Classic Racer

Wes Cooley: 1956 – 2021


Wester Steven Cooley, AMA Superbike champion in 1979 and 1980, was always going to go motorcycle racing; after all, his father had done so before him.

After the normal trials and tribulatio­ns of a journeyman racer, Wes was taken on byyoshimur­a R&D when they were running Kawasaki KZ1000 machinery in 1976. Cooley would take his first AMA Superbike win in 1977, before Pops and Fujioyoshi­mura switched to Suzuki power for 1978.That bike was the Suzuki GS1000S and if anyone was synonymous with a machine and an era, it was Cooley and the bikinifair­ed Suzuki.

The Suzuki's chassis seemed to work better than the Kawasaki and it was Wes who managed to give Suzuki their first AMA title in 1979. At Daytona, Suzuki had a clean sweep in that year's race with Ron Pierce winning, Cooley 2nd and Dave Emde in 3rd. Cooley's amazing consistenc­y that season – despite not winning a race – gave him the title, as he was on the podium every time out. Pierce would be 2nd in the title hunt just ahead of a youngster on a Kawasaki named Freddie Spencer. The following year Cooley won the title again – this time it was an even harder battle as Cooley and his Suzuki were up against Eddie Lawson on the Kawasaki and Spencer on the Honda.

At the opening Daytona race, Graeme Crosby – Cooley's team-mate – won with Wes 2nd. Cooley won at round three at Charlotte, then Lawson and Spencer won the next five races between them. Cooley had to win the final two rounds to take the title.

In 1978 Wes would also (with Mike Baldwin) win the Suzuka Eight-hour race and win it again two years later, this time teamed with Graeme Crosby. Cooley would pick up a number of injuries which would first hamper and then end his glorious career – most notably at Sears Point in 1985 – but he would eventually decide to help others by taking up a second career in the nursing profession. In 2004 he was elected into the AMA'S Hall of Fame.

Sadly Wes Cooley passed away on October 16, 2021 aged 65 from the complicati­ons of diabetes, a condition which he struggled with and beat all through his racing career.

 ?? ??
 ?? Pics: Nick Nichols/mortons Archive ??
Pics: Nick Nichols/mortons Archive

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom