early GP years

Suzuki had realised that they needed to significantly increase their effort with the 500 project. The 'V' four had potential but they had to increase their commitment to it. At the same time the team secured backing from Pepsi Cola even if the association looked far grander than it was in actual cash terms. The team was expanded and they went after the best riders they could get, number one on their list was the Texan. "The few results that I had got on the 500 I guess made them want me to ride full time when they got serious about the World Championship. It was all organised through the GP Team in Britain and Suzuki in the US and Japan. They signed Rob Mac as my teammate."

"I crashed at Daytona and broke my arm, but I still raced at Daytona and won, the Yoshimura guys were real happy. When I got to Japan for the first Grand Prix I remember talking to Rob about the 500 and he wasn't very impressed, he said,' No it's hopeless, hasn't got any power, he wasn't impressed at all."

Wayne Rainey made a fast start on the number seventeen Lucky Strike Yamaha but Kevin soon passed him. The race soon became a simple two man battle between the Honda and the Suzuki.

"I think I qualified third. It was my first full season of Grand Prix racing. Gardner and I took off from the start. I looked back and I couldn't see anyone behind us. Climbing out of the hairpin I look around and Christian was just coming under the bridge. I was thinking, hang on, I've hardly ridden this bike and I'm running second, what's going on? I got to find out later on that it wasn't always that easy."

Rob's bike broke the top off a piston early in 'the race so he sat there at the side of the track and watched the whole thing at the entrance to the first Degner curve that they had just changed to a double right. He said that every time I went in there I slammed the bike flat on its side and he was sure every lap as I went in I was going to crash."

Kevin did not think he was going to crash but he did not think he was going to win the race either. "I don't think Gardner knew what to make of it. I just kept saying to myself, so what if he beats you, this guy has got number one on his bike, he's supposed to beat you.

"I wasn't really bothered by the fact that his bike was faster than mine, I felt like that he would pass me up the back straight away no matter what I did. I just rode the best I could and kept saying to myself, 'don't make any silly mistakes and there's no reason why you shouldn't be second." I ran with him and when he made a little mistake, the race was mine. "

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