance to claim the world championship.

As the race began, Falta once again jumped into the lead while Moisseev was forced to retire on the seventh lap. When Falta came upon two Russian riders, Victor Popenko and Eugeny Rybaltchenko, they appeared to attempt to block him. As Falta tried to pass them, Rybaltchenko rode into him, knocking him down. He remounted in third place as race officials waved the black flag at the two Russian riders, disqualifying them from the race.

Falta was able to catch up and pass Everts and Gaston Rahier to recapture the lead and win the race, apparently clinching the world championship. However, two hours after the conclusion of the race, jury officials penalized Falta one minute for jumping the start which dropped him to eighth place handing the world championship to Moisseev.

The final points standings were 145 to Moisseev, 139 to Falta and 132 to Everts. Moisseev had failed to score a point in that final round, but still walked away with the championship.

Interesting, both Moisseev and Falta won five motos in that season, as did Everts, but as was the case back in the 70s a lot of mechanical issues cost riders major points. Moisseev with six zero scoring motos, Falta nine and Everts on his Puch machine four zero tallies.

Although Falta failed to win the world championship, he showed impressive ability when he defeated three-time 500cc world champion Roger De Coster to win the 1974 Super Bowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Falta is noted for his loyalty to the Czech bikes he raced, and helped illustrate to the world that the CZ marquee were winning machines by scoring four Grand Prix victories against the world's best riders, such as Harry Everts, Joel Robert, Guennady Moiseev, Hakan Andersson and Gaston Rahier. Additionally, in 1974, Falta traveled to the United States, and raced selected Inter-AMA events with his teammate Zdenek Velky, and their trainer Hrebecek. To the surprise of many in attendance, Falta would clinch a victory in Los Angeles Coliseum in front of approximately 65,000 motocross fans.

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1974 Super Bowl of Motocross - RacerX image

Falta is somewhat of a motocross hero, and proved inspirational to many riders and a model to follow for many fans. Michel Turk, President of Motor-Union Luxembourg, admitted: “With his win in Los Angeles, Jaroslav Falta gave me the "last kick" to decide that I wanted to be a motocross racer in 1975. I want to thank Jaroslav for the wonderful time he has given me. I admire him very much and I want to thank Jaroslav for being my hero for many years as a young boy, and I hope to meet him somewhere in a near future.”

Falta is from a tiny village in the Czech Republic, but he represents a big name for its country due to his accomplishments on his Czech machine. On some occasions, Falta has admitted that his worldwide tour was also seen as a great advertisement campaign for the CZ brand and his country itself. In fact, he has even mentioned that sometimes he feels that foreign fans know him better than the Czechs.

Several publications in the Czech Republic narrate Falta’s career, including the book “Ukradený titul” written by Ivo Helikar, sport editor of CMN and the son of one of Falta’s trainers, Frantisek Helikar. There are also English versions, thanks to the translation of Martina Faltová, Jaroslav’s daughter. Falta lived in a small village outside Prague. He continued to be in touch with motocross, restoring old bikes and occasionally visiting motocross races. He has been a visitor at past Grand Prix’s held in Loket in the Czech Republic.

Rest in peace Mr Falta.