usa Vs uk =500

Kevin had raced in Japan but the trip that really launched him on the road to international stardom and his first ride on a 500 was the annual invasion of the British Isles by American road racers that had been going on since 1971. He certainly was not the first Yank to embarrass the British but no one had ever quite shocked to such a degree, not just by the fact that he won but by the style in which he did it.


Kenny Irons lines up for one of the Donington Park math races on his yellow Yamaha with Kevin on his left and Rob McElnea behind. Irons would become Kevin's team mate the following season in the fledgling Suzuki Grand Prix Team.
"I went to England to race the Transatlantic series in '86. I rode Tony Rutter's bike, the bike he rode in the Isle of Man TT. The only problem was when I got there, everyone from the States had shipped their Superbikes over, Yoshimura at that time didn't want to send a bike. I got there and everyone was uncrating their immaculately prepared bikes from home. I said, 'so where's my bike?' and someone pointed over to this old sad looking Yellow GSXR sat in the corner with a right hand shift and a big puddle of oil underneath it."

"'You've got to be kidding,' I said. I was lucky though because Keith Reed from Heron Suzuki worked on the bike and he sorted things out pretty good in a real short time. He had to manufacture a way of getting the shifter back over to the other side. Where it was leaking from was around the right hand shifter shaft seal because I think that a hole had been chiselled in the cases and an oil seal from a World War II fighter plane had been Araldited in place."

"The next thing I knew, I was going sideways so fast I fell off the side of the bike" "Keith had to fix all that and the bike looked in general very very sad but it was real real fast. It must have been as light as you could make a GSXR back then. Our Yoshimura bike must have been 390 or 400 lbs. We used to have to put twenty or thirty pounds of lead on them for US Superbike races but this bike wasn't built to those regulations and I guess it was a 350, 360 lb bike. It ran well, and had a real good strong engine in it."

Typically the weather did nothing to inspire the visitors. Donington had a very poor wet weather reputation at the time though being a newcomer Kevin was not aware of it. "It was raining and at that time Donington had an old surface on it. It had been laid in two separate strips around the track. There was a seam in the middle and that held water. So the track was wet but I was fairly confident that I had the tyres well warm after the warm up lap and things were working pretty well, so I was giving it a go. It was Merkel in front with me in second side by side with Rob Mac. As we went through the fast left hander under Starkey's bridge, Fred drifted across the seam and the back end stepped way out, He was up in the seat and out across the grass."

"Next thing I knew, I was going sideways so fast I fell off the side of the bike. I was still hanging on keeping it turned but my whole lower leg was being dragged along the road. Most of my upper leg was also dragging and I was sort of laid against the side of the bike with half of me under the fairing."

"I just managed to drag myself back up the side of the bike and back onto the seat. Rob Mac got past me there but it wasn't easy for him because mostly he wanted to hang around and watch what was happening, I don't think he could quite believe it. As it turned out Merkel got his bike back on the track eventually, got back in front but then fell down and I ended up winning the race."

Previous PageNext Page
 

© Schwantz/Clifford 1994 No part of this publication may be stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any for or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise without prior permission in writing from Peter Clifford or Shirley Schwantz.

All rights reserved © 2000 Brand 34, Inc