Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1970's

Cycle News 1979 03 14

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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McLaughlin on Superbike~, . Daytona and beyond.... By Bobi Scott A high-spirited veteran road racer, Steve McLaughlin has made a' point of confirming his convictions both on and of! the track. He's controversial, determined and entitled to his opinions, just like anyone else. On the subject ofSuperbike racing, the most exciting concept of progress in A merican road racing today, McLaughlin is a qualified expert. To fully understand the changes that are about to take place on our concrete grids of tomorrow, you have to understand the motives. There is a very simple justification. If you want to get in on the ground floor, you go directly to the source. Get comfortable .an d, go ahead, get involved. We're about to give you proof that all road racing need not be created equal. 16 Where did the Superbike class come from? This class was created by many of us who raced locally (in California) with the AFM. We had this thing called the "Norton Gang':' with Simmons, Manley and Kirker: I raced the Honda and there was John McGilIivary and Johnnie's BSA and Reggie on another Norton . We all raced together just before Daytona, and after a couple of years of being real competitive we all got together and said , look guys, Daytona's coming up and we race so hard' that sometimes we get hurt , Why don't we all ride together. vrnake a, big show out of the deal , and on the last lap whoever wins, wins , That way, it's real close , it'll look real good to the spectators, no one will ever know the d ifference. So . we started this little program in production racing, as per the local rules, which were always a little loose, But, at the same time, I was watching Class "C" and the advent of the big bore two-stroke had come in , We had gone farther and farther away from what the format of AMA racing had been , which was called Class " C" (whi c h basically means production based ra cing machines tha t ca n be modified by th e tuner). We went int o factory produced sp ecialty rac ing mach ines, i.e .. the Yamaha 750. You could im medi a tely see, with the cost. a nd the decline of the other manufacturers , because the Yamaha was so competit ive . and the development cost for a Kawasaki or a Suzuki to get in to that category was so high , that soon we would ha ve one brand dominated class , Now , from a racer's standpoint. that's great. Everybody'S on the same thing . I think you'll note that probably the 10 fastest road racers in the world on big bikes come from this country: Excluding possibly Barry Sheene, Will Hartog, Johnny Cecotto, and one or two other Europeans, The top 10 fastest guys are here - which has happened because of what Yamaha did . Well , back to the story. We noticed , back at the races, that when we raced these things, everybody would come out of the pits: Local race guys who were usually tuning and talking were out on the grid watching us doing these incredible things. And, of course, the early superbikes handled real ferocious . You did huge tank slappers and jumped off the ground . all sorts of crazy thingsl That's what it was a II abou t. They came to see that . Actually. motorcycling has always been . high performance oriented. If one looks at a study of what sells now , they 'll see the highest volume seller is in the big bore models - the 750cc and up category. People want the high performance bike. So , we had a natural thing here. . Ron Grant. who was involved with the AFM , and I started talking and we agreed that the 250cc class had been dying for many years , Road racing needed a support, plus an option in case the 750's didn't work out. This thing was fundamentally closer to Class "C" , so we sat down and wrote up a bunch of rules for 'wha t we called "Su pe rbike racing ." . Why is this category called Superbike "Production" racing? You 've got to understand the terminology here - this is a mistake on the part of the AMA , The AMA took our rules and , immediately turned them into Production racing. They said the bikes had to be "stock," But, the problem with "stock" type rules is that all the engine designs are real similar. Suzuki. Kawasaki . Yamaha , and Honda are all four cylinder, double overhead cam bikes . But in stock form they may have many restrictions on them that you don't have when you 're allowed to modify them - which can make them equal - as evidenced by the first two years of Superbike where the ZI totally dominated when it was production category. It was the quickest bike in that displacement size. Slowly , but surely, the AMA came around to the rules which we had originally written. In fact , this yea r, with the carburetion rule change, they finally came up to the initial rules that were written five years ago where we allowed more stroke change and the tuner options, Now when they changed to the title "Superbike Production" racing, in tl!e third year of Superbike racing, that was when they allowed the bore to come up to 1000cc. They allowed you to alter the bore/stroke ratio. A twin cylinder four-stroke . for example, at 750cc. when boosted to 1000cc. had a . better power to weight ratio. That's the advantage. A twin motorcycle should be lighter than a four cylinder motorcycle, And given parity in displacement , it's able to produce a competitive win . If anyone looks back at the record, they can see as soon as we altered that rule . we had six races and five winners on five different brands of motorcycles because it allowed those tuner options, A great backlog of people who used to -r ace in the AMA , the four-stroke geniuses that built Class "C ", removed themselves from road racing around 1973 because th e two -strokes came in , They fought very hard to keep the two strokes ou t. They wanted to put limited gas tanks and smaller carburetors on them in an effort to maintain parity. When that didn't happen, they withdrew . as well as the dealer support which has fundamentally always been the backbone of racing in America. When everyone races a Yamaha , like in my situation - how can I go to a Kawasaki dealer and get support to race a Yamaha in the 750cc class? Or a Suzuki dealer . or a Honda dealer it's impossible. Now, Superbike offers you that alternative. Every brand is representat ive with a very good amount of parity. This year , we tried desperately to have 1000cc GP machines be allowed to run in the 750cc category. Unrestricted, 1000cc production based machines, set up as road racers with fairings . clip ons , etc . Not production bikes, but road racing bikes. They' didn't go for that . They felt there would be tire problems. Those of us who have raced Superbikes now for five years expressed our opinions that our experience was , in fact , that the four -stroke has several advantages when it comes to tire wear, which is a major issue at Daytona. One, the power pulses of the four-stroke in a torque curve is infinitely smoother than a two cycle . Secondly, because of its inherent heaviness , it , has an advantage. The major problem at Daytona regarding tire wear, is the fact that the Yamahas are so light and they have so much horsepower that they get wheel spin. That overheats the tire. We expressed this, but obviously this opinion wasn't heard by the AMA staff who turned the proposal down . ' Since we wouldn't be restricting the class by going to a smaller displacement, we don't have that AMA twoyear limitation rule since we were actually opening it up . We felt this would be very competitive and in lieu of Formula One racing in England, which they have now. which is just an emulation of our Superbike class carried to the GP step. This class has become th e second most popular series in England in just one year: We also felt this would give use a better tie in and draw more Europeans, which unfortunately haven't been as present in our fields as we would like . They don't have the option on the equipment or the cost factor - Yamahas are much more expensive there than here, plus transportation costs and the fact that we don't pay start money. But, back to the name Superbike "Production." That's a big argument that the Superbike riders have had with the AMA now for five years , They persist on calling it "Production ," It is not "Production, " it is Class "C " racing. It is a Production based motorcycle that is modified . And as long as they retain that term " Prod uction" in there. there's this mass confusion whe n you get to the races. Half the people th ink they 're stock bikes and are totally shocked when they see them. The other half think they're Superbikes - Class "C" bikes. It's a matter of terminology and the

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