Photos & Musings: Grands Prix

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Factory Kawasaki KX500SR

In 1986 I raced for the factory Kawasaki team, and was fortunate enough to race a full factory KX500SR. I have very few photos of this bike, and I am therefore grateful to Nigel Zabiela who contacted me recently with a photo that he took at the Hants Grand National in '86.

Checking the coolant level is my mechanic Ken Baulf. Ken was a great guy and we got along really well. I always felt comfortable and at ease with Ken and together that year we achieved the best results of my career with ninth place in the 500 world championship. I will always remember Ken standing out in the track as I crossed the line at the first round of 1986 at Sittendorf with a pit board saying "2nd O'ALL!" We both had a pretty huge smile on our faces that day.

I recently met up with Ken again after many years at the 2010 reunion that I organized. He hasn't changed much!

It was nice to race a full factory bike, although the differences between the performance of that bike and the production bike were small in reality. The power was smoother and it hooked up better than the more-snappy production bike, and the suspension was a little better than stock, but apart from that there was not a huge amount of difference. It looked cool though and I am proud that I was one of a very small group of riders to have had the privilege of racing a full works 500.

Kawasaki KX500SR, Hants Grand National, April 1986 (Nigel Zabiela photo) Enlarge image

Ken Baulf (right) with my father Ron, 2010 Enlarge image

Another photo of the factory Kawasaki, this time from the British GP at Hawkstone, 1986 Enlarge image