Mike Baldwin was record-setting five-time AMA Road Racing Champion and the all-time wins leader in AMA Formula 1/Formula 750 history. His records in the class will never be broken since AMA Formula 1 was discontinued after the 1986 season. In all, Baldwin won 27 AMA national races – 17 in AMA F1/750 and 10 in AMA Superbike – and he is considered one of the top road racers America has ever produced.
Baldwin had great international road racing success as well. He was the first rider to win the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hour Endurance race three times. Baldwin also contested the 500cc Grand Prix World Championships (now MotoGP) and scored a career-high ranking of fourth in the world championship in 1986.
Baldwin was born in Pasadena, California, in 1955. When he was 7, his family moved to Tacoma, Washington, before settling in Darien, Connecticut when Mike was 9. His first motorcycle was a lawn-mower-engine-powered minibike he got at 14. A year later, he stepped up to a Honda 50. He and friends carved trails through the woods and he spent hours after school and in the summer riding, later getting a Suzuki trail bike and eventually a Honda 175cc street bike when he turned 16.
In 1972, Baldwin bought a Kawasaki H2 and he and a friend rode to Bridgehampton, on Long Island, New York, to watch a club motorcycle race. There they saw top AMA competitor Gary Fisher and club expert Bob Pepper fight it out in a race. Both Baldwin and his buddy decided to put number plates on their bikes and give road racing a try. Baldwin had a decent debut, finishing fifth, and he was sucked into the club racing scene. His parents were unaware of his early racing exploits, thinking only that their high school-age son was out riding on the street.
While on Christmas break in his senior year of high school, Baldwin attended a Kawasaki service school and became service manager of a new dealership near his home after graduating. A wealthy customer of the dealership had a highly modified Kawasaki Z1 and told Baldwin he’d like for him to take the bike to the track to see what it could do.
While at the track, the customer was attracted to the little white Yamahas with the red stripe and bought a TZ 125 and 250 from one of the racers. Baldwin first raced the TZs up in Canada a couple of weeks later. Baldwin won the 250 race, beating factory Yamaha Canada rider Steve Baker in the process. He then began winning a slew of club races on the TZs... Read more