yoshi years...

A Ducati ride during that first season for Yoshimura seemed like a good idea at the time, "It was at Sears Point, they would have a race there at the beginning of the season and one at the end. This was the earlier race. I felt that at the stage I was at in my career Yoshimura were holding me back because they would only let me ride the Superbike events and not the Formula One race. I could see that with the times we were doing on the Superbike I could have won the Formula One race at Sears going away."

"When I raced for Yoshimura in '85 they paid my expenses and I got the prize money. Even if I didn't win I could make another couple of grand easy riding in the Formula One events. Especially as the Superbike race was run early in the program, I could have ridden in the Formula One race after that and it wouldn't have been any risk to our Superbike effort."

"I guess I was ticked off at Yoshimura about that and these guys had this really nice Ducati that they were keen for me to ride. So I went out for the Battle of the Twins race on the Ducati. I was going quite well on it until I came over the hill at Sears and the chain broke, It locked the rear wheel up, threw me off and broke my collarbone."

"I missed the Superbike race and I guess that at that stage of my career I was lucky that Yoshimura gave me a second chance. It wasn't a bright thing to do and they would have been justified if they had replaced me then and there."

They were not about to let their star go for one such misdemeanor and he was back in action at Laguna Seca and fastest in the heat race. Unfortunately the bike blew up early in the race.

After the first ride on the Ducati proved distastrous to his Yoshimura effort Kevin was more Circumspect. That June at Laguna Seca the Superbike race had ended with a rod through the cases and he was offered a chance to ride the Dale Newton Ducati again the following Twins race. He only jumped on the bike for the warm up lap of the final and had to grid at the back having not qualified. By lap five he had cut through the pack but was forty seconds behind leader Jimmy Adamo. By the end of the twenty one lap race he was 2.3 seconds behind. How about that riding style? Perhaps it sounded like Darryl's TT500.

Kevin was on his way up but his horizons were still not that broad. The thought of racing a Grand Prix 500 did not arise. "Kenny, Randy and Mike Baldwin used to bring them back to Laguna. They didn't make that much of an impression on me. I could have gotten to ride a 500, I guess it was '85. There is a guy working for US Suzuki called Aki Goto. He had an old RG5OO square four and he ended up letting Scott Gray ride it. I think that year Kenny rode the Yamaha, Randy had the four cylinder Honda and Baldwin had his own three cylinder Honda. I wasn't really thinking about riding a 500. I was just happy doing what I was doing riding the Superbike and I wasn't looking at the long term picture."

1985 did see Kevin race abroad for the first time though with the chance to race for Yoshimura in Japan. "I had fallen somewhere and broken my collarbone, but no way was I going to miss going to Japan, I wanted to ride in the 200K event at Suzuka I rode the Formula Three and the Formula One race. On the 400 and the 750. I got knocked off in the 750 race by Tokuno I remember it was like it was yesterday landed right back on my hurt collarbone. I finished second on the 400."

"At that stage if you had asked me anything about Japan or the Japanese I was so excited to be over there and racing that I didn't pay any attention to what was going on around me, it was just a case of show me the bike, let me get on and ride it, lets see how fast we can go. I was just so gung ho in those days I didn't care what the bike was, whether it was competitive or not, I just wanted to race it." They have always been 100% behind me.

"I had several confrontations with the Japanese riders on that trip. I made contact with a couple of them out on the track and had them come into the pit and yell at Pops Yoshimura and tell him that I was crazy and didn't know how to ride. I was just battling for position and they felt that when they moved over and wanted to be in the spot that I was in then I should give it to them."

"The one that I remember best of all was on the 400 I think. I came out of the last left hander going down to the chicane on a tight line, got over early to where I wanted to be braking for the chicane. This guy came over and as he came across I saw him coming. I was at the edge of the track, had no where to go to my left and as he came over on me I was ready and stuck my shoulder into him. He went straight on and missed the chicane."

"I went round the chicane and carried on, it was only a practice session. He came into the pits and was yelling at Fujio and Pops and they said, 'Hey, he's out there riding the same as you are and if you've got a problem from his riding either get away from him or don't race with him.' They have always been 100% behind me."

"That was the only time I've ever had a conflict with riders like that. It hasn't happened since, just my first trip to Japan. I had been racing against Wayne and Fred and the other guys back in the US and bumping and banging was something of a regular occurrence. We just did it."

Fujio Yoshimura looks thoughtful while Kevin is keen to get on with the action at his first trip to Japan for the 200k event in 1985


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