Be­fore he was a 500GP champ, the quiet Amer­i­can was a big noise in su­per­bikes

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents -

Ed­die Law­son’s rac­ing ca­reer with Kawasaki was brief, but he made a mas­sive im­pres­sion – and rode a whole lot of dif­fer­ent Kwack­ers

No other Kawasaki star raced such a range of Green Mea­nies as Ed­die Law­son. Hired by Kawasaki Mo­tors Corp USA in 1980, the dry-as-dust Cal­i­for­nian stayed with them for just three sea­sons, dur­ing which he raced KX250 short-track bikes, KX500 su­per­mo­tards, Z1000 su­per­bikes and KR250 and KR500 Grand Prix bikes. Law­son’s back-to-back AMA Su­per­bike ti­tles in 1981/82 were the mak­ing of him, though he would also have won the 1980 crown but for a du­bi­ous protest from Suzuki. In 1981 Honda Amer­ica out­spent Kawasaki by twelve to one, but

‘HE WAS LUCKY NOT TO BE PARAL­YSED, BUT RE­TURNED FOUR WEEKS LATER TO WIN HIS FIFTH RACE OF THE YEAR’

the com­bi­na­tion of Law­son and drag-bike-tuner Rob Muzzy was un­beat­able. Muzzy trans­formed fac­tory en­durance-spec Z1000 mo­tors into 150 horse­power mis­siles that out­classed Wes Coo­ley’s Yoshimura Suzuki GS1000 and Fred­die Spencer’s Honda CB900. “Rob Muzzy won the championship, I just rode the bike,” said Law­son at the end of 1981. “I think he’s a ge­nius. I don’t know how he does it and I don’t ask. I just know that the thing comes in with a kick in the ass from 7000 to 10,000rpm and that it fin­ishes races.” The 1982 sea­son was dif­fer­ent. Honda were back up to speed with a much-im­proved bike and Mike Bald­win. Then Law­son crashed mid-sea­son and snapped his sev­enth ver­te­bra in half. He was lucky not to be paral­ysed, but re­turned four weeks later to win his fifth race of the year. He won the ti­tle ahead of Bald­win, who crashed too of­ten.

In ret­ro­spect, af­ter spend­ing a decade rac­ing 500cc GP bikes, Law­son has less fond­ness for those early Su­per­bikes. “They were just huge and they didn’t do any­thing good,” he says. “They wouldn’t stop, they wouldn’t turn, they wouldn’t do any­thing. And the tyres, they were hardly tyres, they were just garbage.” Law­son had raced two-stroke GP bikes be­fore he

‘THE SU­PER­BIKES WERE JUST HUGE. THEY WOULDN’T STOP, THEY WOULDN’T TURN, THEY WOULDN’T DO ANY­THING’

joined Kawasaki. In 1979 he fin­ished sec­ond in the US 250 championship be­hind Fred­die Spencer, both rid­ing Yamaha TZ250S. A con­di­tion of his first Kawasaki con­tract was a sea­son aboard a KR250, al­beit an old model, which was then dom­i­nat­ing the GP scene. Law­son duly won the US 250 ti­tle in 1980 and ’81 when he also took his KR to Europe for three GPS, en­tirely at his own ex­pense, be­cause he saw his fu­ture in rac­ing proper GP bikes, not con­verted street bikes. Law­son qual­i­fied 11th at Hock­en­heim but DNF’D with a bro­ken crank. At Monza he qual­i­fied third be­hind Toni Mang and Jean-fran­cois Balde, only to crash out on the first lap. At Cir­cuit Paul Ri­card he qual­i­fied eighth and fell again, his age­ing KR no match for the lat­est 250s. So he wasn’t al­ways Steady Ed­die. In 1982 Kawasaki gave Law­son a square-four KR500 to con­test the US For­mula One se­ries, in which 500cc and 750cc two-strokes grap­pled with 1000cc four-strokes. Law­son led the Day­tona 200 when the Honda FWS1000S of Spencer and Bald­win pit­ted for new tyres. He had a 40sec lead when the KR’S gear­box went AWOL. A few races later Kawasaki with­drew from the F1 se­ries, so Law­son could con­cen­trate on the Su­per­bike championship, which was grab­bing all the head­lines. At the end of 1982 he signed for Gi­a­como Agos­tini’s Marl­boro Yamaha 500 GP team.

IGHT: In 1980, the year he was signed by Kawasaki

LEFT: At Day­tona in 1982 on a KR500-4

ABOVE: On a KZ1000 in 1980

RIGHT: chased by Harry Klinz­mann at Day­tona, 1980

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.