One man, one motorcycle - over twenty years ago Eddie Lawson raced a bright green bike very, very well. Decades later and, for some, it's as if he never stopped
We are in a field near Utrecht in The Netherlands, talking to a man with a kingsize mullet and a black-belt in being uncomprehendingly pissed at an early stage of the day. "Can you tell us who owns this bike?"
At which he dissolves into peals of dribbling laughter and points his finger at a small tree near a busy main road. We follow the arc of his filthy digit and see a man in hideous shorts and authentic wooden clogs pulling passable wheelies on a very secondhand ZXR750.
It transpires (and comes as no surprise) that he has nothing whatsoever to do with the immaculate and hugely mutated Lawson-replica in front of us.
Prepare to enter a twisted world of Kerker, Kal-Gard and deep Kawasaki. A world where an obsession with one particular colour has turned grown men green with Eddie. A world forever locked in 1981.
The year when brusque Californian Eddie Lawson snatched Kawasaki's first AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) Superbike title on what was then a ball-achingly brutish motorcycle. A good Lawson-rep still cuts it today, which is why van-loads of rancid Germans, after what must have been a series of long nights on uncommonly strong lager, have arrived to pore over a field of faithful facsimiles of the Eddie bike.
Death-metal from the over-worked speakers in the German bier-wagen crackles across the lush grass and we engage genial Dutchman Wilco, organiser of this commendably low-key, but well attended gathering, in conversation. "The whole Eddie Lawson thing stems from videos of those AMA races from '81 and '82. Those were the best riders of that generation, they went on to become Grand Prix stars and nobody beat them for about fifteen years.
"We only ever saw tapes of those races, but 150bhp in old, steel frames, primitive suspension and overworked brakes made incredible racing. The slides, the elbows everywhere, you won't see anything better, even now." And just as Foggy's exploits and the raft of race replicas, built to varying degrees of expense and accuracy, became part of the second coming of Superbike racing, Lawson and his mean, green Zeds underpinned the original wave of Superbike mania.
There are two strains of followers here in this sea of green: builders of original Eddie Zeds and a new wave of ZRX11 and 12 fans who've taken to creating latter-day tributes to the man who started it all. And there's a bit of needle between the two tribes.
"The stripes on the tank must be blue and white - not purple," says Wilco. "The serious builders exchange new ZRX bodywork for Japanese-spec which is the original lime green and not the darker, semi-metallic colour. The original Superbike thing is still biggest in Japan."
The stickers adorning the hopped-up machinery in the field tell that story: Moriyama, Yellow Corn, Nojima, Tsukigi, all rare groove, high-spec Jap parts, requiring deep pockets and long waits for big parcels.
"But it's not just about building these bikes," continues the almost messianic Wilco. "These bikes are still great to ride, the riding position is still comfortable for the speeds you can get away with these days and you don't need to change gear all the time either. I like speed, I love performance, but with all the speed traps around these days, you can't afford to ride at 200kph all the time. It's also a very pure form of motorcycle." With that, he grabs his Kerker-replica loudhailer and announces a run will take place shortly.
Continue the festival of Eddie Lawson - 2/2
Those were the days !
I was the organiser mentioned (among with some others off course)
In 4 week there is a simular meeting in the Netherlands;
Posted: 18/05/2009 at 23:53
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