yoshi years...

Don Sakakura was the man responsible for building a racing bike that Kevin could win on, he had been working for Yoshimura since 1980 and was used to the far more experienced Wes Cooley. When Kevin joined the team it presented a different challenge. "When he first started he was very inexperienced as far as set up and all of that goes. As soon as he rode for us the first time though we kind of knew he would do well for us. He just sort of got on it and his natural ability kind of took over, he just rode. As far as set up or any kind of race track preparation goes he didn't know anything. We kind of learnt together, it worked out pretty well."

"The initial impression I got was that Kevin was really hungry, he was coming up, young, relatively inexperienced and kind of fearless. I think he fell down a few times but it wasn't too bad and he was learning on his own, no one taught him and every time he went out he learnt something else, as well as us. If it wasn't set up perfect, and a perfect set up for any race track is pretty rare, he had ways of changing his riding style to get around the different problems."

Apart from making an instant impression with his riding Don was just as impressed with him personally. "He was very friendly a very likable person for sure. He knew that he was going to do well, I guess people thought of him as really cocky but as far as working with us as a team, he didn't give us that impression at all. People used to say about him that he was a wild young nineteen year old kid. with us he didn't show that at all he was pretty mature for his age."

Fujio Yoshimura, Jim and Darryl keeping track of Kevin's winning ride at Daytona in 1988
He was professional at the race track, at race weekends he was always ready. He's the same now, the success he's had hasn't gone to his head. He's like he was ten years ago, anyone can approach him and talk to him, that's one of the reasons he's so popular. A very likable person."

Don does not see any fundamental change in Kevin's riding style either even though he has only seen him race the 500 at Laguna Seca. "I know he rides the front real hard which he always did before, it's basically the same as far as I could see. People say he's more conservative now and is riding to finish but I think that's just experience, maybe the bike now is good for him.

Fujio Yoshimura saw very little of Kevin's racing in the US, only attending Daytona. He saw him every year at the eight hour though and charted his development as a rider, the photograph was taken during the 1988 event. "His style changed early on, that was obvious. He wanted to get the power on earlier in the corner so he developed a way of staying more on top of the bike, hanging off less. That way he could still be in control when the bike started to slide under him. "He was fast from the first tiem I saw him, a little wild perhaps, he didn't know anything about the finer points of riding, he was just very fast. As a person, he was quiet, you wouldn't think he was capable of being so aggressive on the track but when he put his helmet on his eyes changed. They became peircing, eagle eyes, a racer's eyes, you could see that.
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