Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rage Against the Machine


by Eric Johnson

Motorcycle racing is full of myth, folklore and larger than life legends. However, in the eyes of plenty, one of the greatest stories ever told took place in the summer of 1975 on a mile-long dirt oval in Indianapolis, Indiana.

image by mike stuhler

That year, Kenny Roberts was doing his best to beat back a number of beastly Harley-Davidsons that were trying to steal away his Grand National number one plate. Far more powerful, the Harley XRs were omnipotent and all seemed lost. Or was it? Before the race scheduled for the Indy Fairgrounds, Roberts and his mechanic took a huge gamble and shoehorned an engine far too powerful and potent for the bike into the spindly frame of his Champion Yamaha 750. When his mechanic asked him how fast he needed to go to win, Roberts replied, "About one thirty should be enough.”

image by mike stuhler

The 25-mile main event all came down to the final white flag lap. Having come from far behind, Roberts astride an evil-handling, ill-tempered motorcycle had taken huge chances and rode with extraordinary courage to reel in the two leading Harley-Davidsons of teammates Jay Springsteen and Korky Keener. With just three turns to go, Roberts rode the rim, pinned the throttle to the stops and was actually skimming the concrete retaining wall and skipping off hay bales.

image by mike stuhler

"I still remember seeing hay scattering in the air as Kenny came out of turn four,” reflected Robert’s’ mechanic of that night.

Roberts refused to lose and at the finish line, won the race by two feet. When he caught his breath and his hands stopped shaking, he uttered the words, "They don't pay me enough to ride that thing.”

All images by mike stuhler via : superbikeplanet

1 comment:

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