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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Kawasaki Announces AMA Road Racing Plans; Doug Chandler and Crew Will Be Very Tough

Later in this article is the full text of a Kawasaki press release regarding its AMA Road Racing Plans for the year 2000. As you probably already know, Kawasaki’s riders will be three-time AMA Superbike Champion Doug Chandler and talented Bostrom brother, Eric Bostrom. Kawasaki made lots of changes this year, but those changes indicate Kawasaki is very serious about winning in 2000.

It is no secret that Doug Chandler was unhappy when he lost his long-time tuner, Gary Medley, with whom he won multiple AMA Superbike crowns. Kawasaki sought out Medley, and re-hired him.

It is also no secret that Chandler hates riding the 600 Series while he attempts to focus on winning his record-setting fourth AMA Superbike Championship. Chandler’s compromise with the new Kawasaki team involves riding the new 600 (the bike was extensively re-designed this year) at the prestigious Daytona venue early next year. Winning the 600 class at Daytona is huge for the Japanese manufacturers, and translates into tremendous marketing opportunities. Chandler will sit out the rest of the 600 Series to concentrate on Superbikes.

Bostrom will ride the entire 600 Series in addition to racing Kawasaki’s ZX-7R Superbike.

Some of you will recall that Eric Bostrom was considered the more talented of the Bostrom brothers. Eric won two Superbike races very quickly after he was put on the injured Miguel Duhamel’s RC45 during the 1998 season. Eric is younger than Ben, but considered smoother and, until last season, faster. Eric lost considerable confidence after crashing at Daytona and injuring his ankle last year. He struggled physically for several rounds, and mentally the rest of the year. We have no doubt that Eric Bostrom has the talent, however, to win Superbike races again, and even a championship. Kawasaki has hired former Honda mechanic Al Ludington (Miguel Duhamel’s longtime tuner) to support Eric.

Doug Chandler reminded us all during the last four AMA Superbike races of 1999 (three of which he won) just how formidable he is. He is precise and smooth, just as Kawasaki says, and, when his bike is set up correctly, he is devastatingly fast. He is also smart — utilizing superb tactics (including the ability to save his tire until the end of the race, when he can blitz past for the win — something he has done several times).

The handling of Kawasaki’s ZX-7R is superb, at least as set up for Doug Chandler’s riding. The chassis is now the oldest in the Superbike paddock, but Chandler loves the way the bike handles, and obviously rides it well. Chandler struggled during the first half of the 1999 season because the Kawasaki was significantly down on horsepower. We believe that Muzzy/Kawasaki obtained horsepower secrets from Akira Yanagawa’s World Superbike team right around the time of the Laguna Seca round of the World Superbike Series. Chandler’s bike was much faster after that race, which Chandler has publicly admitted.

If Kawasaki comes out of the box with a bike as competitive as the one ridden by Chandler toward the end of the 1999 season, year 2000 could see another championship for Kawasaki and Doug Chandler, with Eric Bostrom winning one or more races, and making frequent appearances on the podium.

Here is the text of Kawasaki’s release:

“IRVINE, CALIF., OCT. 13 – Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., has nearly completed building its new in-house motorcycle road racing team and is gearing up for a winning debut to the 2000 season. With key personnel in place, Team Kawasaki Road Racing features championship-winning riders, tuning talent and leadership.

Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Doug Chandler will ride a Kawasaki Ninja® ZX-7R based Superbike for a fifth consecutive season in 2000, and will make a one-time appearance in the 600cc SuperSport class when the new Ninja ZX-6R makes its racing debut at Daytona International Speedway in March. Chandler won all of his AMA Superbike Championships, which included back-to-back titles in 1996-’97 as well as the 1990 crown, riding Kawasaki Ninja motorcycles. At 34 years of age, the Salinas, Calif. native is one of the most experienced riders on the track. His smooth, precise riding style earned him three victories on the 1999 AMA Superbike Tour, and in 2000 Chandler will once again seek a record-breaking fourth AMA Superbike Championship. He currently shares the record for most titles by a rider with Fred Merkel and Reg Pridmore.

Kawasaki holds the record for the most AMA Superbike Championships by a manufacturer with nine.

Team Kawasaki road Racing has reunited Chandler with ace tuner Gary Medley. Medley was the primary technician on Chandler’s 1996-’97 championship-winning Ninja ZX-7R based Superbikes. He was also behind Kawasaki’s 1992 AMA Superbike Championship and its 1993 World Superbike crown, as well as a pair of 750cc SuperSport titles in 1991-’92.

Chandler’s new teammate for 2000 is Eric Bostrom, 22 of Granada Hills, Calif. Bostrom won the 1997 AMA SuperTwins Championship and the 1998 AMA Formula Xtreme title. He made his AMA Superbike debut late in the ’98 season and won two of the last four races in which he entered. An injury sustained during qualifying for the opening race of ’99 sidelined Bostrom for the first two rounds. He returned to post top-10 finishes throughout the remainder of the season, finishing seventh in the premiere Superbike division and ninth in the 600cc SuperSport class.

In 2000 Bostrom hopes to return to the Superbike winner’s circle on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-7R, plus he’ll go after his first 600cc SuperSport victory and title on the new Ninja ZX-6R

Bostrom will be paired with legendary tuner Al Ludington. Ludington brings a wealth of racing expertise to Team Kawasaki Road Racing and was the chief technician behind the 1995 AMA Superbike champion. His rider [Miguel Duhamel – MD] battled Chandler for the championship in 1996-’97 before finishing second each year. Ludington also has five 600cc SuperSport titles to his credit and his riders hold numerous individual AMA Superbike and 600cc SuperSport win records.

Leading Team Kawasaki Road Racing is team manager Michael Preston. A long-term member of Kawasaki’s Research and Development department and former professional motocross racer, Preston as served as the Team Kawasaki JET SKI® personal watercraft racing manager since its inception in 1995 and guided his teams to championships in all but one season since. He has also been responsible for product testing since 1977 and his interest in motorcycle road racing extends back to the years when Kawasaki operated its former in-house team and employed road racing greats Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey as riders.

‘Rob Muzzy has set the precedent with all of the championships he’s won while operating Team Muzzy/Kawasaki,’ said Preston. ‘Team Kawasaki road Racing plans to continue that winning tradition.’

Team Kawasaki Road Racing will operate out of a new race shop near Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.’s company headquarters in Irvine, Calif.”