yoshi years...

John Ulrich is Editor/owner of the American monthly publication Road Racing World, in 1984 be was Editor of Cycle News and rider/owner of the Team Hammer Endurance Team. Through more than twenty years in the business as a racer and journalist he has never been more excited about a riding talent than he was in 1984. "I'm not sure what track we were at but it was on the WERA National Endurance circuit and I was riding our Team Hammer hike. He just took way too long to lap compared with other guys on 600s. I think maybe the first time I really paid attention to him might have been Savanna Georgia."

"He really got my attention at the 24 hour at Willow Springs. He was riding his 600 and if memory served correctly Joe Fisher who was somehow involved in the team, maybe it was his bike, he's a Yamaha Dealer from College station where Texas World Speedway is located. He pointed out Kevin. 'Watch Kevin going into turn eight, no one goes into turn eight faster than Kevin,' and he's like pointing across the track at turn eight."

"So anyway during my next Stint on our hike Kevin catches me and I end up riding round with him Sitting up because our bike has speed on his. Finally, going towards turn eight I back off and let him get 150 or 200 feet on me and then dial on the throttle and in the middle of turn eight go flying round the outside of him. When my ride was over I went and found Joe Fisher and said, 'Hey, did you see that,' and laughed."

"he's got the thing tank slapping lock to lock, he's got the throttle locked on"

"So six or eight months later, I was riding a 1000cc Superbike that I had just gotten in a trade with another guy. I was trying to sort it out, it had a lot of weird suspension problems. I was out in turn eight and suddenly Kevin comes flying past in exactly the same way, he had just waited to make the point."

There had been other occasions in the intervening months when Kevin had impressed John as they rode at several of the same events. "We went to the 24 hour at Nelson Ledges, I think it was in the July of '84. We were winning that race, way out in front and I'd come through traffic and catch Kevin and it would take way too long to lap him. I remember this one incident, its burned in my memory. Coming into this carousel turn that they have, it's a blind right with a little hook on the end."

"You come flying through there at about 80 or 90 miles per hour. I go into this turn and here's Kevin on the FJ600, he's got the thing tank slapping lock to lock, he's got the throttle locked on, never backed off, he tank slaps from the outside down to the inside and back to the outside. Then hooks it down to the exit where it tightens up a little bit, tank slapping the whole way never slows down and some how keeps the thing on the track. Down the straight-away and I pass him."

Just the sight of this kid tank slapping this FJ6OO through the corners obviously full throttle, didn't care that the bars were dancing right and left, it was unbelievable."

"I've been around long enough though that I know you will see some guy and he'll be as fast as hell at one track or two. The thing about Kevin though was that he was always riding absolutely on the edge everywhere he went all the time. During that 24 hour he and his team mates weren't that successful. I think they crashed seven times and they finally had to give up because they'd used up all the controls on the race bike, the spare bike and from their boxes of spares, they had no foot pegs or control levers left. They had to quit but the buy was just on the gas all the time."

"Then we went to Texas World Speedway and we were racing in this monsoon. The track was completely flooded. There were these two low places in the course filled with water. I don't know how deep it was but I went through this one section right after this huge cloudburst dumped the water like a waterfall. I went through this one low spot and the water went over the front fender of the bike and it was pouring in over the top of my boots. We had open velocity stacks on the bike and it was sucking water till it was running on one cylinder."

"Kevin Schwantz is 20 years old, lives in Houston, Texas; can be a real wise ass on occasion; and ridesmotorcycles. You may not have heard of him before but most likely you will. Because this kidSchwantz is the next great American road racer, and he's liable to end up world champion if the success and fame and glory and riches he's sure to earn along the way don't side track him first," So wrote John Ulrich in his leader comment for Cycle News immediatly after Kevin had raced the Yoshimura Superbike in his tryout at Willow Springs on December 2 1984.

Kevin is pictured on the Team Hammer endurance machine putting in some practice laps the previous day and in the same story John wrote, "We talked about his approach to turn eight; he went back out and did 1:32s on an endurance bikewith a well used stock GS1150 engine and full lighting equipment."

"The Yoshimura crew turned up late sunday morning; Schwantz had time for just three laps of practice. Then he turned 1:30s in winning the Formula One race, beating both Vreeke and Brubaker, who were ridingtheir own superbiked on their home track."

"I am trying to get through this river to get back in the pits when suddenly Kevin comes by me completely wide open. He came past with the bars cocked, the front wheel wasn't even close to being straight hut he had the thing upright. He went through flat, completely drenched me, the water splashed up into my helmet from the bottom inside my shield all over my face and he disappeared."

"Normally when a guy hits a big body of water and turns the front wheel side ways because it obviously isn't even close to touching the pave ment he has to crash. He didn't, it didn't even look as if it phased him."

"He was unbelievable, he was running an airbox so it didn't drown out but the speed he went on that thing on street tyres in the rain was something to see."

"At that time my team didn't have any sponsorship from Suzuki, we were having to buy parts. At that point in our development it was just me and some other guys who got ourselves to the race track and raced with whatever money we got from after-market sponsors. We had no place for an eighteen year old who went as fast as hell but would probably crash a lot."

"I knew however that the Yoshimura guys needed a good pilot to get hack into Superbike racing. They needed someone who was spectacular, Fred Merkel was winning everything on the Honda, Honda was the only importer directly involved in Superbike racing at that time because Kawasaki had pulled out at the end of the '83 season after Rainey won the championship."

 

 

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