This is good stuff...................
This is good stuff...................
How does the Suzuki Katana 1000 connects the three riders above?
Bruce Hammer and John Ulrich co-founded Team Hammer. The team was formed to do Endurance racing in the WERA Series
Bruce working as a cabinet maker as his day job, handling the chassis and engine prep and riding . John Ulrich, editor of CycleWorld magazine handled the logistics and riding.
Jon Woo a Northern California Motorcycle Racer out of Chico. Jon raced the AFM North & South, he also campaigned a KZ1000 Kawasaki in the AMA SuperBike class and F1 class. Jon had a number of top ten finishes in both SuperBike and F1 classes.
Fred Merkel a Northern California Motorcycle Racer out of Stockton. Fred raced Dirt Track as a teenager , then started Road Racing. He raced at AFM North & South . He raced a TZ250 Yamaha in the AMA 250 class. He had won a few AMA 250 Nationals
This is how the 1982 Suzuki Katana 1000 affected the above three rider lives in 1982.
Suzuki Japan released the Katana 1100cc late 1981 as a 1982 model everywhere other than the United States.
Suzuki released the Katana as a 1000cc displacement in the United States to be homologated for the 1982 AMA F1 and SuperBike class which has an engine capacity of 1025cc with a 1mm overbore pistons class limit.
Yoshimura R&D of America was the Road Racing arm of US Suzuki .
Yoshimura developed the 1000cc Katana engine for the SuperBike class for Wes Cooley Jr and Dave Aladana to ride . The 1000cc Katana engine was also used in the F1 chassis for the F1 class. The difference between F1 engine was 33mm carb throat and SuperBike engine 31mm carb throat.
John Ulrich of Team Hammer got Vance and Hines to supply engines for the team to race in the endurance series. V & H supplied the team with race prepped Suzuki GS1100 engines. One time V & H were busy with their own Drag Racing program, they were late on delivering a race engine to Team Hammer.
John asked Fujio Yoshimura if they could install the V & H engine into the Team Hammer chassis, so they would be able to leave that evening for an endurance race across the country. They left on time.
Bruce wanted to race an AMA F1 race at the upcoming Road America. John asked V & H if they could prepare a Katana 1000cc engine for the race. Their sponsorship deal was for endurance GS1100 engines only . V & H declined the request.
John asked Fujio if they could supply Katana 1000 engines for Road America. While Fujio was in discussion with the race department on how soon cylinder heads could be ported and cylinder blocks could be set up for Team Hammer.
V & H decided to supply Team Hammer with an engine for F1 race at Road Atlanta.
Bruce raced at Road America, he crashed during the race. He was injured , never to race again.
Toward the end of the 1982 US racing season Japan is having an Economic Depression. At this time US Suzuki informs Yoshimura, due to budget cuts they are dropping F1 and Superbike racing for 1983.
Yoshimura and Suzuki does not make an announcement for one month this allows Wes Cooley to negotiate his best deal with Kawasaki for 1983.
Yoshimura will supply Katana engines for the 1983 Team Hammer endurance racer. Team Hammer will have Jon Woo and John Ulrich race their endurance bike for 1983. Jon can maybe do some AFM races.
Friday November 19 1982 late afternoon, I am in the race department boring cylinders the other guys are porting heads and engine dyno testing.
In came Jon Woo , Don Sakakura and I stopped what we are doing to talk to him for a few minutes . We ask what are you doing in town, (he lives about 500 miles north in Chico Ca).
Jon says he was talking to American Honda about some testing session at Laguna Seca tomorrow for their Support Team. I said Suzuki wants you to ride for Team Hammer for the WERA Races
Support Team , you get the bike and parts for free. You dont get paid and you have to transport the bike to the track yourself.
Jon" yea I still want to do SuperBike Racing".
I go back to the boring bar to check things. Jon comes over and says to me " Hey man put in a good word to Suzuki for me, for a full AMA SuperBike ride we are all brothers under the Sun. "
I said Jon you got it wrong I have nothing to do with that. You know Suzuki pulled the plug on AMA SuperBike and F1 for next year.
