yoshi years...

"I think that was the first time I had met Pops. Since I started road racing I'd learnt something of the legend of Pops Yoshimura. It was like the bikes I was riding and the whole going to Japan thing, I couldn't believe that I was getting to meet him I thought that it was one of the greatest things that could happen, getting to meet the Yoshimura family themselves, Pops Fujio, his sisters, everybody. Nabe ran the team in the US and Fujio really only came to Daytona."

"At that stage Pops had been a little ill and he never made it to Daytona. A lot of credit has to go to Nabe and Fujio both for teaching me how to get around Daytona as quick as they did. Nabe especially could stand up on the truck and watch me come up onto the banking and tell me whether I was doing it right or wrong. Tell me exactly what to do to change it. He was the reason that when I went there in '85 I qualified third behind those two factory Hondas."

On the rostrum after taking second place in the Formula III race

"The secret of Daytona is exiting up onto the bank. You can gain a little bit of time through the infield, you might be able to gain a little bit of time getting into those chicanes and into that last corner but you have got to be good and smooth and make that transition from the flat to the hank without unsettling the bike, without making the rear spin, you've got to keep it down on the road and driving."

"No matter how fast you go through the infield, you make a little mistake getting out and up onto the bank and top speed is screwed and the whole lap is pretty much a waste of time."

"Most of the time Nabe would be out on the track. Don and the other guys were doing the mechanical work, Don and I were conferring on what should be changed and Nabe would like to go out and watch and see if he would confirm what I was translating back to Don."

"The team worked well together like that, it worked the same way as it seemed to between Kenny and Wayne. And when I used to go to Japan and Nabe wasn't there it would be Fujio. Fujio helped me out quite a lot. Right from the start in that 400 race I rode I was coming out of the turns and trying to hold it down tight, run it along the inside stripe. He was telling me to let the bike run, 'You are scrubbing off the speed and using up the horse-power that it needs to run,' he was saying. I tried it and I could feel it pick up the revs quicker."

"Nabe and I became really good friends as well. We would have dinner together and play golf. That was the other neat thing about him was that he wasn't just a boss, he and everybody at Yoshimura became real good friends. When we'd go back east to race we'd race Elkhart and London and Brainard or whatever and we'd just spend the month or month and a half out there staying in hotels and play golf, go fishing, rafting, have a good old time together."

Graeme Crosby had more eight hour experience than anyone who could have partnered with Kevin on his first foray into the most prestegious race in the world. Crosby may not have looked the consummate professional in his red handkerchief but he could talk the technicalities to Fujio Yoshimura while Kevin caught up with some sleep in the hire car. "He was about the easiest person I could have ridden with," recalls Crosby. "It's funny but in those days you didn't know quite what to expect from new Americans. Until they had come over to the Match races or the Grand Prix we didn't see anything of them we didn't go and race over there much so you didn't know what to expect. He could obviously ride. He was pretty easy going, didn't say how wonderful he was, was laid back about the bike and what he needed. I needed a bit of a seat pad because I am shorter than him but that was about it. There was none of the competitiveness that you can sometimes get in a team, especially between the new up and coming rider and the established one. He was pretty easy going. He was pretty quiet then, he didn't want to come out partying with me. I had to take Jim, we had a great time, got thrown out of a few establishments."

It was a successful first eight hour for Kevin as they finished third behind the factory Hondas. Wayne Gardner and Masaki Tokuna won from Mike Baldwin and Dominique Sarron.

"That was when I really learnt to play golf. I started playing in '82 or 83 right when I got out of high school, friends of mine used to go up to San Marcos and play. We used to play at the weekends if we didn't have anything else to do. But with Nabe it was a bit more serious, he's quite a good golfer, better than me. At least he was last time we played, he's always been real serious about his game. I have too many other things that take up my serious time, golf is something that I do to relax and have fun."

"I don't let being beaten on the golf course get to me. I can accept that a lot better than I could on the bike. I still don't like getting beat, it's not something that I take real well." Yoshimura had no budget to do the whole season in '85 and missed the seventh round at Mid-Ohio. US Suzuki realised what they were missing and came up with the cash for Seattle and Sears point and Kevin won both but he had no real hope of the championship, after all Yoshimura had not even set out to win it. He finished second to Merkel.

Yoshimura launched a full campaign effort in 1986 with the new GSXR75O Suzuki. "It started off good, I was second at Daytona behind Eddie on the Yamaha. Wayne was fourth behind Merkel. But we had a lot of problems with the new GSXR."

The Yoshimura Daytona crew 1986. And possibly a few friends.

"I was leading Laguna by about five seconds ahead of Merkel with just a few laps to go and blew the thing up coming out of the last turn. It made a horrible noise right in front of the pits, right in front of all the Yosh guys and the main guys from US Suzuki."

"I made a couple of mistakes and we had a bunch of trouble with the bike all season. We kept trying to get it to stay together, they'd slow it down every time trying to make it hang together and I guess I'd push it that much harder trying to keep up. Merkel and Rainey went head to head for the championship in '86. Fred won it because Wayne jumped off at Mid Ohio."

"86 is probably best forgotten, one of those seasons that started off good and just went downhill from there. I don't think I even won a race in '86. It taught me a lot, I'd won three or four races in '85. Then in '86 if I could get in the top three we were doing well. It was a bumbling year. The best you could say of it was that it was character building, perhaps it prepared me somewhat for problems that I would come across in the future."

Kevin was learning the hard way that professional racing could be far more frustrating than the balmy days of club racing on an FJ600. He was learning to set up the bike but says he was never one to tell the chief mechanic what to do. "I never have come in and said, 'well we need to change this or make that adjustment there. I have always just come in and translated the problem that I was having out on the track in terms that meant something to the mechanics or the engineer and let them decide what to do to fix it. I have had enough to worry about concentrating on riding the hike without trying to be an engineer while I am riding round. Just sorting out where and how the bike is better or worse is a full time job when you are riding it."

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