yoshi years...

1987 was better but it started off with frustration when Kevin fell while leading at Daytona. That was one of Wayne's three wins that year, Kevin already had four wins coming to the last round at Sears point and the race that he remembers most fondly of all his rides for Yoshimura.

"Wayne and I had raced all year for the championship and it came down to that last race. He had the points lead over me but I could still take the championship if I won."

"In the heat race I was determined to get a good start. Polen always got the hole shot, he always seemed to have the jump on everyone down to the first turn. I got a little over eager, jumped the start and was penalised a minute. That meant that I was posted as finishing last in the heat race. Of course that put me on the back of the grid for the final. So there I stood, 36th on the grid in the last race of the season, with the championship at stake."

"Everyone was saying, 'Well that's over, he's never going to catch Wayne, the championship is his.' Sparky and all the rest of the Honda mechanics were already gloating and saying that I might as well go home, I'd never get to the front."

Rider error and mechanical misfortune denied Kevin a US Superbike championship. Particularly in 1987 when he was the fastest rider in the country. when he made a mistake he took it hard. "I always got really mad at myself, it would be three or four days before I could even start to tolerate myself again. i used to get really mad and stay mad at myself."

"I don't really remember for sure but I think Jimbo Filice was leading, well I caught and passed him about the fifth lap. I just went for it, I was out there to prove a point. The only way I could win the championship was to do that. What I did was try and make Wayne race with me and hope I could force him into a mistake."

"I was right beside Wayne by the second lap and I rode with him for a couple of laps. I thought that maybe I could wind him up enough to make him race with me. Wayne didn't make any mistakes though, he just did what he had to do, be just finished high enough up to take the championship. It was just that when there were people out there saying that I couldn't do something it was fun to go out and prove them wrong."

"The big mistake of '87 was at Laguna, I should have won that race and got a load of points over Wayne. The race was run in two parts and the grid positions decided by the heat race. Wayne and Bubba had a Dollar bet on who could get to the first turn in front. Bubba always used to outstart Wayne so they had this bet going and they both jumped the start in the heat race. So they both started the feature race at the back of the grid. Basically all I had to do was ride around because there was no one else who could really make a race of it."

"I won the first race and Wayne got to second or third but then chunked the tyre and had to go in and change so was well back. In the second race I was out front running away with it and I crashed in the last turn. That was probably the crucial mistake that year.

"It was lack of concentration and me being out to prove a point as usual. I think Wayne was out there pressing real hard to try and catch me. I had a good lead but instead of just being content with the fact that he wasn't going to catch me I was going to try and make it a big win margin, I wanted to hold the advantage at twelve or fifteen seconds or whatever it was. I guess that was all part of the process of learning what it takes to win races and championships."

"I wanted to get back out on the bike as soon as I could. It was good to get out on the bike again and realise that I could enjoy it and go fast. Hopefully still win races. As soon as I made a mistake the very next thing I wanted to do was try and get to another race so that I could have another chance to win and redeem myself."

"It made me concentrate that much harder and try and not make the little mental mistake that had caused me the trouble the last time."

'I really enjoyed those Superbike racing years, it was a lot of fun. there was not the travelling that I have to do now and that is what I now consider the tedious part of the work. I was racing on Sunday and could be home Monday afternoon."

"Wayne and I at that stage were not even thinking about becoming buddies, the competition was fierce, dead fierce every weekend. He'd been doing it a long time, had won the championship for Kawasaki in '83 and I was the new punk on the block. There was also Merkel who we had to tangle with a little bit."

"It was always a scrap. If Wayne and I ever got out there on the same piece of race track together you could count on some Honda paint work ending up on my bike and a bit of Suzuki being smeared down the side of his. We never really raced that close in '87. After I fell at Daytona he was protecting his points lead for a little while as I picked up some wins. Then I screwed up at Laguna and he just had to protect his lead again after that."

"We had a couple of races where we were closely involved in a battle for the lead but Suzuki had a better bike that year and it wasn't that hard for me to win," recalls Kevin with total honesty.

"Wayne and I never spent much time together. Back then Fred Merkel and I were better friends and were probably together anti Wayne Rainey. Fred had been in the team and the picture that Fred painted to me was that he was supposed to win the championship with Wayne as his number two. Then when Wayne joined the team all the guys started to work in Wayne's favour. Fred had been there and won the championship in '84 and '85 and Wayne came into the team in '86."

He was truly spectacular that year, leading Bubba Shobert at Sears Point screaming through a left hander at Laguna Seca and Flying over the skyline at Sears.


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