Jon said goodbye to everyone then left to drive 350 miles to Laguna Seca for testing the next day.
Monday morning I get to work , Don Sakakura says " did you hear Jon died" I am stunned.
John Ulrich Started The World Action Fund to honor both Jon Woo and Bruce Hammer
Roadracing World Action Fund Donations To Improve Rider Safety Near $2,000,000 Milestone
After Jon death, there are discussions about an AFM race at Willow Springs for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe test some riders for some local AFM races for next year. Yoshimura contacted some AMA 250 riders, Fred Merkel was highly recommended by Kaz Yoshima of Ontario Moto Tech fame, the other was local ride Dave Busby.
The plan was show up Friday rent Willow for practice for both riders. Saturday and Sunday are official practice and racing.
Both riders show up for Friday practice. Merkel on Wes Katana and Busby on Aldana Katana . Wes lap record at Willow is 1min 29seconds 1 year earlier.
Both riders are struggling with the weight of the SuperBike Merkel and Busby times 1.42s Merkle said his TZ250 lap times would be in 1.35s
Both riders were drenched with sweat . The bikes are fast in straight line, fighting to make it through the turns. Their times are in 1.37s at the end of the day.
Saturday we find out this is a Big AFM race. Mike Spencer on Vance & Hines Katana 1200 engine is here, along with other big name riders Harry Klinzmann, Roberto Pietri and others are here.
Saturday first practice Merkel comes in after few laps said he must have better times , in fact it is same 1.37s . Merkel goes back out few laps later comes back in and apologies for going so slow this time out. Fujio has a big smile tells him he had done some 1.35 and 1.34. Merkel said it felt so slow, easy to ride , his confidence up he got into 1.32s. Busby was getting into 1.35 and 1.36s
Merkel qualifies pole , Busby may 5th or 6th.
Merkel wins first leg , Busby 6th place. During the race Merkle got into 1.30s
Second leg everything goes bad. The normal start of the race , one warm up lap, then take grid position with engine running . The starter holds a one minute sign straight up , you put the bike in gear then they turn sign sideways let you know the flag will drop to start the race.
This time the one minute board comes out , Busby bikes begins to spill gas out of the carb , flooding the starting grid , we push Busby off the grid, he is in 2nd row right next to the dirt. We wave at the starter to start the race without Busby. but the starter holds up the sign until we got the gas to stop flooding and pushed him back onto the grid. He then started the race Merkel got as far as 2nd turn with smoked clutch, Busby made it a little further burnt clutch also.
Yoshimura contacted US Suzuki trying to convince them to sign Merkle and do at least a limited schedule of F1 and SuperBikes. No Dice.
Few Weeks later American Honda announces they signed Fred Merkel. He goes on to win The AMA SuperBike Championship and becomes the First World SuperBike Champion.
Last edited by hhauto; 5 Days Ago at 12:27 PM.
hh, thanks for that very interesting piece of history, it's nice to know how things were "back in the day"
its cool that you got to be part of it!
2009 XR 1200
1983 XR 1000
Wow, I'm stunned... I was at Barber not long ago and got to ride the "2 Up" ride along. The driver of the bike is Chris Ulrich and John Ulrich was the guy helping all of us get dressed and get ready to ride. MAN! it's a small world. I had no idea who I was talking with. Really nice guy and very helpful.
Awesome story Jim and follow up Chipmaker!
"Wow, I'm stunned... I was at Barber not long ago and got to ride the "2 Up" ride along. The driver of the bike is Chris Ulrich and John Ulrich was the guy helping all of us get dressed and get ready to ride. MAN! it's a small world. I had no idea who I was talking with. Really nice guy and very helpful."
John is a really nice guy His wife Trudy is also very nice and hard working. I remember her being very pregnant with Chris. She would drop off parts and paperwork for the Team.
Thank you Jim. Great bit of inside info on the history of road racing.