Racing friends and competing for trophies might have satisfied Kevin for years, even as World Champion it is still the racing that is the prime motivation. Riding the FJ600 and the RZ35O under the Hurst Yamaha banner he was having fun, racing was not costing him the earth and he was successful. He became so successful that people started to take notice.
"I guess what happened was that I started to draw the attention of John Ulrich, at that time he was running Cycle News and reporting on all the road racing plus he was riding in his own endurance team and racing at some of the same events that my friends and I were riding in on our 600s."
I think that maybe the first time he noticed us was the 24 hour race at Nelson Ledges. We started and I passed John, riding round the outside coming onto the back straightaway. I got a bit wide and just dropped the back wheel off into the grass. John says he saw me never even think about backing off."
We completely destroyed, wrote off, two bikes, we had one race bike and one brand new one for spares. We kept trashing the thing all night long. Not really our fault all the time, I crashed it once in oil. One of the guys that started the race crashed it, we rebuilt it. Then I crashed, we rebuilt it. In the middle of the night it was rebuilt again."
|Winning on the FJ600 just became a habit, more than being virtually unbeatable it was the fact the feats he performed on the middleweight road bike astounded so many jaundiced talent watchers. It was inevetable that someone who could make a difference would eventually take notice. Incredibly Kevin only spent one full year as a club road racer, 1984.|
Brent and I had done our stint and gone off to the hotel for four or five hours sleep leaving the other two to race through the night. By the time we finally got to daylight and Brent and I came back to ride again they had crashed it again twice and there were no more spares, there was nothing usable left on the spare bike. Just nothing left to keep the race bike going. It was those sorts of races that seemed to get John's interest."
Kevin had taken no time at all to get up to speed on a road racer, at first he had just ridden the way he felt, looking like the ex motocrosser, ex dirt tracker he was. Soon though he began to evolve what would become probably the most recognisable style in Grand Prix racing. "Once I got to race street bikes regularly I was dragging my knee on the ground like the rest of them. There wasn't really anybody that I spent enough time watching to really copy anybody's style. I just used to go out and ride as hard as I could and do it any way that felt the most comfortable."
"I didn't tend to copy the other guys on the track I just tended to do whatever it took to beat them. If they were real hard to beat or if their bike was a bit faster than mine I was wanting to use all the track and maybe a little bit more. I wasn't against using the shoulder, the kerb or the dirt if that was what it took. If I had to run off the edge of the track I would."
Kevin got a reputation for riding the wheels off any motor cycle at any track, for taking it to the limit and often beyond but rarely, very rarely coming unstuck even if he looked like he might at any second. He looked more out of control than he felt, though thinking back he freely admits that he was pushing the envelope. "One pass that really stands out in my head was at the WERA Grand National final at Road Atlanta. I was riding in C Production on my stock FJ600 and there was this guy, Brian Berney, turned up on an RZ500."
"It was the last race of the afternoon. I got a good start and got onto the back straight in front but then he came past. Its a long back straight at Road Atlanta and that RZ sure had some speed on the 600. I would pass him back through the turns and every time he would go by me on the straight, there was nothing I could do about it."
"We went at it like that, passing and repassing but no matter how hard I tried he kept getting by me down the straight. I knew that I would have to make a real big effort and get so far ahead he couldn't get by."
"So the next time he came past I managed to get in his slipstream and stayed close enough that coming over and down the hill into the last turn I closed right up on him. I took a big wide line coming in top this sweeping right hander with plenty of corner speed and started to go around the outside of him."
"As I came around him he started to stand the bike up and I was in trouble. The corner was unwinding and I was being run to the edge of the track. I just about got the bike upright as I dropped off the edge of the track onto the grass. I didn't back off as the back end came around and ~ think I went past him sideways and got it enough back under control that I ended up back on the track ahead of him."
"I then had the two thirds of a lap of Road Atlanta to make a break on him before we came to the straight again. I don't know if he was that phased by the way I went past him or not but I never saw him again. It was something I had to do, I had to get past him convincingly early enough in the lap that I could make that break on him."
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