Friday, January 8, 2010

Flashback Friday

In late 1974 or early 1975, Erv Kanemoto—who went on to tune for Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, and others—slid a 750cc Kawasaki H2 three-cylinder two-stroke engine into a Champion frame in an attempt to poke a finger in the eye of Harley-Davidson, whose XR750 was nearly unbeatable in AMA Class C dirt-track racing. Kanemoto built two bikes, one for Don Castro and another for Scott Brelsford.

In this photo he’s jetting the carbs on one of the bikes at the San Jose Mile in, I think, 1975—I wasn’t big on labeling photos back then. I was just beginning my career as a motojournalist, and was wandering the pits that day taking photos courtesy of a press pass arranged for me by Cycle Guide magazine, where I would find myself on staff 10 years later.

I’ve read that Erv’s effort spurred Kel Carruthers to have a Champion frame built to accommodate Yamaha’s TZ750; the bike that resulted is the star of a video that’s been making the rounds lately (see it here).

Update: Now that I think about it, I wasn't yet freelancing in 1975; I didn't sell my first photo to Cycle Guide until 1980 or so. I recall now that around the time this photo was taken, they'd open a gate outside turn four during breaks between races so fans could cross the track and go to the pits. That's probably how I got there.

(photo by Jerry Smith)

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