5 interesting race bikes you can buy from the same auction

Iconic Ducatis, Yamahas, Kawas, Harleys and more are available at a massive motorcycle auction in Las Vegas

Harley-Davidson VR1000

We’re used to seeing auctions offering classic Broughs or Vincents, or older machines with star connections – but what about full-on, rip-snorting, fire-breathing race bikes? Well, you’ve come to the right place – or rather, you will have if you check out the 33rd annual Vintage and Antique Motorcycle Auction organized by Mecum Auctions which takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, over four full days from 24-27 January.

We’ve highlighted bikes from here before – most recently Steve McQueen-themed machines. But with over 1,300 bikes of all types up for grabs, not to mention tons of automobilia, it’s worth another look here. And while the McQueen bikes are interesting and the historic Harleys, Indians and more, eye-catching, for us, some of the most exciting of all is the huge quality and variety of classic race bikes up for sale. Here’s our pick of five of the best…

1972 Ducati 750 GT Imola Replica – estimate $135,000 - $165,000

Classic Italian race bikes don’t get more significant – or valuable – than Ducati’s 1972 750 V-twin racer, as built specifically for the inaugural Imola 200, designed to be Europe’s star-studded answer to the Daytona 200, in 1972. At the time, Ducati wasn’t associated with big bikes – or V-twins. But Brit Paul Smart’s shock victory changed all that and set the Bologna marque on a new path of sporting V-twins. Surviving examples are mostly replicas, as here. But that diminishes its appeal little, as its whopping estimate proves…

1974 Kawasaki H2 R 750 – estimate $180,000 - $220,000 

When you think of 1970s racers, Kawasaki’s legendary H2 R is about as fearsome as they get. A screaming, evil, two-stroke triple based on the already screaming, evil 750 two-stroke triple H2 road bike (the R designates the race version) it famously became known as the ‘Green Meanie’, was campaigned by the likes of Mick Grant and Barry Ditchburn in the UK and Gary Nixon and ‘Flying Frog’ Yvon DuHamel in the US, to significant success and this fully restored example is believed to have been campaigned by factory rider Art Bauman and even comes complete with a set of his leathers!

1974 Yamaha TZ750 – estimate $45,000 - $65,000

You know how I said, above, that Kawasaki’s H2 R was about as fearsome as ‘70s racers got? Well, there probably was one even more so – the Yamaha TZ750. Where the Kwak was an air-cooled triple derived from a road bike, the Yamaha was a purpose-built, transverse-four, liquid-cooled stroker built for racing, specifically the new Formula 750 class introduced in 1971.

It was far more successful, too. With 120bhp it was arguably the fastest racer of the ‘70s, won countless races, both in F750, Daytona and more and, being a production machine available to all, proved hugely popular – which partly explains why, being more commonplace, it’s less valuable than the works Kawasaki. This is one of the earliest: Number 75 of the first batch of 95.

1980 Honda CB750 F2 Phil Read Replica – estimate $25,000 - $35,000 

Proof that saucy 1970s racers (OK, I know, this one's a 1980) don’t have to be Italian or two-strokes – and also proof that being a ‘replica’ is not always a bad thing. The Phil Read Replica was an official, limited-edition replica designed by engineering genius Colin Seeley to celebrate Phil Read’s historic victory in the 1977 F1 TT aboard a works-built, Seeley-framed 750cc four. Just 150 were made, this is actually No. 1, and just 41 are believed to still exist, all distinguished by their full fairings, alloy tank and Honda race paint.

1994 Harley VR1000 – estimate $90,000 - $110,000

While, finally, if we’re talking about an American auction of significant racing machines, there’s possibly no more significant, rare and desirable American racing machine than Harley-Davidson’s short-lived VR1000. Built to compete in AMA superbikes and, ultimately, world superbikes, it was an all-new, road-legal, homologation special.

Just 50 were made (few were actually available to the public), was powered by a bespoke, liquid-cooled 996cc V-twin producing 135bhp and distinguished by its slightly odd-looking, bulbous bodywork which was painted in Harley racing black and orange – black on one side and orange on the other. Sadly, it wasn’t the success hoped for so wasn’t continued but it remains arguably the most exotic Harley ever built, as reflected by the estimate of this one.